Futurama, Season Ten, Episode Three, “How The West Was 1010001”

Written by: Noni Di Spargement
Directed by: James Kim

“Yo, we’re also leg brokers.”

Let me tell you, when I saw the plot summaries for episodes like this one, I was a bit worried – contemporary references have not traditionally gone well for this show – but this goes beyond pleasant surprise and into shock. There really is no difference between how this show is riffing on cryptocurrency and how it riffs on, well, literally anything! My initial wariness came from the fact that it’s easy to imagine the cheap and obvious gags the writers could have made; like, I’m not particularly concerned for the feelings of cryptobros, but I don’t come to Futurama for gags I could read in any number of news comments sections. To my great surprise, though, this is a genuinely inventive take on the concept.

“It’s good thing we brought the oxen. Normally we don’t.”

Should I be that surprised? One of the great gifts of Futurama is the riffing on technology, and the straightforward technology of cryptocurrency gives them a lot of room to play; it even has some mild body horror in the idea of the robots being trapped as heads on the shelf doing maths forever. Turning the Wild West notion of an unregulated industry into something quite literal, on the other hand, is an inspired and unexpected move that opens up the comedy considerably.

“What’ll you have?”
“Your freest beverage.”

I enjoyed the third-act twist in the story of the bar owner turning out to be abducting robots just for its own sake – not just pretty funny, but dramatically interesting – and overall, I find the episode’s structure interesting. I will admit I’m coming to dislike the animation; I realised this episode that it must draw from the same resources as Disenchanted, which I find mostly ugly and dry. Futurama has a much clearer sense of its characters and sensibility, and the side effect is that while it’s still a  little bit flat and ugly, there’s a basic punch to the scripts that keep things moving. 

“What’s your survival rate?”
“Pretty high. I’m a psychiatrist.”

The consequence of this is that what I suspect what would feel like a few jokes in the Fox and CC runs feels like full-if-light plots for each character – Zoidberg’s seizure of role of town doctor, Leela becoming a barmaid, etc. It’s not quite on the level of the elegant machine of “Three Hundred Big Boys”, but it feels like it’s reaching something interesting.

Title Card: Based on an actual UFO sighting
Cartoon Billboard: “A Is For Atom”, 1953

“Sometimes I think a detachable ass is more of a curse than a blessing.”

Dee Bradley Baker guest stars as Rusty the Donkey and Frank Welker shows up as the mountain lion. The Professor’s nonstarter of a catchphrase, ‘But I am already in my pyjamas’, makes its glorious return for no reason. One thing I do appreciate about the animation is that we get a lot of front-facing Leela, which is delightful.

“That, sir, was my cheatin’ hand!”

The title is a reference to the book and movie How The West Was Won. A bird makes the ‘meep meep’ of Road Runner from Looney Tunes.

Biggest Laugh:

“Delilah runs a house of ill repute in back.”
“Ill? You mean a hospital?”
“I mean a cat house.”
“A pet store?”
“A brothel.”
“A soup kitchen?”