Futurama, Season Six, Episode Six, “Lethal Inspection”

Written by: Eric Horsted
Directed by: Ray Claffey
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“What if something heavy fell on you, like a church?”

This is a very rare situation where the bad bits of the episode and the good bits of the episode are in such perfect alignment that the end result comes out nonessential, and this is because the bad bits are entirely conceptual and the execution is reasonably funny. The second strangest thing the CC years kept doing was retconning in new information that directly and specifically contradicted what we had understood all along, and the top strangest thing was that they did this in order to tell ‘heartwarming’ stories. This begins with the notion that Bender has been immortal all this time and known it, and that’s not that much of a stretch, but the mere fact that it forces a total recalibration of everything that came before is frustrating and makes it hard to take seriously – it saps the previous stories of tension (except in the case of “Godfellas”, in which I suppose tension is raised) and the one joke it uses to justify it isn’t funny enough to, uh, justify it.

The more explicable CC seasons instinct this episode indulges in is pairing up two almost random characters; that makes more sense because it’s about mining new comedic potential out of something we haven’t seen before. Sadly, I don’t think Hermes and Bender are exactly Spock and McCoy; there’s potential in bringing together a fastidious outer space potato man and a drunk robot, but their scenes together never really spark into life. It’s more like they’re making jokes next to each other, and even when those jokes are funny they don’t really build on each other the way Bender can either snark on or escalate Fry’s stupidity. Their values are neither similar enough to see them come together, nor are presented as disparate enough to create funny collisions. They’re just kind of there. It’s especially disappointing because a road trip through bureaucracy and Mexico is inherently compelling.

“How much time does he have left, Professor?”
“Between a minute and a billion years.”
“Well, at least you can plan accordingly.”

And that ending! I think they’re shooting for something like “Leela’s Homeworld” or “The Luck Of The Fryrish” – the gentle ending music in particular makes me think of the former – but my automatic response is the jerk-off motion. It’s such a wildly implausible thing to expect me to believe that Hermes not only was the inspector who allowed Bender to be built, but that he’s known this the whole time. At no point has he shown the slightest interest in the robot one way or the other, and even if you disconnect his actions from Bender in particular… I could buy him doing the original decision to allow a ‘defective’ robot through assembly because he thought it was cute, but I don’t buy that he’d care that much to cover it up or to try and protect Bender. It feels so artificial, forced, manipulative – whatever term you want to use when a work of art tries too hard to make you feel something without actually doing the work.

But, you know, the episode was funny, so overall worth a watch.

“Quit blackin’ out and look at this!”

Title Card: Made you look
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“Twelve straight hours of limbo! I haven’t done that since my honeymoon!”

Fry is absolutely on fire throughout this episode with so many killer lines that caught me off-guard. The miniplot of Leela quickly becoming overwhelmed by bureaucratic work got bigs laughs out of me (related slightly too much to “Well this requires a little extra thought.”). This continues the killbot’s “Someone said [x]” joke that always makes me laugh, and “Someone said Howitzer!” is the perfect culmination. The Alienese letter translates as “Need extra cash? Melt down your old, unwanted humans, we pay top dollar”.

“But Five’s the one we want! Perhaps if we kicked the asses of Inspector Two plus Inspector Three…”

Scruffy quotes the Tao Te Ching with a line that is also used in Blade Runner. The opening act references both the American Civil War and the Star Wars movies. Once again, we see a beholder in the Central Bureaucracy. Bender references a line commonly associated with I Love Lucy, though it was never used in the show itself. The central square of Hermes’s cube has a caricature of Paul Lynde as a reference to his time on the show Hollywood Squares. Tijuana contains references to Adobe Photshop and Ike and Tina Turner. Bender’s body download thing is a common scifi trope most likely lifting from Battlestar Galactica, though it could also be referencing the Cybermen in Doctor Who or the novel Glasshouse by Charles Stross. The B in the Centrl Bureaucracy is designed to look like the M in the McDonalds sign. Bender getting hit with a guitar is a reference to Quick Draw McGraw. Mom’s picture in Tijuana is drawn to resemble artist Frida Kahlo. Bender has a bottle of tequila named Jose Servo in reference to the tequila brand Jose Cuervo.  

Iconic Moments: “Thanks to denial, I’m immortal!”
Biggest Laugh: This is actually my biggest Futurama laugh ever.

Next Week: “The Late Philip J Fry”. “Well, here we are. The end of the universe.”