Futurama, Season Eight, Episode Ten, “Near-Death Wish”

Written by: Eric Horsted

Directed by: Lance Kramer

DN’s Ranking: Bad / NONESSENTIAL / Essential

“He always has time for me, whether it’s sending me on a delivery or just pulling me aside to tell me I’m doing a bad job.”

It’s funny to me how much my take on this show comes from considering the perspective of the writing more than considering the characters. This episode feels like a partial update in the show’s perspective rather than a development of the characters or an insight into them; for the longest time, this show has had limited interest in the concept of family or the forgiveness that comes with it. This is as much a practical thing as it is a philosophical one – as others have pointed out, Fry’s situation is less unbearably sad if it’s much better than his 20th century life.

But the show has managed to gently warm up – and warm us up – to the idea of family actually existing in this universe. As Futurama has become more sentimental in its old age, the second most effective it has been is in ‘redeeming’ Fry’s family. This has roots all the way back in “Luck Of The Fryish” but has improved on it enormously, actually creating arcs based in what we know. The Professor’s arc here feels like a minor (but still entertaining) riff on that same concept.

“They look just like you, Fry. Arms. Legs. Ugly.”

Specifically, it’s the gradual realisation that perhaps we weren’t interpreting our childhood correctly, that perhaps our parents weren’t being greedy or selfish but were dealing with things we couldn’t see at the time. I have great sympathy for people who realise their parents were harming them in ways they couldn’t see, but I also recognise the difficulty in admitting you were a difficult child – the loss of ego. One point of view is that it’s easier filtering this idea through an already insane, evil, crusty weirdo like Farnsworth; more likely is they made the correct assumption that this was the funniest turn to take the story.

Title Card: There’s no bismuth like show bismuth.

Cartoon Billboard: N/A

“I don’t cook much since we moved out of reality.”

Estelle Harris guest stars as Farnsworth’s mother; she slips into the role like an old, comfortable pair of shoes. I enjoy the Clippie Awards opening – a perfect example of the imagination of Futurama. I especially love Fry’s formal shorts. I am willing to forgive the show’s grievous and uninformed insult against the greatest movie ever made due to their imaginative riff on using people as batteries.

“Oh God! I’m still here?!”

The plot riffs on The Matrix. Farnsworth acts out a parody of The Phantom Of The Opera. Fry drops a reference to the tag line of Star Trek. There’s a picture of Braino with his tongue sticking out a la the famous picture of Albert Einstein. The Professor’s bedsheets has Transformers on it.

Iconic Moments: N/A

Biggest Laugh:

Next Week: “31st Century Fox”. “It’s Bender’s middle finger. I’d recognise it anywhere.”