Futurama Season 11 Features The Return Of The Show's Fiercest Villain

"Futurama" has the strangest approach to Christmas episodes of any sitcom, animated or otherwise. Not only does the show stray away from the typical sappy holiday vibes, but "Futurama" establishes Santa Claus as a terrifying menace from day one and has never changed its tune since. Santa in this universe is a robot gone bad, much like Skynet in the Terminator franchise, except he only goes on an apocalyptic rampage once a year on Christmas. (Or XMas, as it's now officially called.) 

"Futurama" has always toed the line between horror and humor, and Robot Santa might be the best example of this. The idea of a mega-corporation designing its own Santa Claus, only for it to malfunction and start murdering millions of people every year with no solution in sight, should be the stuff of nightmares. But for our main characters, it's another mundane obstacle to work around. They put up the security barrier around the building each year with the same sense of mild urgency people today reserve for when they're expecting a storm. The difference is that in the XMas storms of "Futurama," it's raining bullets.

This is part of why "Xmas Story," the season 2 episode that covered Fry's first Xmas in the future, is such a bold episode, one that perfectly demonstrates the show's twisted, yet still optimistic worldview. A lesser show would've given us the demise of Robot Santa right there and left him a one-off villain, but "Futurama" ends its first Christmas episode with Robot Santa still at large. The crew is powerless to stop the evils of this world, but Fry still sees the bright side. "Even though I'm surrounded by robots and monsters and old people," he says, "I've never felt more at home."

How'd it all go wrong?

Of course, it was not the evil corporation's intention to build a genocidal robot, as that would be bad for PR. Rather, things seemed promising until Robot Santa's nice/naughty detector got messed up on his maiden voyage, presumably due to some sort of programming error. It's only in this week's new season 11 episode, when Professor Farnsworth travels through time to cure Robot Santa of his need to purge the world of its naughty citizens, that we learn the whole truth: it was Farnsworth, thinking he was pre-emptively fixing Santa's sensor right before it went haywire, who actually caused the error in the first place.

"I'm the one who made Santa evil!" he laments, and it could've been a huge deal. After all, Farnsworth is now single-handedly responsible for over 200 years of murder and mayhem, and for soiling Santa's good name to the point where Amy tells her children earlier, "I'm sorry, kids; I never wanted you to know Santa was real." But any such dwellings on the ramifications of Farnsworth's crimes against humanity are averted by the reveal that Bender and Zoidberg have accidentally saved the day. Trying to get revenge on the crew by drunk-driving back in time to last Xmas to kidnap Robot Santa, the two unlikely friends accidentally go forward in time and kidnap this year's Robot Santa. Then they murder him and turn his body parts into party appliances.

Bender and Zoidberg spend the second half of the episode thinking they've murdered the good Santa, but luckily their incompetence and malevolence have gone unpunished once again. "You're heroes!" Farnsworth declares, and so concludes what's turned out to be a surprisingly wholesome episode. Everyone's together, all is forgiven, and the evil Robot Santa is now dead. Or is he?

Until next year...

The final scene features the decapitated head of Robot Santa gleefully blackmailing Bender with the knowledge that he and Zoidberg have become genuine friends, which would be deeply humiliating for Bender if the word ever got out. It doesn't make a lot of sense — everybody already knows, and it's not like Santa can go anywhere — but it works as a kind of assurance to the audience that Robot Santa is coming back. The many references to "I Know What You Did Last Summer" add to this idea, as that movie also ended with the presumed dead slasher returning for one final, nonsensical scare. Santa might have been dismembered, but I'm sure he'll pop up again sometime next revival, good as new. 

It makes sense, because Christmas in "Futurama" wouldn't be the same without him. "Maybe your futuristic Xmas isn't so rotten after all," Fry memorably concluded back in season 4. "Xmas should be about bringing people together, not blowing them apart, but don't you see? Fear has brought us together. That's the magic of Xmas." The happy-go-lucky Xmas party we got at the end of this episode might've been fun, but if the "Futurama" characters aren't fearing for their lives, is it truly the holiday season? Much like Mom or Richard Nixon or the rulers of Omicron Persei 8, we can safely assume that Robot Santa's not going anywhere.