Few adult cartoons have been able to force audiences into emotional experiences as much as “Futurama” has. Throughout the years, “Futurama” fans have been gifted with fantastic episodes, but we’d be remiss in ignoring the more touching fare mixed in with the hilarious depiction of beloved sci-fi tropes and rollicking cultural references.
*Author’s Note: All episode numbers are as listed on Hulu.*
‘The Luck of the Fryish’ — S3, E10
If you have siblings, whether they’re younger or older, you’ve fought with them before. Sibling relationships come with all kinds of complicated, nuanced dynamics to maneuver, and navigating them can lead to sibling rivalries, strained relationships, and a whole lot of negativity.
In the episode “The Luck of the Fryish,” Fry’s (Billy West) strained relationship with his brother, Yancy (Tom Kenny), serves as the catalyst for Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender’s (John DiMaggio) misadventure to find Fry’s long-lost seven-leaf clover. Throughout their journey, Fry is plagued by flashbacks serving only to further his ire toward his brother. Yancy had a bad habit of copying everything Fry did, and Fry grew to resent him for it.
When Fry doesn’t find his clover where he left it, he goes on a mission to dig up (what he thinks to be) his brother’s grave, only to be met with a touching surprise that shows Fry how much Yancy missed him.
‘Leela’s Homeworld’ — S4, E5
Despite growing up believing she was a one-eyed alien, Leela finds her true parents in this episode. After Bender angers the sewer mutants by repeatedly dumping toxic waste in their home, they capture Bender, Fry, and Leela, and threaten to dip them into the toxic waste and mutate them. A pair of mysterious, hooded figures save the Planet Express crew. Leela leaps into the sewer waste to follow their saviors but emerges from the waste unmutated and with a lot of questions, which are eventually answered by her parents.
‘Jurassic Bark’ — S5, E2
This is one of the most infamous “Futurama” episodes, otherwise known as “the one with the dead dog.” If you’ve ever loved an animal, this one is going to get you. “Jurassic Bark” is one of the many episodes that uses Fry’s ties to the past as a springboard for sentimental moments, like “The Luck of the Fryish” and “Game of Tones.”
Fry finds out that his beloved dog, Seymour, was fast-fossilized in the pizzeria he worked in before Fry was frozen. The Professor (also Billy West) sets out to clone Seymour, and Bender gets jealous watching Fry fawn over “his best friend.” Long story short, we fight out why he’s called “Bender the Magnificent,” and Fry, upon finding out Seymour lived a full life without him, decides to let his friend rest in peace.
Watch out for the ending and the flashbacks, and have the tissues (or your furry friend of choice) ready and waiting.
‘The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings’ — S5, E16
“The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” served as the original series finale when Fox failed to renew “Futurama” for more seasons. While fans ultimately lucked out and were blessed with hours upon hours of new “Futurama” content just a few years later, this episode served as a heartfelt goodbye to the series for years.
In a series of “Gift of the Magi”-esque deals with the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta), Bender gets an airhorn for his codpiece, Leela gets her hearing back, and Fry, using the Robot Devil’s hands, becomes a holophonor (it’s like a recorder that makes pictures) virtuoso. After becoming a famous holophonor player, Fry, commissioned by Hedonismbot (Maurice LaMarche), writes an opera based on Leela’s life. Bender, in showing off his new airhorn crotch plate, deafens Leela, who later makes a deal with the Robot Devil for one of his ears, ultimately leading Fry to give up the Robot Devil’s hands.
After the audience storms off, Leela remains and tenderly asks Fry if she can hear how his opera ends. Fry plays a simplified version of the ending, where he creates a shaky image of himself and Leela — they kiss and walk away, holding hands.
According to the episode’s audio commentary, it took Katey Sagal nearly six months to record Leela’s final line, which is a testament to how hard this episode is going to tug on your heartstrings.
‘The Late Philip J. Fry’ — S6, E7
One of the few episodes featuring time travel, “The Late Philip J. Fry” starts with Fry standing Leela up on her birthday thanks to a mistake in operating the Professor’s time-travel device, which can travel forward in time only. Using his knowledge of time travel (or sci-fi tropes), the Professor realizes they can go forward in time until a “backwards time machine” is invented.
Meanwhile, with Fry, Bender, and the Professor gone, Leela leads Planet Express to success but still misses Fry. Eventually, Fry, Bender, and the Professor make it to the end of time, where Fry finds a message Leela carved into the ceiling of the Cavern on the Green for him before the Professor realizes that, due to the cyclical nature of time, they can just keep going forward until they reach the moment they left.
‘Game of Tones’ — S10, E10
The sentimental aspects of this episode don’t show up until the very end, when Fry finds himself in one of his mother’s (Tress MacNeille) dreams and the two are briefly reunited. Throughout “Futurama,” it can be easy to forget that Fry left an entire life behind when he was frozen and brought to the future. This episode, like “The Luck of the Fryish” and “Jurassic Bark,” reminds fans that we should cherish our present while we are in it.