On 1/7/2021, Johnny 2 Cellos uploaded a video ranking all the Futurama series finales. In it, he declares the best finale to be “Meanwhile” the final episode of the second Comedy Central season. Now, I found “Meanwhile” to be a horrible episode, a bad plot, and a conclusion that felt horribly unsatisfying, but hey, he has a right to his opinion.
Then he said this:
But I don’t think I’ve heard of a single person who doesn’t love “Meanwhile.”
Now, I don’t hate the Comedy Central seasons of Futurama, even if I do love the Fox seasons and the straight-to-video movies much more, but wow did I hate this episode. This is without a doubt in my mind the worst episode of Futurama, as well as one of the worst series finales I’ve ever seen.
Why did I hate this episode so much? Well lets go through scene-by-scene and find out.
The episode opens with Fry, Leela, and Bender on the moon.
Leela: Yep. The moon. It’s been here for quite a while.
Fry: Yeah, but it’s also where we came on our very first delivery together.
It’s also the place where Zoidberg said fuck.
We get some okay gags and Bender, Fry, and Leela go on the Mecha-Hexadecapus, basically a future rollercoaster. Bender vomits while on — wait, Bender can vomit? — and his nuts and bolts get into the gears of the machine, causing it to malfunction and leading to Leela flying out of the ride.
We then cut to Fry and Bender in the hospital:
Fry: Poor Leela! I never even told her I loved her!
Bender: What?! You told her like 140 times!!
Fry: Yeah, but she paid very little attention to me.
Okay, that was funny.
Bender: [imitates game show buzzer] You gotta live in the moment, baby! And this moment, Leela’s dead.
And that wasn’t. Yeah, the comedy in this episode is rather weak, I understand this was near the last episode and it’s hard to write new jokes for as long as Futurama has — but that doesn’t make these bad jokes any better.
Anyway, Leela survives and we cut to Bender and Fry’s apartment.
Fry: All this time, I’ve been wondering if I can spend my life with her, but what I realize now is I can’t spend my life without her! So tomorrow, I’m asking her to marry me!
Really Fry, you just now realized that? Not when you spent two weeks by her side talking to her non-stop while in a coma? Not when you created a robot version of her after she wasn’t reborn? But when she flew out of a rollercoaster and survived without a scratch.
But seriously, of all the things they have done together, why is this the thing that causes Fry to want to marry Leela? They put themselves in danger all the time, and this is far from the first time they’ve been injured in some way. Far as I can tell, the only answer is because this is the final episode and they have to get married for the plot to happen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, this is a relationship they has developed over the course of fourteen years and they still found a way to make it feel rushed.
We then cut to Planet Express, where we hear Professor Farnsworth has created a button that allows anyone to get back in time ten seconds. Well — they say ten seconds but actually it just seems to be anywhere from five seconds to thirty seconds. The device also has a recharge that takes ten seconds — again, that’s what they tell us but it’s clearly not consistent — so you can’t use it more than once every ten seconds.
Also, I thought backwards time travel wasn’t discovered until around the year 10,000,000. Isn’t that why you guys had to keep going into the future further and future looking for a time with a backwards time machine until you guys reached the literal end of time — twice? Meanwhile the Professor — who, might I remind you, is not special in his intelligence as we’ve seen in various episodes — can just create the basics for one while tinkering in his lab one day.
For that matter, how exactly does this button work? Throughout the entire rest of the series, both chronitons and anti-chronitons have been shown to be consistently material objects. (Oh, and by “the rest of the time” I mean two episodes. One of those times involved removing them from space, which literally disrupted the space-time continuum so badly it caused massive time skips. And the other time involved them being absorbed in the crews body and making them younger by the second. This is the first time the phrase “anti-chronitons” was even used, which is rather odd considering we didn’t need a new form of chronitons to reverse time back when they were making everyone younger.) Does the Professor just have a bunch of anti-chronitons and when he pushes the button a bunch are released?
You know, for a series finale this episode sure wants me to forgot a lot of the series in order to enjoy it. This is the third time this has happened and we’re currently at the setup.
The Professor also has a time shelter which, while in, shields you from the effects of the time button.
Farnsworth: It’s coated with anti-chroniton-resistant grout, to shield you from the effects of the button.
Wouldn’t “anti-chroniton-resistant grout” just be normal chronitons?
Anyway, Fry takes the button, gets a ring and goes to propose to Leela. He gives Leela the ring and tells her, if she excepts Fry’s proposal, to meet him at the top of the Vampire State Building — the tallest building in New New York — at 6:30. He picks this time specifically because it’s during a sunset and, as such, Fry can use the button to make the sunset last as long as they want.
Fry goes on top of the building, but after waiting for forty minutes he assumes Leela isn’t coming. I should also point out that it seems like Fry doesn’t need a time button to make this sunset last forever, because the sun is clearly setting for like a half-hour in this scene.
Anyway, Fry looks a his watch and sees its past 7:00, from this he assumes that Leela rejected his proposal and jumps off the building. However, oh no, it turns out it’s actually 6:25 and Fry’s watch is wrong because he never corrected it after all those time jumps. Man, if only he had looked at another watch, or a phone, or the giant clock outside the building he was entering, or that fucking big yellow star made of gas in the sky that we base our concepts of days off of.
Fry sees Leela and hits the button in hopes of going back before he fell but whoops, he’s been falling for more than ten seconds. I should also note, they call this the tallest building in New New York, but Fry manages to fall most of the way down in ten seconds —the tallest building in New York City at the time this episode aired would take you almost forty seconds to fall down assuming you’re falling at free-fall speed. It may not seem like a big thing, but this is the same show where a writer created a new mathematical theorem just for one episode, these guys shouldn’t have issues like this. The tallest building in the world at that point would also take eighty-four seconds — almost a minute and a half.
Fry keeps hitting the button, basically in hopes of just staying alive. We then cut back to Planet Express, where the Professor is in his time shelter — for some reason. He then tells Bender, Zoidberg, Hermes, and Amy to get into the time shelter before informing them someone has stole the button and is using it. Also, we get this information:
Farnsworth: You see, we’re shielded in here. So if we leave the time shelter and the button gets pressed less than ten seconds later, the antichronitons wouldn’t know where to send us back to! We’d be shredded across the time-space continuum like human coleslaw!
“Wouldn’t know where to put us?” Is this like when a video game glitches out or something? Bender tells that it was Fry and that he took it to the Vampire State Building, so the crew, while remaining in the time shelter, have to go and save him. Doesn’t the thing have like — a limited charge? Couldn’t they just wait in the time shelter for the battery or whatever this thing uses to run out? The more I think about this story the less sense it makes.
Anyway, when they finally make it there Fry loses the button, hits the ground, and dies. The blood splatter effect they use is also — fucking awful, it strikes me as 3-D for some reason but I honestly can’t tell.
Leela hits the button, which also kills the Professor. After awhile, they manage to use Bender’s airbag to save Fry, but Fry lands on the remote, breaking it. This, somehow, causes a release of enough anti-chronitons to freeze all of time — I guess. And, by the way, it does this for everything in space-time.
Now, this is the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard, made dumber by the fact that it manages to do this for decades — well, okay you know what I mean. So everything is frozen now, and only Fry and Leela are alone in the universe. They get married (side note: The wedding scene where they get a bunch of frozen friends creeps me out slightly.) and spend the rest their lives wandering Earth.
Oh, except not everything is frozen because they can still interact with things — this is really dumb. For that matter, there’s also this glimmer of what looks like electricity following them around.
After a long life, they go back to the top of the Vampire State Building, really old, and drink the Champaign Fry poured all those years ago. Then, they find out what that glimmer was — it was The Professor!
Farnsworth: [I]t seems I was simply rotated into an orthogonal time that runs at right angles to this one. I’ve been tunneling for decades, searching every instant from yesterday to tomorrow.
Farnsworth fixes the button — which Fry still has on him for some reason. He also has his old wedding vow with him — did he never change his clothes?
And here comes the infamous part:
Farnsworth: I’ve modded the device to release a single huge antichroniton blast. It should rip us out of stasis, back to the instant before I conceived of the Time Button.
Fry: You mean we’ll all get to live our lives over again?
Farnsworth: Oh, my, yes. Even that nasty robot, what’s-his-name. Of course, we won’t remember anything that’s happened.
And this is how the show ends, with Fry and Leela deciding that they “want to go around again” with a shot of New New York. This means that after the episode ends, they will almost certainly do this again — and again, and again, and forever for all of time.
So, after fourteen years and 140 episodes, the ending to this show is basically them telling us their is no ending, that it is always going to go on, and that after the show ends the characters do nothing. This is not an ending in anything but the most technical sense, it does not provide closure, it doesn’t do anything but show me that after writing three of these they just gave up.
But you know what, even if you remove the ending, this episode would still be garbage. Its plot is nonsensical, its jokes are bland, and everything about it just feels rushed. As a series finale, it’s horrible with a plot that contradicts what we know about previous episodes and an ending that basically tells us “sorry, we ran out of ideas.”
So, Mr. Cellos, I do not love Meanwhile — quite the opposite in fact, I hate it.