In the past, Futurama has had a couple of episodes that acted as a series finale in case it would not be renewed. "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", which aired August 10, 2003, was the first of these. Writer Ken Keeler, who has written all of the potential finales, left things open ended enough that there could be a return, but if not, we were left off with an indication that Fry and Leela would be happy together. Fry's holophonor opera has seemingly failed, but in a sweet scene that works both in-story and breaking the fourth wall, Leela asks "Please don't stop playing, Fry. I want to hear how it ends."
Futurama would return later on through a series of four DVD movies that once again "ended" with "Into the Wild Green Yonder", wherein the creators once again split the decision and go for a final scene that references both the story and the show itself. The Planet Express ship along with the principal cast of characters inside approach a wormhole with uncertainty of what will happen, but excitement towards the future ahead of them. Fry and Leela solidify their relationship and kiss.
The next episode, "Rebirth" (a title which says it all) started the Comedy Central era in a rebooted sense, leading us to the finale we're at now - once again written by Ken Keeler.
What I would like to see in the finale
Everyone plans out ideas of what a series finale should be for a TV show that they love and I'm no different, whether it be for How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, or how frustrating it was that we didn't get proper finales for shows like Heroes and FlashForward.
Perhaps only being rivaled by How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs from what I've seen, Futurama is one of the best comedies that has a consistent heart as well. Despite being built around laughs, it does not shy away from sad scenes that tug at the heartstrings. "Jurassic Bark" is notorious for being an epically depressing (though thankfully they retconned that later on with "Bender's Big Score" - itself filled with sad scenes depicting Fry's past, love for Leela and so forth). "The Luck of the Fryrish" is another, revolving around the revelation that Fry's bully of an older brother, Yancy, actually did love him.
They've shown that they can maintain continuity extremely well and reference events from previous episodes as being much more important than you would have assumed when you originally watched it (ie, Fry becoming his own grandfather in the Area 51 time travel, resulting in his Delta Brainwave abnormality that is the reason for Nibbler freezing Fry even in the first episode!)
What I'm hoping we get is a mix of all these aspects of Futurama. I'd love to see them go the sentimental route more than going for cheap laughs if they have to choose between the two. Fry and Leela should in fact end up together (as evidenced by Bender's "ultimate fate" description in "Overclockwise"). There should also be references to his past, despite how we already saw some closure in "Murder on the Planet Express" (which, by the way, is the only episode of a TV show to officially make me cry...twice). I'd love to see a glimpse into the future, where Fry and Leela have a son that they've named Yancy, named after Fry's brother and father, "to carry on their spirit".
Make this count...and make it so good that we don't need Futurama to return again (even though I'd love for them to continue).
For now, we wait, but this post will be updated with a full review of "Meanwhile" and a retrospective review of the series in whole in a few hours. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile Episode Review
The Nerdist was running a pre-finale and post-finale show, and while the episode was going on, they literally ran THE HYPNOTOAD! Hilarious!
This episode revolved around a time travel device created by Professor Farnsworth that allows whomever presses it to go back to the previous 10 seconds - but only the previous 10 seconds. What better thing to use as a plot device for Futurama than time travel?
Fry proposes to Leela and awaits her answer, but when he thinks she has opted out, he jumps off a skyscraper to his eventual death - realizing before falling that his watch was fast from the time travel device. In the midst of attempting to save Fry's life, the device breaks, freezing time for Fry and Leela seemingly forever.
They live their lives together, growing old together. As an elderly couple (implied, at least from my interpretation, to be near death), they go back to their proposal spot and are approached by Professor Farnsworth, who fixes the machine and informs them that they can all reset it back to when it originally broke.
Fry and Leela, having no regrets, decide that they'll sacrifice themselves (time travel duplicates, and whatnot) and allow the younger Fry and Leela to "have another go-around". I actually thought that they would have the Professor fix the machine so they could retain their memories or at least allow their older selves to talk to their younger selves, fill them in on what happened, and walk off into the sunset to their eventual deaths, allowing their younger versions to basically have two lifetimes of memories. Even though they didn't necessarily show that, the fact that they didn't means one could interpret it that way, if they so choose.
Overall, I was quite happy with this episode. There wasn't much for Bender and company to do, nor was it the most hilarious, but as I said, I was preferring a sentimental ending more than just a chuckle-fest and they delivered.
This was yet another open-ended finale, and I'm very proud of Ken Keeler and everyone involved for pulling it off once more. Congrats on a great series, everyone!