Cancel culture and toy incarnations are at the heart of episodes 8 and 9 of season 11 of Futurama.
I was provided with advanced digital screeners for Futurama season 11. The opinions I have shared are my own.
The plot is pretty on the nose with episode 8, “Zapp Gets Canceled”. Zapp Branigan (Billy West) is on a mission and does some behavior that makes Kiff (Maurice LaMarche) finally get fed up and file a complaint. During the court session, we find out that Zapp has done a lot of horrible things (from sharing fantasies of Kiff’s wife to – gasp – wearing greenface) with excuses that sound way too familiar (“it was a joke” to “it was another time”).
He is canceled and forced to undergo sensitivity training and wear a scarlet C. The training is led by Dr. Gary Kind (John DiMaggio) who treats them as they were treated.
Meanwhile, Leela (Katey Sagal), having won “Only Good Employee of the Month” from Planet Express yet again, gets hired as Zapp’s replacement as captain of the Nimbus. She is sent on a mission of first contact with a civilization that is run on air. The two plots converge eventually, and Zapp seems to have learned his lesson.
I’m actually not sure what to think of this episode. The use of Kathy Griffin to voice one of the other captains in the sensitivity training would lead me to believe this is not anti-cancel culture, but the commentary is also so obvious that it makes me wonder. Am I reading too much into it? After all, some points need to be straightforward in order to hit home. It just feels like it’s missing some nuance, even for Futurama – which tends to be pretty direct in its comedy.
As for episode 9, “The Prince and the Product”, I’m not sure what to say but ‘the hell?’
The main plot has the crew delivering a package to the King of Space. Leela and the Prince of Space fall in love, but because she’s a commoner, the king is against the marriage. Fry (also West) – somewhat surprisingly – challenges the king to a duel for Leela to marry.
But in between this plotline are various ‘commercials’ that are mini-episodes that are almost like multi-verse variations.
In the first, Windos, the crew is designed as wind-up toys. Fry’s main spring is nearly run down. They go on various searches to help Fry get better.
In the second, Round Wheels, the crew are basically Hot Wheels. They are bringing a piece of track to Saturn, but leave behind Zoidberg. The news brings the story that’s reminiscent of The Ring – but it’s the eerie call of the car warranty expiration.
In the final ‘ad’, Rubber Ducks, half the crew are rubber ducks while the rest of them are Weeble Wobble eggs. Fry and Leela fall in love and cause a war as a result.
In all three of the mini-episodes, a good chunk of the crew (if not all of them) end up dying, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a hint of how the season will end. But all three seem to come from nowhere and are bizarre (in a good way) trips into different plotlines. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for why these plots and these ‘incarnations’, and they come out of nowhere. But despite all that, it’s still oddly enjoyable. It just is a weird segue that seems to be done just to see if it can be.
Futurama airs Mondays, and more information can be found on Hulu’s website.
Author: Angie Fiedler Sutton
Angie Fiedler Sutton is a writer, podcaster, and all-round fangirl geek. She has been published in Den of Geek, Stage Directions, LA Weekly, The Mary Sue, and others.
She also produces her own podcast, Contents May Vary, where she interviews geeky people about geeky things. You can see all her work (and social media channels) at angiefsutton.com.
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