Episode Title: “Murder on the Planet Express”
Writer: Lewis Morton
Director: Frank Marino
The current half-season of “Futurama” has been a little disappointing when compared to the previous seasons. It seems that all great shows (animated or otherwise) are destined to peak before declining in quality at different speeds.
“Murder on the Planet Express” was a welcome reminder of how just funny “Futurama” can be. It helps if you’ve seen Aliens and The Thing several times, but the humor in the episode was also character based and the surprisingly dark ending was hilarious as well. There was a murder on the Planet Express ship… just not the one we expecting.
Full spoilers ahead! So if you missed last night’s “Futurama” then you might want to skip this review or else your urine will smell like a meal.
The Planet Express crew has always been like a strange extended family with occasional conflicts between them. Bender abuses Fry’s trust, Amy and Leela seem jealous of each other, and Hermes just can’t stand Zoidberg. The early part of the episode culminates in several hidden camera reveals including Bender’s theft of Fry’s kidney, Leela eating the kidney(!) and Hermes’ manwich installed as the Professor’s new kidney.
To repair the shattered trust among his crew, the Professor hires Dan McMasters to lead a Planet Express team building retreat on the ship. In short order, McMasters picks up a random space hitchhiker to serve as his partner, only for the hitchhiker to reveal himself as a ravenous shapeshifting alien that immediately eats McMasters.
It was very amusing to see the episode toss in cannon fodder characters like McMasters and Jackie Jr. before quickly feeding them to the alien monster. The episode also had a few expertly executed subversions of our expectations about who the monster was at any given time. The three murders in the Planet Express panic room were the best examples of that.
During the episode, Fry and Bender, Amy and Leela, and Zoidberg and Hermes all had chances to shine as makeshift teams. I even loved their relationship names: “Frender;” “Lamy” and “Hermberg.” Fry and Bender’s escapades outside the ship were particularly funny.
In the end, only Fry and Bender manage to survive before McMasters reappears and tells them that it was all a team building exercise. The creature had previously used that story to trick them, so this time Fry and Bender didn’t fall for it. Instead, they murdered the s*** out of McMasters.
The only problem was that McMasters told the truth and everybody else was alive and having a pizza party. In theory, the murder could have been a downer ending. Instead it was hysterical to see Fry and Bender cover up their crime while becoming increasingly suspicious of each other when the police offered a substantial reward to get them to turn on each other.
In all honesty, McMasters brought on his own death by scaring the crew so badly. If McMasters had simply brought the rest of the crew into the room with him, everything would be fine. But where’s the comedy in that?! The writer, Lewis Morton made the right call with the ending. Even the dark and ambiguous nature of the final shot only makes the story funnier.
This was the kind of episode that I’ve been waiting for this season. I just want to laugh and this episode delivered on the jokes all the way through.