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The 10 Most Touching Episodes in the Surprisingly Poignant Seven-Season Run of 'Futurama'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire August 30, 2013 at 4:35PM

Over its erratic seven-season lifetime, one that's spanned over a decade, multiple networks and a few direct-to-DVD movies, "Futurama" has presented some brilliantly strange jokes ("death by snu-snu" on the planet Amazonia), unexpectedly complicated mythology (Fry is his own grandfather, and because of that is able to save the universe from evil brains) and an animated character for the ages in the hard-drinking robot Bender Bending Rodríguez.
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'Leela's Homeworld'
'Leela's Homeworld'

5. Season 4, Episode 2: "Leela's Homeworld"

For the first few seasons of the series, Leela believes herself to be alien in search of her home planet, having grown up in the Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium after being abandoned there as an infant. But "Leela's Homeworld" reveals that she actually came from the sewers as "the least mutated mutant ever born," her parents, both alive, deciding to give her a chance at life in the world above by passing her off as an alien in a curiously affective variation on an immigrant tale of sacrifice. Unlike Fry, Leela at least has access to her parents in future episodes, even if they were for a long time confined underground due to their mutant status. The moment she figures out who they are -- "You must despise us," they cry, until she embraces them and sobs "This is the happiest moment of my life!" -- gives way to one of the montages "Futurama" wields like a weapon, a wonderful look at how Leela's parents kept watch on her as she grew up set to Pizzicato Five's "Baby Love Child."

4. Season 7, Episode 23: "Game of Tones"

The Comedy Central seasons of "Futurama" have not been the show's strongest, and "Game of Tones," which aired earlier this month, feels fairly lazy in its primary plot. An alien ship booming a series of loud musical tones, a la a certain Steven Spielberg film, is making its deafening way toward Earth. The melody is familiar to Fry, leading the crew to hook him up to a machine that will allow him to explore his last day in 1999 and hopefully uncover the memory linked to the sound and stop the ship from destroying Earth with noise. Despite the half-heartedness of the "disaster," which turns out to be a character searching for where he parked his spaceship, the episode turns around to manage a devastating sequence with Fry's mom, who's mainly been characterized in series flashbacks as a manic sports fan and not much else. Looking for a moment to talk to his mother, even in dream form, to tell her all the things he's wanted to since he was separated from her forever, he's granted a chance by Nibbler to visit her in one of his own dreams, getting to offer a sweet, wordless goodbye. 

Time slippin

3. Season 3, Episode 14: "Time Keeps On Slippin'"

Fry and Leela's long courtship and up-and-down relationship has remained tolerable over the years of the show's run in part because it's only periodically been given a place in the spotlight. Fry's (for a while, at least) hopeless pursuit of the more competent cyclops is primarily played for laughs, which only makes the moments in which it's treated seriously more powerful. And it's never more hopeless and poetic than in "Time Keeps On Slippin'," in which space-time becomes destabilized, leaping forward first minutes, then longer periods at a time and leaving the characters to try to figure out what happened in the missing chronology. Fry manages, somehow, to get Leela to agree to marry him after a time skip (though they immediately get divorced in the next one), and only realizes what he did to win her over when it's too late -- he wrote "I LOVE YOU, LEELA" using the stars, a message that gets destroyed in the implosion that sets the timeline right before anyone else can see it, a futile but beautiful effort.

2. Season 3, Episode 4: "The Luck of the Fryrish"

"Breakfast Club" standard "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds becomes a peculiarly moving music queue in this episode in which Fry discovers what happened to the brother, Yancy, he felt was always trying to steal his thunder. Fry's search for the seven-leaf clover that brought him luck at breakdancing and basketball back in the 20th century takes him to Orbiting Meadows National Cemetery, where he believes his sibling was interred after stealing Fry's name and clover and going on to lead a heroic life involving becoming the first man on Mars. But some timely moss removal on the grave brings us to the flashback reveal that it wasn't Yancy who did those things, but his son, "named for his uncle, to carry on his spirit" and in tribute to the family member Yancy misses. It's a moment well worth a Judd Nelson fist-pump and some tissues.

Jurassic Bark

1. Season 5, Episode 7: "Jurassic Bark"

"Not the episode with the dead dog," the title caption to this week's episode read. Said "dead dog" episode is one of the show's finest, and one capable of reducing even the most hard-hearted and animation-averse to instant tears. It's the ending that does it. After a main story revolving around Bender's jealously when Fry seeks to have his old pet and "best friend" Seymour cloned and restored to life from a fossil, the show finds the pair making up and Fry deciding that, after learning the dog went on to live for over a decade after his master was frozen, the animal had to have led a full life without him and it was better to leave him that way. Simple enough -- except that we then cut to a montage of Seymour faithfully obeying Fry's last command to wait for him in front of Panucci's Pizza, "I Will Wait for You" from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" playing as the seasons change, people pass by and Seymour, Mr. Panucci and the pizza place age, Seymour finally lying down to close his eyes. Devastating and unforgettable.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Futurama, Comedy Central, Matt Groening





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