A good episode of Futurama doesn’t have to have a good science fiction concept to work from, but it certainly helps. And to a certain extent, an interesting enough premise manages to redeem an episode that doesn’t have particularly big laughs, as with the case in this week’s episode, “The Six Million Dollar Mon.” Of course humor remains the most important part of Futurama, but the show’s ability to take any premise, regardless of how far-fetched it might be, remains one of its strengths—that an episode based on a character slowly transforming himself into a robot is relatively tame is part of what makes the show so interesting on a week-to-week basis.
Like most episodes of The Simpsons or Futurama, this one begins with an only tangentially related story in which Hermes fires himself for being the least important part of the office. This clever, character-based part of the story segues nicely into the meat of things, where he begins replacing parts of his body with more efficient and effective robotic parts at first in order to validate his position and, later, just because he’s addicted. Like a plastic surgery addict, he just can’t stop himself.
It’s a surprise that we haven’t seen a character do something similar to this by now, considering how big of a part robots play in Futurama. As with many of the show’s better episodes, it toys with a concept that has fascinating philosophical implications, but skips past them in the best possible way: by really making it about the characters. Hermes and Zoidberg’s contentious relationship was at the heart of “The Six Million Dollar Mon,” and the morbid absurdity of Zoidberg turning Hermes’ discarded parts into a puppet was a perfect touch—it’s a joke so dark few other shows would dare it, but it also isn’t there just for shock value.
The other, less important problem with the episode was how contrived its plot felt by the end of the episode. You couldn’t help but notice elements being set up for the climax, and watching all of these gears turn was a bit distracting. Especially since it began airing on Comedy Central, Futurama at times takes great joy in removing subtlety from its jokes, frequently to great effect. But here it just felt like lazy storytelling, particularly when it came to LaBarbara’s hot goat curry.
That aside, it was a solid, enjoyable episode. Not everything about it succeeded, but it had ambition and certainly took Futurama someplace new. For all the heavy-handed plotting, it featured Zoidberg singing a duet, with himself, of the “Monster Mash” with a puppet of Hermes made from the man’s own flesh. That alone makes this, if not a classic episode, definitely well worth seeing.
•I assume M. Night Shyamalan begins his corporate meetings by announcing there will be “a twist” as well.
•“Fire me if you dare.”
•If only real bureaucrats were that honest, think of how much more relaxed and productive the world would be.
•”I’m expert in the shadowy field of many things.”