This week’s episode “Rage Against the Vaccine” had a lot of awesome moments including callbacks, cameos by beloved characters of the past, and the assurance that, even in a thousand years, we’ll be just as stupid as ever.
We start off with a celebration. It took over a thousand years but the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over! And while the mayor bestows a huge key to the head of Bill Nye, another outbreak is just around the corner. Kidding, it is literally at the celebration with Leela being Patient-0.
Our friendly neighborhood cyclops has just returned from a visit to her parents in the sewers where a nasty bug called Explovid-19 is raging. Symptoms include bouts of uncontrolled anger and a mild cough (which Morbo does not have so he is fine). The press conference/celebration quickly turns into a super-spreader event and the next pandemic is underway.
While many posit how to fix the issue: vaccines, it’s a hoax, drink hand sanitizer, Hermes has an out-of-the-box solution: Voodoo. Why Voodoo? Well, contrary to the crazy conspiracy theories the internet and social media have to offer on what’s causing the infection, Hermes believes it is a case of Zombieism.
The Professor disagrees – Zombies are too slow for this level of aggression. Hermes counters that many kinds of zombies exist including fast, slow, and my personal favorite: brisk shufflers. The Caribbean bean-counter brings the issue up to his beautiful wife LeBarbara (Dawnn Lewis) who cautions him against getting involved in Voodoo, but Hermes is determined to see his hunch out.
With a beignet request in mind, Hermes travels to New New Orleans. After a visit to a familiar fortune-telling machine, he encounters a bone robot (voiced by Phil LaMarr, who also voices Hermes!). Together they travel to find the Voodoo HQ – surprise, it’s the house of LeBarbara’s ex-husband Barbados Slim (Kevin Michael Richardson). Still fit as ever, Barbados gives his romantic rival props for his Zombie idea. It apparently fills in a lot of the gaps he’s been struggling with and once LeBarbara joins to help they concoct a vaccine for the virus. Having conducted a rigorous cuck test, the vaccine is administered to all the infected through “dolls”.
As a whole, there’s a lot to love about this episode. The return of Barbados Slim, Wernstrom (David Herman), and the Omicronians are worked into the plot seamlessly instead of just jammed in for fan service. At first, I wasn’t sure Wernstrom was going to make an appearance, but was delighted when he arrived on his flying lectern. The same goes for Barbados Slim, though I’ll be honest I had no expectations he was going to be in the episode which made his presence a lovely surprise.
As for the Omicronians, I view them as the Fox News proxy, with their getting sick not just the door for a great variant joke, but a condemnation of what willful lies can get you. We get our first glimpse of New New Orleans, complete with gators who wear helmets, wide-open swamps, and a force field border with Atlanta! Not to mention Gumbo-tron who makes Marti Gras kind of gross but does give me Hedonism-bot vibes.
Since it is an episode designed around a pandemic there are plenty of solid mask, vaccine, and media jabs. There are also some great throw-away gags such as Bender’s “Kill all humans!” chant scene which reminded me of the “He was a zombie?” joke from The Simpsons. Also, the many frustrations that come with remote work, and the application being called Gloom were on-point.
I enjoyed the vaccine-off between the Professor and Wernstrom, the highlight being what each will do to your arm. The many, many, many ways to wear a mask, with Hermes doing so correctly only once. The incompetent leadership of Nixon in the face of a national crisis. And of course, the media coverage, ranging from diseased local news, outlandish armchair doctors giving false info, admitted rumors through podcasts and social media, and finally outside parties who poison the airwaves in hopes of profiting from the panic.
In this case, it’s the invaders from Omicron-Persei 8. In a War of the Worlds twist, the Omicronians wind up creating a whole new strain of the infection. Luckily Voodoo saves the day (though it does beg the question…did they just have all those dolls lying around in wait?)!
If I have any complaints about the episode, it would only be that I’m unsure where it lands on the whole thing. There are jokes targeting the vaccines, the masks, test swabs, but also those aimed at misinformation, both from the internet and the mainstream media. And the ending line – a reversal of the famous quote about advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic – only added to my confusion. Is this episode a condemnation of vaccine fears, and group hysteria, or a defense of it? We are, as a society, complicated and prone to poor choices when the worst of our inclinations are encouraged, is that why it’s so hard to pick a side?
Perhaps because the virus isn’t directly fatal it allows for a grayer viewpoint? Though it is heavily implied that the violence caused by the virus can be quite severe – just look at the train wreck Hermes is involved in. I’m not betting a lot of other people walked away from it (actually, we only see Hermes) – even Hermes was only healed by the desire for gumbo and whatever horrible swill he powered through to get some. Still, this is a fun show that has been known to occasionally straddle the fence on certain issues in the past. I just didn’t think this would be one of them.
Oddly the lesson seems to be that vaccines work just, maybe stop asking how. Take the miracle that is modern medicine for what it is. Have faith…in science!