While Futurama has aired its last episode ever — barring yet another comeback — we haven’t seen the last of the Planet Express delivery crew, as there will be a Simpsons-Futurama crossover episode this fall. In honor of this news, let’s look at a key part of Futurama‘s history, the show’s ability to deliver miserably depressing episodes. You may want to get a box of Kleenex out for this one, it’s the five saddest Futurama episodes ever.
5. “The Luck Of The Fryrish” – Original Air Date: March 18, 2001
As the show entered Season 3, we would naturally start to learn more about what was going on with Fry’s old life in the 20th Century. This one focuses on his fractured relationship with his brother, Yancey, and is rightfully considered one of the best episodes of the series. Anyone who has ever had a tormented relationship with a sibling can relate to this one. Fry spends the entire episode assuming his brother stole his identity, but in reality he passed Fry’s name on to his son in his honor. Bender’s line about being “one skull short of a Mouseketeer reunion” can distract you from the heavy emotion for a second, but when the credits roll with “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” playing the background, chances are there’ll be a few tears streaming down your face.
4. “The Late Philip J. Fry” – Original Air Date: July 29, 2010
Possibly the best episode of Futurama‘s run on Comedy Central, this was one of many depressing episodes focusing on the often tragic fate of Fry and Leela’s budding romance (there’s more of this later on). This episode is incredibly well done because as tragic circumstances break the two apart, we get to see how miserable both of them feel. Fry is forced to travel through time endlessly with Bender and the Professor, while Leela becomes desperate without Fry, and begins dating Cubert (who is now an adult) purely out of desperation. As with all of these episodes, we get some lighthearted moments along the way, mostly though the adventures in the time machine (“I’ll shoot Hitler out the window!”), but the main part never stops being brutal. When the episode ends with Fry and Leela finally getting to have their dinner date, you feel an immeasurable sense of relief, both for the characters, and for your own emotional stability as a viewer.
3. “Parasites Lost” – Original Air Date: January 21, 2001
Unlike some of the episodes on this list, this one doesn’t really have one big, emotional moment. The sadness comes from the unfortunate truth revealed at the end: that Leela prefers smart-because-of-a-worm-infestation Fry to his normal, idiot self. Of course, you can’t blame her. Fry, despite his good intentions, has a nasty knack for saying the worst thing possible and just being a general doofus. But we can’t help but relate to Fry because he’s basically the nicest guy in the world, he just doesn’t know how to show it. When he kills the worms, and returns his brain to its normal level, we understand his intentions. And sadly, we also see why Leela wants nothing to with him. Of course, as time went on, Fry got a bit better at expressing his feelings to Leela, and Leela became a bit more tolerant of his stupidity. But even knowing all that, this is still pretty brutal to watch.
2. “Jurassic Bark” – Original Air Date: November 17, 2002
At the point, the ending of this episode has been talked about endlessly to the point where it’s almost a cliche. It’s basically my generation’s Bambi. But man, think of the first time you saw that ending – as the image of Seymour waiting for Fry just stayed there and stayed there, and you slowly processed what was going on, and then, finally, you just lost it and broke down bawling. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t like dogs; to a certain degree, I actively dislike them. But when I saw this for the first time at the age 14, the didn’t make the ending hit me any less harder. HE WAITED FOR HIM!
1. “The Sting” – Original Air Date: June 2, 2003
As sad as the ending of “Jurassic Bark” is, it’s actually a fairly light episode up until that point. But this one? After a fun first act, it’s pretty much 14 minutes of unending melancholy. Leela’s unbearable guilt — and growing insanity — after Fry takes a bee sting to the stomach for her are brutal to watch. Every time Fry says “I just need you to wake up,” it’s a bit more painful than the last. The viewer is basically put in the same position as Leela – desperately hoping Fry is really back this time, and then feeling crushed when he’s not. When you get to the final scene of Fry crying in Leela’s hospital bed, and you realize that what all you just saw was Leela’s experiences in a coma, and that the whole thing was actually reversed, it somehow makes things even sadder. By the time this one is over, there’s probably a huge puddle of tears next to you on the floor. Even the jokes in the episode play into the misery of it all (I’M LYING TO MAKE HER FEEL BETTER!). For a show that had a knack for going for the emotional jugular, this was its masterpiece. Even Zoidberg singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” isn’t enough to stop the tears from flowing.