This Fan-Favorite ‘Futurama’ Episode Proves That The Show Is At Its Best When It Shows Its Emotions

The most recent poll of the fandom selected ‘The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings’ as the best of the best
This Fan-Favorite ‘Futurama’ Episode Proves That The Show Is At Its Best When It Shows Its Emotions

Futurama flourishes when its characters announce how they feel. That makes me feel happy!

Of all the animated comedy shows with cult followings, Futurama is one of the few wherein it’s hard to define exactly when the show peaked — even as it dragged on toward the end of its original 10-season run, the last gasp of the show before it ended indefinitely (only to be resurrected by Hulu a decade later) in Season 10 deftly left us all wanting more. Though most fans will likely select a run of episodes between Seasons Three and Five as their favorite stretch in all of Futurama, each year of the show’s run gave us unforgettable moments that deserve to be remembered among the greatest in TV history. 

As such, selecting a “best Futurama episode” is a similarly difficult task, but that’s not going to stop the online fandom from debating the merits of each and every classic entry. Over in the Futurama subreddit, the most recent thread discussing which episode is empirically the greatest ever returned multiple results for the Season Four entry “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings,” in which Fry makes a metaphorical deal with the devil just to be able to properly express his love for Leela — and by “devil” I mean Robot Devil, and by “metaphorically,” I mean get your coat.

Futurama diehards will recall how “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” was originally written to be a soft series finale. The show hadn’t been renewed by Fox by the time production started on the final episode of Season Four, so the writers prepared for the end of their meticulously crafted universe by bringing Fry’s affections for Leela to the forefront and giving their relationship a beat that could serve as either closure or a cracked door to bigger and better things.

Fry’s mastery of the holophonor using the Robot Devil’s hands allows him to fully express his emotions in a way that his inarticulate digits couldn’t muster previously, and his decision to sacrifice his artistic success for the sake of his one true love is, fittingly, operatic and expressive in a way that Futurama sparingly indulges. Though most fans wouldn’t define Futurama as a whole as particularly impassioned, if you ask them which moments from the series made the biggest impact on them, they’re likely to list similarly emotional scenes, whether it’s the closing montage from “Jurassic Bark,” Fry and Leela’s epilogue in “Meanwhile” or Bender’s time tragically playing God in “Godfellas.”

Because Futurama rarely got too deep in its feelings, the moments when the series turns sentimental hit harder than they would if every episode was steeped in dramatics. And because the writers, actors and animators are all experts in their fields, they’re able to pull off the rare emotionally expressive moments with just as much success as the many lighthearted ones that came before. And when they’re at their very, very best, they do it in song.


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