Every Single Time ‘Futurama’ Made Us Cry

Futurama is set to return on Hulu after the series wrapped almost a full decade ago, meaning there is no time like the present to revisit its many classic episodes.

Though the show was adept in the art of poking fun at the many absurdities of the distant future, a lot of fans kept tuning in for the interpersonal dynamics between its core cast. Able to make us cry just about as often as it made us laugh, this show was an all-timer for fans of comedy with a bittersweet kick to it.

Season 4, Episode 2: “Leela’s Homeworld”

For anyone hoping that class systems would be obsolete by the 31st Century, Futurama isn’t going to be that reassuring of a show. On the other hand, it often delves into the issue rather than just letting it lay as a casual joke. Leela was left at an orphanarium as a child, believing herself to be an alien.

Here, we discover that she was actually born a mutant and that her parents left her in order to ensure she’d lead a better life than they could provide. The real tearjerker is when we see a montage of them lovingly watching over her accomplishments from afar throughout their lives.

Season 3, Episode 4 – “The Luck of the Fryrish”

Reflecting on the sibling rivalry between Fry and his brother Yancy, this is an episode that dredges up bad memories. Yancy apparently stole Fry’s cherished seven-leaf clover which he had left in a copy of his Breakfast Club soundtrack album sleeve.

Yet, when Fry realizes that Yancy had actually given it to his young son in Fry’s memory, the long-held resentment he feels toward his brother turns into something a lot closer to love and regret.

Season 7, Episode 10 – “Near-Death Wish”

Fry’s relationship with his distant elderly descendant Professor Farnsworth has always been a rocky one, and when Farnsworth misses an important award ceremony, Fry seeks out other relatives to bond with. Getting in touch with Farnsworth’s parents, he has a good time bonding with them while Farnsworth becomes embittered due to the lack of attention he received as a child.

However, as he realizes that they always loved him but were exhausted by outside factors, he creates an AR simulation in which they can spend time together as a family.

futurama phil j fry
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Season 6, Episode 7 – “The Late Philip J. Fry”

When Leela is disappointed by Fry’s constant missing of dates, he vows to make it up to her but ends up getting lost in the timestream instead.

As he, Farnsworth, and Bender are all sent rocketing forward in a time machine that can only travel to the future, he ultimately finds a message she has written in a cave that assures him that though their time was brief, she always loved him. Fry ultimately makes it back to Leela, but this episode showed us that their love would truly last to the ends of the earth.

Season 7, Episode 23 – “Game of Tones”

Fry’s relationship with his family members back in 1999 comes under frequent observation in the series, but his mother is seldom a topic of discussion. Here, an alien species plays four notes that annoy at first but then become so loud that they cause major structural damage.

Fry remembers the tune, but can’t place from where, and must travel to the past to solve the mystery. As he repeatedly references his mother and expresses a desire to speak with her, he encounters her through technology in one of her dreams. When she asks what he’d like to talk about, he has nothing to say, and reaches forward and hugs her, and we see her, in the past, smiling.

Season 1, Episode – “Fry & the Slurm Factory”

The tears in this episode are more of a surprise than usual, with Slurms McKenzie, the obnoxious mascot for the drink Slurm, leading us through the Slurm Factory a la Willy Wonka.

Yet, at the end of the episode, with the crew in serious jeopardy due to the villainous Slurm Queen, a dejected Slurm steps forward and sacrifices himself to save them. Unwilling to watch another injustice play out, Slurm became a surprisingly poignant hero in his final moments.

Naturama
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Season 7, Episode 13 – “Naturama”

A short anthology of stories celebrating the natural world sponsored by a corporation that ultimately destroys it, this episode is one of the more unusual on this list.

Turning our central cast into animal analogs of themselves, this makes for a pretty strange episode overall, but there is still an element of the melancholy in its humor. Showing the futility of nature alongside the caprice of humanity, the second segment imagines Farnsworth as the famously unique real-world tortoise Lonesome Hubert.

Season 6, Episode 12 – “The Mutants Are Revolting”

The Mutants, much like the Morlocks of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, are forced to live in tunnels beneath the city. While the Morlocks were very much the villains of the novel, future takes have been inspired to focus the comparison around class warfare.

Futurama is no different, and this episode shows the aggression toward mutants when Leela is accidentally outed as one and forced into the sewers.

Season 3, Episode 2 – “Parasites Lost”

Fry eats an egg salad sandwich from an interstellar truck stop and it infects him with an advanced worm civilization that makes him more interesting and talented. Wooing Leela effortlessly, she tells him that she loves this new side of him, which causes him to worry that she simply loves the parasites that have made a host of him.

Though his charm is considerably diminished at their removal and Leela boots him out of her apartment, he sets out to win her over as his true self.

billion backs
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

“The Beast With A Billion Backs”

Futurama ran for seven seasons but also had a couple of feature-length films along the way. One of them is this follow-up to Bender’s Big Score, in which an alien named Yivo falls in love with and proposes to the entire universe after taking every living creature on a date.

Zooming in on the different kinds of love that can sometimes be neglected in favor of romantic love in our society, the friendship between Bender and Fry becomes the driving factor of the story as Fry experiences troubled love affairs.

Season 3, Episode 20 – “Godfellas”

Bender ends up launched into space and becomes the home of a tiny civilization when an asteroid hits him throughout his space travels. The people are known as the Shrimpkins, and they form different religious factions before ultimately destroying themselves through nuclear attacks.

Even after encountering a cosmic being, Bender remains skeptical of the practical application of religion. In one of his most surprisingly profound moments, he is forced to take on a somewhat agnostic stance in the end when he assures Fry and Leela that God can never be counted on, but it doesn’t mean that things are hopeless.

Season 6, Episode 18 – “Tip of the Zoidberg”

When the crew becomes baffled at the incompetent Zoidberg’s continued employment by Farnsworth, they hear a very strange tale in which we learn that Zoidberg was employed to eventually kill Farnsworth if he succumbed to hypermalaria and transformed into a yeti.

This very nearly comes to be this episode, though an enlightened crew chips in to help Zoidberg kill the professor. Though the crew initially fails to see his usefulness, this episode shows that Zoidberg’s true meaning within the enterprise is to be the heart of the team.

Jurassic Bark
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Season 5, Episode 7 – “Jurassic Bark”

This is considered to be one of the best episodes not just of this series but of animated TV in its entirety, and if any Futurama moment made you cry, it very likely happened here. Following Fry’s attempts to bring his dog Seymour back to life, a side quest with Bender takes up much of the story.

However, when Fry learns that Seymour lived to fifteen, or twelve years after he himself was frozen, he makes the assumption that Seymour found another owner and moved on. However, the narrative shows the audience that Seymour waited in front of the pizza place where Fry worked day after day until he finally passed away, and it’s easily one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series.

Season 4, Episode 18 – “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings”

As the final episode of the initial run, this one is a banger. Fry swaps out his hands to become more skilled at playing the holophonor in order to convince Leela of his love for her, but it involves making a deal with Robot Devil. Perhaps it goes without saying that this goes badly, but the series concludes (for the first time) with Fry and Leela holding hands.

Season 7, Episode 26 – “Meanwhile”

The final episode of Futurama (for a while) shows Fry resolved to propose to Leela. When he intends to use a device that will rewind the entire universe for ten seconds to make a sunset last as long as he and Leela want, he ends up in a doom of his own making when he jumps off a building and hits repeat infinitely to avoid his death.

This leads to him inadvertently stopping time, which allows him and Leela to spend an eternity together. Though they ultimately choose to restart the universe, this shows the two of them aging happily together.

the sting
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Season 4, Episode 12 – “The Sting”

The crew is given the mission of collecting honey from a hive of space bees. Trying to depart quickly, Bender causes a ruckus and it leads to Leela and Fry both being stabbed by an enormous stinger. Leela lives out the episode believing Fry died, but in the end we realize she was simply in a coma due to absorbing all the venom herself.

Though she loses Fry in her comatose visions, that’s how we see how much he truly means to her when his apparent death causes her to descend into a grief spiral.

Season 6, Episode 6 – “Lethal Inspection”

When Bender realizes he was created with a defect that will ultimately lead to his death, he is forced to deal with mortality for the first time. Hermes helps Bender in his quest to uncover the truth about the mysterious Inspector No. 5 as Bender’s manufacturer retaliates, adhering to the belief that a defective robot would require destruction.

Ultimately, it is uncovered that the person that saved Bender’s life in his early days is a lot closer to home than initially suspected, making this a great episode for Bender but maybe an even better one for Hermes' characterization.

Season 4, Episode 3: “Love and Rocket”

In an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the crew lands a gig with Romanticorp while Bender falls in love with their updated ship and, not surprisingly, treats her badly until she decides to kill him.

However, the part that will make you weep is when Fry sacrifices his oxygen supply to save Leela, who doesn’t realize this occurred but who fondly wishes him a happy Valentine’s Day when he hands over a Romanticorp heart that reads, “U leave me breathless.”

time keeps slippin
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Season 3, Episode 14: “Time Keeps On Slippin'”

This episode is primarily a tribute to the classic Globetrotters cartoons while a series of time skips leave the entire cast working to save the universe. The skips show Fry both succeeding and failing in wooing Leela, who marries him in one-time jump only to divorce him in the next.

The tearjerker moment of the episode comes when Fry spells out “I love you, Leela” with stars only to have the message implode before she can see it as he is forced to accept that she might never feel the same way about him that he feels about her.

Season 4, Episode 10 – “The Why of Fry”

When Fry is left feeling like he can’t contribute anything of value in comparison to his successful friends, he goes on a mission to prove his worth to the team. This ends up taking him on a strange “It’s A Wonderful Life” type voyage with the mysterious Nibbler as his guide.

Nibbler speaks, which surprises Fry, and tells him of how important it was to transport him to the future. Here, Fry is given the choice to go to the future, and he takes it because of his love for Leela, who tells him she’s happy to know him even if he isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: 20th Century Fox. 


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Sara is a horror writer, a critic, a reporter, a filmmaker, and an artist that has written for many publications and platforms. She is the co-host of the Bitches On Comics podcast as well as the co-founder and editor of the Decoded Pride anthology which focuses on works of queer speculative fiction.