This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the TV show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Now five episodes into the streaming revival, Futurama is beginning to stumble its way into stability. “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” is not a particularly special episode, but it doesn’t continue the worrisome up and down pattern of the previous episodes to date; which does count for something as this episode is the first somewhat Bender focused episode. Even so, given Bender in particular was the center of controversy when this revival was first announced, not being as bad isn’t exactly good enough.
“Related to Items You’ve Viewed” once again has Futurama acknowledging time’s movement in a potentially compelling way by taking the Fry and Leela’s relationship in a direction that the series hasn’t been able to explore before as Leela agrees to move in with Fry – and by association, Bender. This immediately sends Bender into a fit of jealousy that permeates the episode while its main thrust; the rise of handy capitalism metaphor Mom’s Amazon analog “Momazon” that is taking the world by storm. The Momazon parallel has about the same amount of subtlety as “How the West Was 1010001” did with bitcoin, but thankfully Futurama has the structure to handle this topic much better. Momazon puts Planet Express on the brink and having to take literal crap jobs. That puts Fry, Leela, and a jilted Bender on a course to tour the growing Momazon center on the Moon.
Within the fulfillment center, robots are working full time with no breaks. There’s a brief attempt to take a shot at Amazon’s alleged anti-union tactics using the robots as stand-ins when Bender takes a job to get away from Leela and Fry and gets a proper look at the working conditions as a result. Meanwhile, Fry and Leela go ham on Momazon Prime using any kind of excuse. The commentary here is clear – it’s easy to vocalize concerns about corporations like Amazon, but much harder to take a stand and avoid them. This is closer to the kind of potent satire that Futurama has been so good at in the past. In this particular case, the message gets pretty muddled when everything from the working conditions of the robots to the closure of Planet Express is cast aside in favor of a metaphor reflecting the omnipresence of conglomerates when the Momazon facility exponentially grows to encompass the universe within it. A properly nerdy joke, but causes the episode’s point to be one of total apathy.
Not all is wasted, the tension Fry and Leela have over their various Momazon purchases gives them a brief fight and make up scene that doesn’t end with Leela moving out. In fact, Bender returns and “Related to Items You’ve Viewed” ends with this new dynamic reinforced. These little snippets of progress for the cast will hopefully open more doors for Futurama’s revival to explore, because to this point they have been the most interesting parts of every episode. Having this holding pattern of quality might even turn out to be worthwhile if the plan is to build to the next stage for all of Planet Express.
Futurama is available on Hulu.
Featured image via Hulu
‘Futurama’ 11x05 - 5/10