Futurama, Season Eight, Episode One, “The Bots And The Bees”

Written by: Eric Horsted
Directed by: Stephen Sandoval
DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“Planet Express crew, report to headquarters immediately! Repeat: what I just said, immediately!”

This one is a weird one to judge, because on the one hand it’s wall-to-wall great lines but on the other, I find it incredibly and even bizarrely racist and misogynistic. Like, the plot is literally based around a black-coded female-coded character who pumps out babies specifically to neglect them and take them away from their loving (and also drunk and belligerent) father. I genuinely forgot how funny this episode is because that premise left such a bad taste in my mouth that I dislike revisiting it. The really weird thing is that I don’t get hateful vibes from it – for the most part, Bev is treated as apathetically as any other Futurama character, certainly much less hateful than the way the show has kicked around Nixon or Zapp and certainly less hateful than late-period Family Guy would treat the same character type. I think the writers must have started with the idea of making Bender a father (forgetting about or ignoring that he kicked his firstborn son into Hell in one of the movies) and, in working out how to get there, thought “hey, what if the mother of his child was a black ‘welfare queen’?” and genuinely did not consider how, uh, shitty that is.

“I was wondering who Shreked in the toilet.”

It’s a shame because this episode is pretty great outside of that (it’s better than “Bend Her” and “Neutopia”, that’s for damn sure). The episode opens with a bravura animated sequence of the characters coming into work, showing off the ever-increasing budget and sophistication, and the rest of the episode follows suit; I enjoy their sense of when to draw attention to it and when not to, with elaborate things like the animation of Bender tying up his arms in the helicopter next to subtler things like the incredibly detailed damage to the wall after Bender and Bev’s fight/sex. And like I said, this is a powerhouse of one-liners; Leela is an essential underlying support structure here, getting some of my favourite lines in the episode, and Fry’s addiction to Slurm is a terrific subplot.

“Gimme a chance to defend your honour! And then sully it on the couch!”

I’m really curious how other people reacted to the emotional arc of Bender being a great (if characteristically Benderesque) father and sacrificing his relationship with his son for the sake of his dreams. I think it managed to slowly grab me – I find it truthful to both Bender and fatherhood in general in that Bender falls in love with his son once he discovers that the kid loves him unconditionally for fairly basic things he can do, which leads to him being extremely attentive, which leads to him genuinely loving his son. To my great surprise, I found myself still moved by Bender’s sorrow when he gives up his son’s memories so he can bend, to the point that I’m bothered by the lazy “Who are you again?” gag at the end.

Title Card: Not sure if new episode or just rerun of episode I watched drunk.
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“I left my window open and moths got in.”

This episode guest stars Wanda Sykes as Bev, and she does deliver a great performance; on the commentary, they remark that they hired her because they needed someone who could stand up to Bender in the love scenes, and she’s reliably funny all the way through. The title card of the episode is a Suspicious Fry meme, which I find delightful. The episode also finally answers the question of who exactly built all the useless robots like Hedonismbot or Tinny Tim – robot reproduction exists. Somehow that’s less funny to me than them just inexplicably existing.

“You must be so proud of your boy.”
*sniffing* “I could take him or leave him.”

Slurm Loco is a parody of Four Loko. Bev calls herself a ‘coal grinder’s daughter’ in a reference to the Loretta Lynn song “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Leela compares Fry to the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four and Hermes uses Shrek as a verb to describe his effect on the toilet. Fry lighting up the way at the end is a reference to Rudolph The Red-Noses Reindeer. The Temple Of Robotology has a math parody of the Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer. 

Iconic Moments: N/A
Biggest Laugh: “There’s a dam!” / “Damn!” / “There’s a grate!” / “Great!”

Next Week: “A Farewell To Arms”. “Snake door. Roger.”