While “Futurama” is, for all intents and purposes, an animated COMEDY (and one of the best out there), those who follow the series know just what an emotional wallop it can pack, as well. The characters in this sci-fi series, an intergalactic delivery crew known as the Planet Express, may go on wacky, outer space adventures, but their relationships with each other are what keep the show grounded and relatable to the average viewer. In particular, the most touching moments usually involve Fry, a cryogenically frozen pizza delivery boy who is thawed out in the year 3000, and his (initially) unrequited love for one-eyed space captain, Leela. The tender moments in this series are made more special by the fact that they usually catch you off guard by providing plenty of belly laughs beforehand, setting the series apart from even creator Matt Groening’s other great animated series “The Simpsons,” which never quite succeeds as well at tugging at your heartstrings the way “Futurama” does. The following list details the 10 endings that left us with more than tears of laughter. So if you prefer to not have them spoiled, trust us and just watch the episodes first.
No. 10 - “Near-Death Wish” (Season 7, Episode 10)
While this episode may not be among its greatest, like most episodes of “Futurama” it surprises you with sentiment in the end. Professor Farnsworth, who is actually Fry’s great, great, great…(etc.) nephew, is brought face-to-face with his parents, who have been living in virtual retirement on the Near-Death Star (a sort of “The Matrix” parody). However, even though the crew figures he’ll be pleased, it is made known by the professor that he despises them for never playing with him as a child and instead moving him to a farm where he would not be able to expand his mind scientifically enough. Once his parents explain to him that his relentless quest for knowledge made him crazy, and that they couldn't play with him because they were too exhausted from having to care for him during the night terrors he would have on a regular basis, he realizes that they were good parents after all and only looking out for him. The story ends with Professor Farnsworth taking his parents back to the Near-Death Star, where he reprograms their virtual retirement home to resemble their farmhouse. He also reprograms their virtual representations into their younger selves, and the three of them play together like they were never able to do before.
No. 9 - “Parasites Lost” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Fry is no Stephen Hawking by a long shot, but his severe lack of intelligence often works in his favor. In this particular instance, Fry was infested with worms after eating a truck stop egg salad sandwich out of a bathroom vending machine. However, this being “Futurama” and all, these were no ordinary worms, and begin to actually improve Fry’s body from the inside out. This includes healing him when he is injured, increasing his brain function and whipping his muscles into tip-top shape. And what else do you think Fry would do with his newly acquired “gift” but use it to win over the love of his life, Leela. He quickly does so, but then realizes he needs to know if she really loves him, or the worms that have made him who he now is. So, he sets off on a dangerous mission inside his own body using a micro-droid of himself (a la “Fantastic Voyage”) to force the worms to leave. After doing so, he goes back to Leela to see if she still feels for him the same way, but she quickly realizes she doesn’t. He must start again from square one, gradually trying to make the same improvements on himself the old-fashioned way.
No. 8 - “Overclockwise” (Season 6, Episode 25)
We all occasionally ponder what we are doing with our lives. In this episode, it is Leela’s turn, as she leaves Fry and sets off to find her place in the world. Fry is heartbroken, but lets her go. Meanwhile, Bender, the Planet Express’ alcoholic robot bending unit, figures out a way to overclock his system so that he is able to increase his intelligence. He eventually upgrades to the point of becoming an omnipotent being who is all and sees all. So when Fry comes to him asking for help to win Leela back, all Bender can do is look sad, as he is so intelligent now that he can even see the future. Eventually, he loses his power and goes back to being regular old Bender. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t take the time to write down the answers to life’s great mysteries first, including Fry and Leela’s ultimate fate. Leela later returns, having missed Fry, and the two read Bender’s synopsis of their destiny together. The range of emotions on their faces is pretty incredible for a cartoon, ultimately ending on expressions of content and happiness. Interestingly enough, this episode was written to serve as a series finale by long-time series writer Ken Keeler in case the show wasn’t renewed. It was, but what a fitting finale it would have been.
No. 7 - “Lethal Inspection” (Season 6, Episode 6)
“Futurama” is so good, they can even tell a story about a robot and a bureaucrat, two beings rarely associated with feelings, and make it touching. After explaining to the human members of the Planet Express how awesome it is to be a robot because he can never technically die, Bender realizes that the inspector in charge of checking him for defects when he was created, Inspector #5, approved him regardless of the fact that he was manufactured without a backup system. In layman’s terms, he is mortal after all. So Bender, with the assistance of Planet Express’ accountant and bureaucrat grade 36, Hermes, sets out on a mission to find Inspector #5 and make him pay for his misdeed. Once it is discovered that Bender is a defective robot, he is hunted by the authorities to be terminated. On the run, the two eventually locate Inspector #5’s home, only to discover it abandoned. But Hermes is able to hack Inspector #5’s computer just in time to call off the hunt for Bender. This is, it is revealed, because Hermes was actually Inspector #5, and approved Bender when he was first created so he would not be disposed of and could live a full life. Bender walks away none the wiser, but with a much better outlook on being mortal, realizing you must live life to its fullest. And Hermes walks away knowing he did the right thing.
No. 6 - “The Late Philip J. Fry” (Season 6, Episode 7)
Heavily influenced by H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” this was the first episode to really illustrate just how much Leela also cares for Fry. After Fry, Bender and Professor Farnsworth get stuck in a time machine that only travels forward, not only does Fry miss taking Leela out for her birthday, but the three of them jump ahead all the way to the very end of the universe as they search for a backwards time machine that they never find. Leela is very upset that Fry ditched out on her and then assumingly died, until she eventually discovers a video birthday card he was recording before he skipped ahead in time, which shows that he didn’t ditch her on purpose, and in fact, really loved her and was looking forward to the date. At this point, 40 years has passed since Fry disappeared. To show how much she cared for him in a way that he would hopefully see, she shoots a message into the cavern they were supposed to meet at, telling him that even though their time together was short, it was the best of her life. He eventually goes to the cavern and receives the bittersweet message. He is content, knowing that she still loved him ‘til the end of the universe. The time travel aspect of the story then resolves itself in a very creative way that is best to be seen for yourself. But let’s just say, Fry makes it to dinner.
No. 5 - “The Sting” (Season 4, Episode 12)
Will they/won’t they romantic relationships on shows can take a turn for unbelievable after a while, especially if one of the characters is as loving and selfless as Fry. So it’s hard to believe that after this episode, Leela still doesn’t fall for him for roughly another season and a half. Regardless, that doesn’t make the ending to this one any less moving. After a mission to retrieve honey from a giant space bee hive, the crew flies home with a baby queen bee in tow. The bee goes berserk, however, and attempts to sting Leela with its giant stinger, but Fry jumps in the way and is impaled instead, killing him instantly. The rest of the episode follows Leela slowly slipping into dementia from her guilt. She begins to see Fry in her dreams constantly, and becomes convinced he is still alive. Every time, though, he pleads with her to “wake up.” In the end, we learn that he was never killed, and his pleas were simply what Leela heard him saying as he sat beside her hospital bed. Leela was the one who was stung after all. Even though Fry did jump in front of her, she still received the poison from the stinger and was in a coma for two weeks. Fry never left her side, determined that if she heard a familiar voice, she would wake up safe and sound.
No. 4 - “Leela’s Homeworld” (Season 4, Episode 2)
This is the last episode on the list that will make you cry pure happy tears. “Futurama” is very good at using the most universal of values in ways that melt your heart. In this case, it is the love of parents for their children that is on full display. Leela, up until this point in the series, had always assumed that she was an orphaned alien, having been left on the doorstep of an orphanarium as a baby with an untranslatable note written in “alieniese.” But once she, Fry and Bender are captured by mutants (forced to live in the sewers due to their hideousness), they are subsequently released at the behest of two mysterious hooded figures. Determined to find out why, Leela tracks them down and discovers that they are her parents. They put her up for adoption as a baby when they realized that, other than only having one eye, she could pass as an alien and have a better life living on the surface. While this is very sweet in and of itself, it is the montage that follows of her parents secretly watching over her her whole life that takes this ending from a 10 to an 11.
No. 3 - “Time Keeps on Slipping” (Season 3, Episode 14)
Easily the saddest of Fry’s failures involving his love for Leela, this story has him finally winning her over, only to have it all snatched away in a matter of mere seconds. Storylines on “Futurama” can often be out there (even though most of the time they are actually very scientific and educational), so the plot to this one is a little complicated. But the gist of it involves the Planet Express crew gathering time-traveling particles, called chronitons, from the far reaches of space in order to age mutant atomic super babies rapidly into mutant atomic super men in order to beat the Harlem Globetrotters at basketball (told ya). However, this begins causing random time jumps, with no one remembering what happened in between. To fix it, the crew must use a gravity pump to move stars around the area of outer space where they took the chronitons from. However, the time jumps continue and we see that Fry and Leela have gotten married. Since neither of them know how it happened, time jumps ahead again and Leela has divorced Fry, thinking he must have somehow tricked her into marriage. In the end, the stars must be imploded into a black hole to fix everything. Just before the implosion, Fry sees that during one of the time jumps, he apparently taught himself to use the gravity pump and literally moved the stars themselves to spell “I Love You, Leela” in the sky. But before he can show her that this is how he got her to love him, the bomb goes off and his love message is erased forever. Bummer.
No. 2 - “The Luck of the Fryrish” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Sibling rivalry is a common theme among television shows, as well as in real life, which is what makes this episode so relatable, especially to those who have siblings. [Philip J.] Fry is always down on his luck, but through flashbacks to his life in our present time, we see it wasn’t always this way, as he was once in possession of a lucky seven-leafed clover. His older brother, Yancy, was jealous of him since birth, and always copied him and tried his best to be better than Fry at everything. Once Fry found the clover and his luck began to noticeably change, Yancy vowed to steal it. So Fry decided to hide it away. Back in the future, Fry learns from a statue in the ruins of Old New York that Yancy went on to become a successful philanthropist rock star entrepreneur who was also the first person on Mars, all thanks to the lucky seven-leafed clover which he stole once Fry was out of the picture. He was then eventually buried with it. To add insult to injury, he apparently even legally changed his name to Philip J. Fry. Upset, Fry travels to Yancy’s (Philip’s) grave to dig up the corpse and claim what is rightfully his. That is, until he reads the tombstone. A simple synopsis can hardly express the impact of it:
HERE LIES PHILIP J. FRY
NAMED FOR HIS UNCLE
TO CARRY ON HIS SPIRIT
It turns out that, yes, Yancy did find Fry’s clover, but he gave it to his son, whom he named after the brother he missed every day. Cue the waterworks.
Next: The Biggest Simpsons Continuity Errors
No. 1 - “Jurassic Bark” (Season 4, Episode 7)
We wouldn’t even think of putting this episode anywhere else but the number one spot. It is just so incredibly heartbreaking. And at the same time, everything leading up to the ending is hilarious. Anyone who is even remotely a dog lover knows what loyal companions they are, but there is no better friend than Fry’s dog, Seymour, as we come to find out in this episode. After learning that Seymour’s petrified remains have been found and put on display in a museum, Fry sets out to have Professor Farnsworth clone the dog so they can be together again. In the end, however, Fry learns that his trusty mutt lived to the ripe old age of 15, which was 12 more years after Fry accidentally froze himself. He decides not to clone Seymour after all, figuring he lived a full life after he was gone, and wouldn’t even remember him. However, via flashback, we learn that Seymour patiently waited in front of the pizzeria where Fry worked for the remainder of his days on Earth for his best friend to come back. The manliest of men (even those who hate dogs) would be hard pressed not to choke up by the time the end credits roll on this one.