Futurama, Season Ten, Episode Seven, “Rage Against The Vaccine”

Written by: Cody Ziglar
Directed by: Edmund Fong

“Symptoms include BLINDING UNCONTROLLABLE ANGER. As well as a mild cough, which I don’t have, I’m fine.”

This is the one that feels like what I worried the show would be like when I read all those topical headlines. I don’t think it’s a complete waste of time, but this is a very mixed episode. I can actually see where they’re trying to get by combining both the COVID-19 pandemic and the general sense of increased antagonism people have been feeling lately, but it doesn’t feel polished enough to really make the concept sing. I actually find the idea that Earth has been fighting the COVID-19 crisis in the background for over a thousand years to be very funny, though it lacks that classic Futurama set of gags in which they poorly rationalise the whole thing (“Hey, lady, you got any idea what it costs to rent a tux that changes shape?”). They almost manage to be funny enough to make a joke about going from the real crisis to a fictionalised one, but I think it would have been both more efficient and, overall, funnier to jump right into a Legally Not COVID plot in the first place.

“Feh! Always with the love!”
“We already hugged you, now we gotta talk about it?!”

You know, I pull back and think of the episode as a whole, and I feel like there’s nothing really wrong with the episode as it is, it’s just a lot of the individual gags are not just hacky but the same gags we’ve all been making for years, and there’s enough good ones to point to and think it was a matter of polish. Aside from the many good lines which I scattered throughout this write-up, I enjoy the gag of the Professor literally shoving a swab right up to his brain. On the flipside, the Gloom scene feels like it’s made out of every single meme I have ever seen about Zoom meetings, and it just drags on and on and on. Futurama gets some of its joy out of delivering hacky jokes so fast we end up finding out what’s past them; indeed, we see this with the increasingly absurd riffs on incorrect mask wearing that climaxes in the wonderful image of Petunia wearing two like earrings.

“I’ve developed a test to see who’s got the virus and who’s just naturally mean!”

I also genuinely like a lot of the plots. Leela’s is my favourite; having her be the origin of the spread through a moment of lax responsibility is a classic ‘Leela falling short of being the smart one’ moment, and shoving her in the Angry Dome is hilarious (I feel like this whole episode was written around bringing that back). The Professor and Wernstrom’s vaccine arms race is another classic moment in their rivalry and in the show’s ridiculous scifi concepts. The twist that the Omicronians were behind it is both clever in itself and a funnier pun on “Omicronian variant” than we were all making back when that was a thing. And the fact that Hermes is going on a genuine adventure plot infused with New New Orleans spirit is a lot of fun. The jokes just aren’t consistently there.

Title Card: Try unplugging it and plugging it back in
Cartoon Billboard: “Circus”, 1932

“That’s a violation of health and safety standards!”
Everything we do is a violation of health and safety standards!”

Bill Nye cameos as himself. Feodor Chin has taken over Scoop Chang and Kevin Michael Richardson has taken Barbados Slim; the latter not only seamlessly imitates John DiMaggio’s version of the character, he layers in a slight gravitas that wasn’t there, making him an unambiguous improvement in my eyes. Dawnn Lewis returns as LaBarbara. In animation, I deeply love the design of the bone robot.

“The sterility is essential! Studies show that kids are what makes people angriest. Everyone hates kids!”

The title is a reference to the band Rage Against The Machine. Dr Banjo’s podcast is a reference to The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

“You two are mostly ancient history!”
“History has a way of repeating itself, brudda!”
(I draw attention to this quote, not because I think it’s funny but because I think it’s unnecessarily cool)

Biggest Laugh:

“Bender, you idiot, do you have to eat those now?!”
“I don’t have to eat anything ever.”