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"IF UNABLE TO SEE THIS MESSAGE, TURN ON FUTURAMA NOW"
Not counting next year's cross-over with The Simpsons, there are only three episodes of Futurama left after last night's nostalgic "Game of Tones." And with the animated series coming to an end (again), it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the writers wanted to bring back arguably the most memorable guest stars from two of the show's most emotional and celebrated installments. Of course, I'm talking about Yancy, Philip's older brother who left his mark in "The Luck of the Fryrish" (Season 3, Episode 10) and Seymour, Fry's too loyal dog from "Jurassic Bark" (Season 4, Episode 7). Last night wasn't quite able to live up to either Yancy or Seymour's first appearance but it was still easily the most emotionally satisfying episode of the second half of the season. Maybe the entire seventh. It was most definitely an improvement from the recent string of lacklustre installments leading up to "Game of Tones."
"I don't know if you've heard the news but it's good everyone!"
The last few episodes have signaled a slow return in quality (probably because Comedy Central scheduled the best for last) but Futurama Season 7B was missing the tight storytelling that made the show so special and more than just a series of Family Guy-style gags. (The gags haven’t been that great either.) “Game of Tones,” however, managed to not only deliver a solid bunch of gags and (series long) callbacks but also a really effective emotional through-line. Instead of using pop culture references as throwaway jokes or the basis for disjointed (filler) sequences, as had been the case for most of the season so far (exemplified by the uneven fairytale mashup of "Leela and the Genestalk"), this week's installment used films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Inception to build a wonderful story about getting a second chance at saying goodbye. It was also nice to see Futurama venture deep in its own mythology.
"Well. There's no denying that was funky fresh but alas not what I'm looking for."
"Game of Tones" started with a glimpse of the Close Encounters influenced unidentified ship wreaking havoc on Planet Z-7 from Flomuary 24th to March 3rd. The dates immediately let us know that it takes about two weeks for the threat to completely destroy a planet (since there are 39 days in Flomuary) and it's on its way to Earth! On Arbor Day! Think of the trees! The Professor fortunately (?) got some new hearing aids just in time to hear the impending doom but none of the Planet Express crew can identify the seismic jingle. Not even Shazam! Fry has a sinking feeling that he might have heard the tones before and it doesn't take long for the Professor to formulate a plan once he locates the source of the sounds and learns that the answer lies in his great uncle's memories. What do you know? It looks like Fry heard the tones on his last day in the past, December 31, 1999, a day that Nibbler also happened to witness. I loved Amy's comment about how she always forgets he can talk.
"Stop wasting time with your loved ones and find the source of the music!"
Fry and Nibbler have a very complicated history and their destinies are forever linked. How cute! Sorry, I just love the Nibblonians, especially drunk ones reinacting Dude, Where's My Car?. But before we get to that hilarious scene which somehow makes the 'drunk I love you bros' funny again, Fry is put into a dream state in order find out what the tones mean. What he finds instead, is his family. And the tones. Fry wakes up with Michelle (Sarah Silverman stopping by for a few lines) and then heads out in search of the sounds, running into a few other canonical characters before learning the rules of the dream world. Since it's all built on memories, there's no going anywhere Fry hasn't been (like Booby Tuesdays for lap-dance nachos) and if he gets killed, it's back to the future. And because that first trip took 13 and a half days, there's no time to waste! For the sake of that French guy by the impotent Eiffel Tower, get Fry back into the dream state!
"I can't stand to see him like this. I'll push him off the roof."
Understandably, Fry isn't too psyched about going back to the world full of bad memories but he begrudgingly goes and soon finds out that there are plenty of things in the past that he wants to see. Like Seymour. Cue the first hint of tears. Inside his childhood home, Philip is immediately razzed by big brother Yancy (tears) before checking in with his mom making Captain Crunch casserole. Worried that he's getting too wrapped up in family fun, the rest of the Planet Express crew and Nixon eventually enter the dream state in order to stop the quality time. And the world from ending. Fry's family memories only extend a few minutes longer anyway so there's no reason for him not to try and track down the tones which leads them to the pizzeria and a plot hole. I mean, he can dream up a small Seymour (rad), why couldn't he dream up more time with mom? That was easy to overlook though because the episode was able to deliver big time with both the drunk recollection from Digby as well as the extremely emotional final exchange between Fry and his mom. I'll miss those moments.
Futurama returns with Episode 24, "Murder on the Planet Express," next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. Oh, and yes, that was Seth MacFarlane as Seymour.