The beauty of Futurama taking place a thousand years in the future is that it can touch on the hot-button issues of the day. Or at least the hot-button issues of the last couple years, thanks to the lengthy production cycles for animation.
Thankfully, the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012 has been seen coming for a while, so the cartoon for once got a chance to be ahead of all the doom and gloom sure to hit American culture once December 21 rolls around on this week's episode, "A Farewell to Arms."
The idea of an ancient civilization, in this case the ancient Martians, predicting the end of the world is inherently silly, and there were plenty of allegorical comparisons to the panic over the 2012 Mayan apocalypse and how the predictions could be dramatically misunderstood. Except in this case, there actually was an Apocalypse-level event, and the misunderstanding almost killed a bunch of people anyway. Whoops.
The whole conceit of a plot where the sign-waving crazy people turn out to be right is one of my favorite in comedy because of the inherent irony. Specifically in this case, it was a chance to see the Number 9 man again, who was prominently featured in Into the Wild Green Yonder, and he was back doing his "being a sign-waving crazy person" thing.
Of course, with the end of the world going on, it could be easy to miss the real focus of the episode: Fry and Leela's on-and-off relationship. Fry loves Leela, he's just not that great at showing it. He's a klutz, as he keeps doing those kinds of klutzy things throughout the episode.
The message from the episode, as it pertains to the couple, is that Fry is ultimately a good-hearted person; the execution just isn't quite there, which is why Fry and Leela's severed arms will be holding hands as they float forever through space... or until they become compressed in a black hole. Still, it's the thought that counts, even if Leela really shouldn't trust Fry's attempts at help, ever.
Fry is such a relatable character - because he is so flawed yet sincere - that it's hard to not root for him in his quest to win over Leela. I'm glad to see the series pursuing the Fry and Leela pairing in earnest, and there appears to be more in that vein coming down the pipeline. Still, Futurama knows how to balance the yuks with the sugary sweetness, and first two episodes have treaded along that tricky path expertly.