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‘The Butterjunk Effect’

The latest episode of Futurama was written by Michael Rowe, the man responsible for ‘Bend Her’ – a classic episode of Futurama in which Bender gets a sex change operation in order to compete in the 3004 Earth Olympic games as a fembot. The Butterjunk Effect doesn’t include a robo-sex change, but it does feature a sporting event known as the Butterfly Derby, a game that is just as ludicrous as Blernsball.

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After a double date at Elzar’s Fine Cuisine, Fry, Leela, Amy and Kiff travel to the moon in order to return moon rocks that were supposedly stolen during the Apollo missions. Whilst on the moon, the planet express crew are invited to a Butterfly Derby. A Butterfly Derby is a deadly sport in which contestants try to knock each other out of the sky and avoid various obstacles, such as giant fly swatters and a giant bug zapper. The commissioner of the sport, Abner Doubledeal, a man who has appeared in Futurama episodes like ‘Raging Bender’ and ‘A Leela of Her Own,’ invites amateur challengers to take on the reigning champions – The Murderflys. Leela and Amy gracefully accept the challenge, but are humiliated by their opponents. Doubledeal likes their sense of fighting spirit, so they’re invited to join the sport under the name of the Wingnuts. Unable to win a match, the Wingnuts turn to a substance known as Nectar – a plant based supplement that bulks up the flapping muscles. Nectar – the space equivalent of steroids – is highly addictive and the team become bullies, much to the dismay of their boyfriends Fry and Kif.

The Butterjunk Effect moves at a steady pace, with a strong narrative opening. The episode also has some brilliant laugh-out-loud visual gags that are highly reminiscent of early, pre Comedy Central Futurama. However, the narrative resolution really lets the episode down. It feels like it is going in a completely different direction to where it finally ends up. The romantic sub-plot almost tricks you into thinking that Leela and Amy are going to quit the Butterfly Derby because it’s destroying their respective relationships with Fry and Kif. Nevertheless, this isn’t the case, and the ending feels too abrupt and somewhat rushed. The narrative is barely resolved and it’s almost as if there was just too much material for a twenty minute episode.

Having said this, The Butterjunk Effect is an improvement on last week’s Star Wars-esque episode, ‘Zapp Dingbat,’ in the sense that there are a lot more visual quips and witticisms from Bender and the Professor. It seems that Rowe has written an episode that starts off like a classic episode of Futurama, but ends up like an episode of Family Guy due to its sudden and unsatisfying conclusion. Despite this, The Butterjunk Effect is definitely worth a watch just for the clever remarks and visual gags.

★★★

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