Futurama has come back in a big way to episodic television with their move to Comedy Central this year, and there’s no better way to celebrate it than with their 100th episode (and the season finale) “The Mutants Are Revolting”.
The season has had its ups and downs (fortunately more of the former than the latter), so it was nice that the pace began to pick up and hit fever pitch as we approached this episodic milestone. “The Mutants Are Revolting” continues Futurama’s time-honoured tradition of eschewing sloppy slapstick in favour of sneaky subtle social commentary.
Oh, and Fry turns into a mutant. (no he doesn’t! – ed.)
I’ve honestly not had much of a chance to watch much Futurama while it was on Fox all those years ago, neither did I watch any of the straight-to-DVD movies released over the past two years, but picking up Comedy Central’s Season 6 didn’t penalise me one bit. Like any good sitcom, animated or otherwise, you don’t need much backstory to enjoy any of the episodes. Sure, there’ll be some references you’ll miss, and several inside jokes obviously not meant for you, but sometimes you may find yourself enjoying the episode more than the hardcore fans.
Case in point: “The Mutants Are Revolting”. Fans who expected a big self-congratulatory episode featuring cameos and inside references from the past 99 were probably disappointed to realise that creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen were not going to spend any time patting themselves on the back. The 100th episode jumps right into a new story, leaving the celebration (in the form of an awesome robot dance party) as a quickly resolved subplot.
The reviewers’ gripe that a lot of of the episode is recycled plot was lost on me. As far as I was concerned, while others would remember “Leela’s Homeworld” from Season 4 back in 2002, this was my first introduction to Leela’s origin as a sewer mutant, her subsequent illegal employment status, and her parents. As I had never seen the Titanic parody episode from further back in 1999’s Season 1, I found the “Land Titanic” storyline particularly hilarious, and hardly felt that it was dated or fell flat as a gag.
There was also no doubt that this had all the trappings of a typical Futurama episode. For example, getting to see the “homeworld” of the sewer mutants provided the opportunity to pay a delightful homage to a classic science-fiction film which has a similar theme about social segregation – Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis. There was also a lot of emotional heartstrings being pulled as we delved further into Leela’s strained relationship with her parents, which set up for a nice payoff at the end of the episode. A quick check reveals that this episode is written by Eric Horsted, who also had an equally emotional twist in his episode, “Lethal Inspection” from earlier in the season.
“Lethal Inspection” also happens to be my personal favourite episode from this season, even more so than the widely acclaimed “The Late Philip J. Fry” and “The Prisoner of Benda”. Looking at the season as a whole, I would definitely have to pick the following three as my personal favourite moments in Futurama for sentimental reasons.
1) V-GINY from “In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela”
2) Robotic trilobites from “A Clockwork Origin”
Of course, there have also been huge duds this year, and for a moment, people wondered if Season 6 could ever recapture the magic of the earlier stories. Ultimately, Futurama has proven that it is here to stay, and I’m already looking forward to the next season in 2011.