Sep 4, 2013

Goodbye, Futurama

By Josh Oakley

If I could have had a moment last forever, it would be a Christmas party held my junior year of high school. It was the moment I first fell in love, as I laughed at a joke only funny in context, surrounded by cheesy sweaters, good friends, and food somebody’s mom had made. It was a perfect moment, one I would love to walk through every specificity of. To travel the world created and destroyed within an instant, the whole of the moment collapsed into the varying and tumultuous memories of everyone who lived through it. That moment is gone, that second passed, the clock’s hands continued their perpetual journeys  and I can only think of it, fondly, on the coldest nights.

The series finale of Futurama allowed that dream to flourish. It was an unabashedly romantic half-hour, an episode more interested in pathos than humor. And, more than that, it explored the entirety of the world through the lens of a fraction of a second. Leela’s checklist of “sites to see” is a cute joke, but it also cuts to the center of the episode’s thesis: if you had all of the time, and none of the inhibitors inherent in this world, what would you do? If you could spend decades walking atop oceans with the one you love, or simply have your television show resurrected and allowed to live through three decades, how would you fill the time?

Futurama spent much of its time on this earth making stupid jokes written by brilliant people. The show explored scientific themes both real and imagined. Numerous characters, planets, devices and emotional arcs were seen through to both silly and powerful ends. In the middle of the aliens and the sewer mutants always stood a man who loved a woman. We watched her consider him an option, then the option, up until “Meanwhile”, the show’s second series finale, swept the couple from New New York to Antarctica to Paris, and back to the beginning.

It’s a romantic and sweet way for the show to go out, utilizing all of the sitcom’s component parts: crude humor, odd characters, a high-concept sci-fi trapping, and a gooey heart that Futurama only pulled out on occasion, but effectively.

Because when you boil it down, this was a show about a man sent a millennium away from all that he knew. Yes, some things were better left behind, like a cheating girlfriend and a crappy job. But as the show painfully let us know, he also lost his beloved dog, a family that truly loved him and a sense of security. Now, the adventure and friendship he found was possibly for the better, but Futurama always reminded us that there is always a cost. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only change form. The loss of a pet turns into a new best friend who belches fire and steals from you. Most people give up the secure life spent with their family for love, no matter how many eyes your partner has. This is how the scientific nature of the show fed into its emotional core: science is a way to explain the whole of the universe, a seemingly unknowable thing. And to a degree it is incomprehensible, as is life. But there are truths we hold, from the people we care for to the cities we call home.

In “Meanwhile”, Fry and Leela spent decades traversing the Earth, and decided to do it once again, with their close friends by their side and with new mornings and new days. With its possible final breath, Futurama decided not to go out on a laugh, but a heartfelt sensation. A promise, even. Futurama began its journey with an unlucky guy playing video games in 1999, and ended with that man choosing to relive his life in the year 3013 with the one-eyed woman he loved. Even among the head of Nixon as president, a corporation running the world led by a cruel mother and three idiotic sons, an addictive drink made from a worm’s anus. Amidst all of the cities on all of the planets, Fry fell into that cryogenic tube, lived through the silly, wonderful, meaningful, confident show that could, and ended up with Leela, almost as if it were fate.

Good news everyone. We may not be able to live inside of an instant forever, but think of how many beautiful, stupid, miraculous moments we get to experience instead.

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