One of the fun things about bringing a show back from the dead, repeatedly, is the number of Easter eggs the creators can hide if they so choose, but another fun thing to do is follow up on old plotlines that were never closed out. Futurama’s second episode “Children of a Lesser Bog” technically does both.
As with so many episodes of The Simpsons, this one begins in a completely different place from where it ends. The audience is lead to believe that Fry (Billy West, also voicing Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, and Zapp Brannigan this episode) is the star as he’s the first character we see, but turns out it’s a misdirect. See, Fry is sucking on candy residue embedded in his jacket, which Zoidberg then ruins in his usual gluttonous fashion, thus resulting in Bender (John DiMaggio, who caught some flak for fighting for fair pay prior to joining the rest of the cast on the renewal train) trying his hand at candy creation. The result is as you would expect, not fit for human consumption (a nice callback to Bender’s brief stint as a chef). It is, however, useful in setting up the episode for its true focus: Amy and Kif (Lauren Tom and Maurice LaMarche respectively, with both actors pulling double duty as parent and child).
Using her Eye-phone (a callback to something I mentioned in my first review!), Amy discovers a long ago reminder she set in her calendar to return to the ancestral bog and pick up her kids. Now, the show could have gone two ways with this. One, only cater to the loyal fans and ignore any in-depth backstory explaining Amy and Kif’s forgotten brood. Or, two, reach an olive branch out to new fans with a Futurama worthy exposition of the events of that decades past episode. I appreciate that they go for the second option because while they do incorporate a slice of “cheesy clip-show” energy, later, they also add in another staple: the hilariously droll educational video gag.
But first it’s off to the bog to meet up with the Grand Midwife (Tress MacNeille, who additionally voices the educational video narrator, and Petunia here) and await Kif and Amy’s children’s return. Lucky for them, the winnowing brings their total down to three (this is a little funny considering in the original episode Leela fought hard to get all of the tadpoles safely into the bog yet here no one interferes to get them safely out of it). One is quite tall, meet Axl, one is medium sized, that’s Petunia, and one is small with a single eye, hello Mandy. While everyone agrees that “all children are beautiful”, Amy’s parents have the guts to run and deny even having grandchildren. It’s going to make life tough for the new parents but the bigger question remains: why is one of their kids a cyclops!?
Good news! The professor has a video explaining how Kif’s species reproduces and it is boring – they just have to barely touch each other and bam! Kids! And, while they did run the clip of Kif and Amy at the bog earlier, they do not run the clip of the moment Leela impregnated Kif by touching his ungloved hand, still, the point is made: Leela is the biological mother of Kif’s offspring (uh, also, for some reason…Scruffy – thanks David Herman). What does this mean for Amy? A lot of guilt and sadness, especially when her kids really seem drawn to their “real” mom, Leela. This gets worse when Kif is called off to a special Doop assignment by Zapp and must leave Amy with their kids. Leela tries to do her best and help Amy out by watching the kids, but this only adds to Amy’s feelings of inadequacy. Then, because life really loves to pile on, the Grand Midwife appears and issues a challenge to Amy’s motherhood. Ouch.
This turn of events creates a brief tension between Amy and Leela that is quickly resolved as the Midwife explains that because none of Amy’s DNA contributed to her children, her claim to the title of “Mom” is under suspicion. She, and her smismar, must return to the bog to resolve the challenge. Kif shows up at the last minute, having had to deal with his own “baby” in the form of man-child Zapp during their Doop assignment, and ultimately the challenge boils down to do you love these children? Amy tearfully confesses that she does, and thus she is made their official mother!
“Children of a Lesser Bog” playfully explores the idea of motherhood and what exactly it means. Kif and Amy love each other, and in Kif’s eyes it is his love for Amy which made him receptive to getting pregnant, thus, Amy is their children’s mother. Unfortunately, their children are repeatedly drawn to Leela and this hurts Amy greatly. It is worth noting that while Amy struggles to care for her three children, she only sees Leela with them at their best, not when Leela is in a similar state of stress. I think it’s a nice detail that we have a tendency to see our worst fears without logically considering the full picture of the situation. But to her credit, Amy doesn’t back down, instead she is fully prepared to fight Leela for her children’s love. Adoptive and step-parents might get the warm and fuzzies from this episode, as well they should.
Outside of the main plot there’s a side plot involving Kif and Zapp that seems to serve as mostly comedic relief. As with most sitcoms, when a person is a new parent or possibly thinking of parenthood, a situation arises where their paternal or maternal instincts are challenged. For Amy it’s coming to terms with not being her children’s biological mother, for Kif it’s learning he has what it takes to care for a child. It’s a cute, if not well-trotted set up that sees Kif’s “vacation” from his family interrupted by the neediness of a man-child. I do love how conflicted Kif is, considering he’s often treated as the “woman” in their relationship, Kif provides us with the classic conundrum of the working mother. He is both elated to have time to himself and missing his children desperately. The other gem this side story gives us is the return of the whale-hating whale biologist – who has now become a bear biologist (who is not a fan of bears either). I’m glad this guy is killed, he always annoyed me.
Overall this episode was an improvement from the first in many ways. The jokes felt much less forced, there were no clunky deliveries, and the touching quality that this show is so well known for made a welcome return.