The Avocado

Futurama, Season Seven, Episode Three, “Law And Oracle”

Written by: Josh Weinstein
Directed by: Stephen Sandoval
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“Well, could I at least get some encouragement? I could use a real shot in the arm.”
“Argh, I got shot in the leg!”

In terms of basic plot and comedic value, this episode could easily have slotted into the Fox run. It’s almost your classic ‘character gets a job for an episode’ premise that The Simpsons ran into the ground, which admittedly is something this show doesn’t generally go for – the premise of a futuristic scifi world being enough to get you wherever you want to go as a writer – but does give this the sense of the show riffing on a concept for funsies for half an hour. I particularly enjoy how this even delves into riffing on a scifi premise; once Fry establishes himself as a cop (hilarious seeing policing portrayed as a respected job in 2022), it turns into a parody of Minority Report. But it’s not so much a ‘parody’ as it is genuinely finding a different take on the same concept; I think once you get to a cyborg that’s a robot with human bits instead of a human with robot bits, you’re basically in new territory. This even leads to a classic ethical conundrum in which Fry can see two options and must choose between letting a crime be committed and saving his friends, which itself leads to a classic Captain Kirk finding of a third option!

It’s often said that one must love a genre to properly parody it, which has often struck me as something people say because it hurts their feelings when you make fun of something they like. But I can see it here, because while it never gets beyond just doing what it’s supposed to do, that does work as a structural basis for typical Futurama jokes. The chief is the best example of what I mean here, taking the cliche language of a butch police woman and pushing it and pushing it until it breaks (“Grow a pair and put ‘em together!”) in a way very reminiscent of what it did with the mafia language of the entire Robot Mafia. “Law And Oracle” is littered with classic Futurama riffs on language and expectations in this regard. Each line that zigs instead of zagging works so well because there is a basic structure that could work properly if they really wanted it to.

“We call him… Pickles.”
“On account of it’s like he’s floating in a jar?”

What really strikes me is how much the beauty of this episode makes me want to knock it up a notch (bam!) in my ranking even as I realise it’s merely good-not-great Futurama. The Tron cycle chase sequence is genuinely beautiful, which makes the various gags funnier even when some of them aren’t actually all that funny (like the cliche Shrodinger joke). It simultaneously makes the whole endeavour feel more important and necessary whilst drawing attention to the relatively unambitious stakes of the episode.

Title Card: For the sophisticated shut-in
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“You think you can waltz in here with no pants and become a cop?”
“That’s the plan.”
“I like you, kid. I got no pants on either.”
“I can see that. You’re quite a bit taller than me.”

This episode was subject to rewrites – originally, it was about Fry and Leela’s son travelling back in time that was scrapped because it wasn’t funny enough. I do have to give the episode props for coming up with the funniest reason for the character to get his job back – having the entire subplot being about the Planet Express crew missing Fry while never figuring out exactly what it is he does is incredible. My favourite visual gag in this is that Hattie apparently has a Last Will & Watchacallit.

“You can’t arrest me for future murder after it’s right now murder!”

The title is a reference to the television show Law & Order. As said, much of the plot riffs on Minority Report, which was itself based on the Philip K Dick short story of the same name. Much of Fry’s police training is a parody of the Police Academy movies. The chief’s description of Pickles is very close to the description of the Timelord Matrix in Doctor Who. The episode opens with a parody of the video game Paper Boy. The planet of Pandora is a parody of the movie Avatar and its 3D effects. As said, the cycle chase sequence is a reference to the Tron movies (apparently, there was much discussion amongst the crew about which movie to parody). Fry drops a reference to SunnyD commercials.

A sign at the Future Crimes Division drops a reference to the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer. Fry drops multiple references to Speed Buggy. The Maltese Liquor is a reference to The Maltese Falcon. URL mentions that the liquor is deadly to anyone other than robots and Billy Dee Williams, a reference to his appearance in commercials for Colt 45 liquor. Leela complains about Bender’s Eagles album, to which he replies with a reference to their song “Witchy Woman”. The entire first scene is a self-reference to the first scene in “Space Pilot 3000”.

Iconic Moments: “Life and death are a seamless continuum. Uh-hm.”
Biggest Laugh

Next Week: “Benderama”. “Everyone is tetty much protally fitshaced.”