Futurama, Season Three, Episode Six, “Bendless Love”

Written by: Eric Horsted
Directed by: Swinton O Scott III
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

This is practically the definition of a minor Futurama episode – I fundamentally do not care about the plot except as a vehicle for jokes, and luckily all the jokes work and some of them are spectacular. My basic issue here is that I don’t care if Bender gets laid or not, even if I didn’t also know that he’s probably not going to hold onto a girlfriend longer than an episode, and nothing happens to change either Bender’s fundamental character, or how I see him, or how I see the world. This is absolutely not a problem, it’s just the difference between something good, something great, and something essential. Actually, Leela does end up articulating my indifference to the plot in how she observes there’s a simple, mature solution, only for Fry and Bender to agree on the stupid and terrible thing. I suppose it’s not so much that it’s stupid as it is that it doesn’t escalate that stupidity quick enough; the Gang of Always Sunny also happily embrace the most obviously stupid decision in any given scene, but the show as a whole is great because it’s always moving through each bit of stupidity as fast as possible and escalating as it goes along. This episode lingers on its stupid decisions and casually strolls its way through them, and that doesn’t work for me – or at least, not as well as it has in other places. 

On the other hand, it does also show a basic example of the show’s comedic mixing of unrelated themes. The robot mafia stuff works so much better here than in “Bender Gets Made” because it’s reduced to one element of an overall stew that includes robot romance, robot unions, and robot factory work. The less this show commits to a single theme, the more entertaining I generally find it; almost everything in this episode has to do with robots but it finds a lot of scope to bending (eh? eh?) things to fit into robotonomy/robotology. One thing that’s great about the show is how eventually it built up enough imagery and themes that it could remix and reuse them like a DJ remixing samples, giving each episode an even wider scope. On the third, mutant hand, I realise now that there’s older episodes with similarly indifferent Bender plots that are much greater because they use him as a vehicle to explore a different, very specific idea – I think especially of “A Head In The Polls”, in which I barely dropped a sentence about him. I suppose the lesson here is that, as loveable as Bender is, it’s very rare that he manages to carry a plot I care about.

Title Card: Torn from tomorrow’s headlines
Cartoon Billboard: “Little Ol’ Bosko In Bagdad”, 1938

Jan Hooks guest stars as Angeline. I do enjoy the idea in the first act that Bender is compelled to bend things, even if the body horror of what happens to the Professor is hard to take. I really enjoy Elzar’s inquisitive “bam?”. The best robot joke in the episode and one of the best robot jokes the show ever did was Bender saying “[She has] legs that don’t quit unexpectedly”. The half-dozen uses of the phrase ‘unbendable’ in the span of a few sentences is a fantastic example of the show’s affinity for using language specifically incorrectly for maximum comic effect.

“That doesn’t look like an L at all! Unless you count lower-case.”
“You know we don’t!”

The title is a reference to the song “Endless Love”. Angeline’s introduction is a reference to the common 1940’s movie technique of smearing vaseline on the camera lens when filming a female love interest’s introduction. Zoidberg references a famous open letter, “J’accuse!”, by Émile Zola. Bender and Angeline bending the girder is a reference to Ghost. Hermes mutters “Haile H Selassie!”, combining a reference to the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie with the slang phrase “Jesus H Christ”. Bender mangles a quote from The Godfather Part III. Bendgay is a parody of Bengay.  

Iconic Moments: “There on the screen! It’s that guy you are!” | “From the context, it is clear what you mean.” | Zoidberg’s slinky coming aflame. | “OH HOW I WISH I COULD BELIEVE OR UNDERSTAND THAT!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “The Day The Earth Stood Stupid”. “I am now leaving Earth for no raisins!”