Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Nine, “Free Will Hunting”

Written by: David X Cohen
Directed by: Raymie Muzquiz
DN’s Ranking: Bad / Nonessential / ESSENTIAL

“Bender Rodriguez, you are charged with petty larceny, possession of something analogous to drugs, and assault with a smelly weapon.”

I was surprised how much I liked this one on rewatch – I didn’t remember it as all that interesting. Once again, the process of intense analysis reveals greater depths. This is another case of Bender being thrown out of his depth and into a philosophical plot to great results, and it even has him at a surprising advantage. It actually makes a lot of sense to me that Bender would passionately believe in free will and be repulsed by a deterministic universe; as he repeatedly says throughout the episode, he enjoys being surprising and unexpected, and this feels like an extension of Bender enjoying power. If you live in a deterministic universe, then even when you win you have no power. Your victory was handed to you.

“Impossible! And even if it were possible – which it’s not – it would still be inconceivable – which it is!”

What’s interesting about this episode is that it ends up (unintentionally?*) showing that the free will vs determinism argument is largely academic. It’s as played for laughs as anything else in “Free Will Hunting”, but I do see something profound in Ab-bot’s decision to lean in on his programming. If your nature is predetermined and preprogrammed, you can still choose whether or not to lean in on it or fight it; perhaps in futility, perhaps making yourself miserable, but you can still do it if you want. I think the upside of determinism is that when you lean in on your nature, you’ll probably be a lot happier; the upside of free will is, of course, pride.

(“If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”)

This, by the way, is why I enjoy an individual Futurama episode to be trying to achieve something. Obviously I enjoy having things to think and talk about afterwards, but I also think it gives individual episode a better sense of pacing and a viewpoint to its jokes. Setting up Bender’s motivation for the bulk of the episode means they knock out what would be a typical Bender plot in four minutes (which is always fun), and I was surprised by how many great one-liners there were. “Free Will Hunting” in total almost feels like an essay no different from what I write here every week, with the final punchline of Bender being lead away cheering feeling like a particularly stunning concluding line. So, you know, not like this one.

Title Card: Warning: do not show to horses
Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“Sweet meatbags! Sweetbags.”

Tom Kenny guest stars as Mr 147573952589676412927. The gags about jacking on being explicitly compared to drugs struck me as a joke written just for beloved commentor Raven Wilder. Leela is pushed about as far back as a character can possibly be and manages to steal the show; I love the gag of her falling asleep at Bender’s first trial, but the gag of her turning out to be in bed with Fry as he wistfully thinks about Bender is my all-time favourite joke about their relationship in the CC seasons; indeed, it’s probably the whole reason I’m so well-disposed to its messiness. It’s a joke that only works because we’re over a hundred and twenty episodes into this show; we’re so conditioned to think Fry and Leela aren’t in a relationship that it can make a joke like this.

“It takes more than that to make me think!”

The title is a parody of the film Good Will Hunting. Mr 147573952589676412927’s name is a reference to mathematician Frank Nelson Cole. Bender joins the Ink Jets, a reference to one of the gangs in West Side Story. Paco is a reference to rapper Tupac Shakur. The robot tattooist has the name of printer manufacturer Epson written upside down and in l33tspeak. Quaker State Motor Oats is a parody of Quaker State motor oil and Quaker Oats Company. 

“You precognisant bastard!”

The Hyper-Chicken’s speech is a riff on Atticus’s speech in To Kill A Mockingbird. Much of the philosophy in the monastery riffs on The Myth Of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Bender working in the monastery with the other monks references the MC Escher painting Relativity.

Iconic Moments: “It’s not drugs. But it’s a lot like drugs.” | “Still, to have your own pool!”
Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “Near-Death Wish”. “That is one crazy, uncircumcised man.”