Futurama is an important show. It isn't just a hilarious television show, it isn't just one of the most culturally relevant pieces of pop culture of the 21st century (so far), it's the most endearing and heartfelt comedy of all time.
Despite being set in the far distant future, in fantastical worlds and alien realms, Futurama always managed to deal with how the average problems that people face are universal and timeless.
Futurama has produced some of the funniest episodes of television as well as the most introspective, and emotional moments in television history. Futurama has more layers than an onion and is more complicated than Fermat's Last Theorem. The series finale of Futurama is the compilation of everything that the show has learned during its 13 year run. "Meanwhile" takes the best parts of "Jurassic Bark," "The Late Philip J. Fry," and "The Luck of the Fryish" and produces the greatest episode of Futurama ever. It encapsulates everything that viewers love about Futurama, the comedy is sharp and poignant and the characters that we've come to know and love get the ending that they deserve. "Meanwhile" will outlast all of it's cartoon competitors as the greatest series finale due to the sheer genius of Fry, the show's ability to make us care about fictional characters and the dynamic chemistry of the Planet Express crew.
Phillip J. Fry is the greatest character on television. Why? Because, everyone is Fry.
Fry is the ultimate everyman, he isn't perfect, but you want him to succeed, because of how real and earnest he is about his life and his loves. Fry is a character that can exist eternally, he can live in any century, eon, or universe, because his hopes and dreams are universal. Fry only wants to find love, and cherish it. He wants to love a significant other, his family and his friends. The true brilliance of Futurama was the show's ability to take the broken man that had neither: love, family or friends in the year 1999 and turned him into a fully fledged Maslow Pyramid.
Fry manages to find love with Leela Turanga, friends in the Planet Express crew, and is able to reconnect with his family (despite them being dead for over a thousand years). The most touching, emotional, and inspiring episodes in the show's catalogue all revolved around Fry's past. "Jurassic Bark," "Game of Tones," and "The Luck of the Fryish" are amazing and can cause emotions and thoughts to emerge in a viewer that are as lasting and deep as any poem, story or song.
In the series finale, time is accidentally stopped (with the device that can turn time back 10 seconds) and Fry gets to finally have everything he's ever wanted: he gets to marry the girl of his dreams, and spend his days growing old with her. There's a terrific and horrifying sequence where Fry attempted to commit suicide, but decides to opt out and go back 10 seconds in time, only to discover that he's too late to prevent his own death and has to ruminate on his life. He's no longer the pizza delivery boy from the 20th century, he is a grown man that has fought all of his demons and is finally ready to find true happiness. Towards the end of the episode there is a minute-and-half long montage of Leela and Fry growing old together in a frozen world. It's a beautiful one-and-a-half minutes. Towards the end of their lives, Leela and Fry return to the building where Fry proposed to her and asks if she was ever lonely. To which she replies, "never for a moment." It's a magical, tear-jerking moment that is on par with any exclamation of love from any movie (even The Princess Bride). The love story of Leela and Fry is long and fraught with hardship, but it was totally worth watching. Futurama created a character that has been molded and changed by his experiences with people and it's a transformation more subtle and engrossing than even Michael Corleone's.
The genius of Phillip J. Fry doesn't demean the amazing ensemble that surrounds him. Who could possible forget Bender "Bending" Rodriguez, or Leela Turanga, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg, Zapp Brannigan, President Nixon, Amy Wong, or even Scruffy. The standouts of the cast being the crew of the Planet Express. There is satisfaction to seeing every member of the Planet Express finding peace throughout the final season, be it Zoidberg finding a woman that loved him for him, or Bender discovering his love of music. However, even anicillary characters get to be fleshed out and made whole in Futurama, bit players like Calculon, Hedonism Bot, Seymour, Kif, and Roberto get to have rich and fulfilling back-stories that make them seem more real. There are no "static characters" in the world of Futurama because their world is constantly changing.
There are countless stories that can be told in the world of Futurama. Yet, the story of Phillip J. Fry, pizza delivery boy, got the best ending that he could hope for and helped create the cultural landmark that Futurama is today.
Be sure to watch the after finale talk show with Chris Hardwick. Billy West, Maurice LeMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David X. Cohen and Matt Groening all talk about what the show meant to them.
Just to make you all feel bad about Futurama's end ... here's Jurassic Bark.