Episode Title: "Overclockwise"
Writer: Ken Keeler
Director: Raymie Muzquiz
"Futurama" has come to an end twice in its 12 years of existence. First in "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" at the close of its original run on Fox and in the last "Futurama" Direct-to-DVD movie, "Into the Wild Green Yonder." In both instances, special attention was paid to the long-running romance between Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) and events were staged to wrap up the series in a satisfying way.
If Comedy Central hadn't renewed "Futurama" for another 26 episodes last March then "Overclockwise" would have been the defacto series finale. However, it falls short of its predecessors when it comes to offering up closure for the characters and the show itself.
This week's episode finds Fry, Cubert (Kath Soucie) and Bender (John DiMaggio) taking on Mom's idiotic three sons, Walt, Larry, and Igner in an online video game, aptly dubbed "World of World War II 3." Although Bender is initially a terrible gamer, Cubert overclocks his system to rapidly increase his skills and knowledge. Bender not only destroys their video game rivals, he becomes so intelligent that he's able to accurately predict the future.
The first part of the episode is a terrific setup, as Bender uses his newfound capabilities to elude Mom's attempts to return him to factory condition. Do you remember the Nick Cage movie, "Next"? This was like a good version of that film, as Bender uses everything from a Turkey dinner and a net to avoid Mom's robot forces even as he gleefully maneuvers Dr. Zoidberg into placing himself in the path of falling ceiling fans… more than once.
Since she can't strike at Bender directly, Mom has Professor Farnsworth and Cubert arrested for violating her user agreement that came with Bender. So far, so good. But then out of nowhere, Leela declares that she's not satisfied with her on-again, off-again romance with Fry. And thus she quits Planet Express to sell real estate on the other side of the galaxy.
Where the earlier finales made Fry and Leela's relationship a key part of the storyline, "Overclockwise" treats it as something inconvenient that it needs to address simply because this could have been the end. That entire subplot seemed shoehorned into the script and it kept it from reaching what could have been some absurdly funny implications about Bender's new level of consciousness. When the episode focused on Bender's highly evolved and almost God-like state, it was really hilarious. Bender as God has been explored before as well, but this was a more benevolent Bender than we saw in "Godfellas." Well, aside from his hitting Zoidberg with a ceiling fan fetish.
It seemed like there was a lot of ground that Bender's omnipotence could have covered before he essentially gave into emotion and saved Farnsworth and Cubert from going to jail. I did like Bender's legal argument that ultimately led to their freedom, but his subsequent dumbing down at the hands of Mom felt flat after the buildup throughout the episode.
Leela's return is almost as out of left field as her departure and she gets back to Planet Express just in time to receive one of Bender's final predictions about the future of her relationship with Fry. We never actually learn what Bender wrote, as Fry and Leela silently read the letter and react to its contents. Clearly, there's good and bad times ahead for them and I assumed that the mutual slaps they gave each other indicated that both Fry and Leela are destined to cheat on each other at some point.
But in the very end, their contented expressions give us hope that their story has a happy conclusion. It's a good note to go out on, but it lacked the epic quality of their grasped hands as they headed into an unknown wormhole in "Green Yonder" or the sweet and underplayed resolution of "The Devil's Hands." If this had truly been the last "Futurama" episode, I wouldn't have been happy. A series this great needs a finale that can live up to its legacy. Judging on that criteria alone, "Overclockwise" failed.
However, "Overclockwise" is not the end and there are still new episodes to come. As a season finale, it's perfectly acceptable even if it doesn't completely hold together as a single story. It's simply an above average episode that makes me look forward to the series' eventual return next year.
But first, we'll have an alternate reality "Futurama" anthology showcase next week that reinvents the series in the style of Max Fleischer, video games and Anime. Now that sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun. And ultimately, that's all I really want from any episode of "Futurama."
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.