Futurama Season 11 Lands The Punchline On A Decade-Old Joke About The King Of Space

Spoilers for "Futurama" season 11 episode 9 follow.

Back in season 8 of "Futurama" (or season 6, depending on how you're keeping track), Leela leaves the Planet Express crew to get a fresh start in life. She's back by the end of the episode, of course, but she at least gets to enjoy a nice career as a deep-space real estate agent. In fact, she's so successful at it that she gets to casually remark to Hermes near the end that she "just sold a castle to the King of Space."

It's an insane line, just tossed into the scene with no explanation. Nobody asks, "Hold on a second: there's a King of Space? All of space? What authority does he have? Why would a king need to buy a castle through a real estate agent?" That lack of answers is part of what makes the line funny, in much the same way that Bender's "Hecho en Mexico" joke back in season 3 was so amusing. What exactly does it mean, culturally or personally or legally, for a robot to be born in another country? "Amazon Women in the Mood" has zero interest in exploring that question, and it's all the better for it. 

But much like "Futurama" season 7 would go on to follow up on Bender being born in Mexico, season 11 has now followed up on Leela's King of Space line. The latest episode mostly centers on three unconnected stories following the Planet Express crew's lives in different animation formats, but the longer-running story that plays around them is that of Fry and Leela making another delivery to the King of Space. Over a decade later, we finally get to meet the king and his flirtatious son, and he turns out to be more than Fry and Leela bargained for.

A nonsensical pay-off to a nonsensical set-up

When the episode isn't giving us versions of the crew in the form of wind-up toys, cars, or rubber ducks, the episode follows the tragic love triangle between Fry, Leela, and the Prince of Space. Whereas Fry is showing signs of age (he is over a thousand years old, after all), the Prince of Space is young and strong, which allows him to woo Leela with alarming speed. Leela dumps Fry and tries to marry the Prince, but the King of Space doesn't approve. Fry selflessly challenges the king to a duel so Leela will be allowed to marry the Prince, but Leela takes his place in the dual and wins. Except it turns out that the King of Space replaced himself with his son, and Leela has just killed the man she was trying to marry. 

If that all sounds terrible and dumb, that's because it is. We've seen plenty of storylines already where Fry jealously watched Leela date another man, but the show seems to know we're no longer interested in that kind of storyline, so it relegates it to just one self-contained short story in an episode that's split between four of them. In this four-minute escapade, the drama is dialed up to eleven the whole way through, and the build-up to every big twist is only a few seconds long. Just to make it extra clear that none of this matters, the episode ends with Leela clarifying that she was under a spell throughout the whole thing, so there's no reason for any of her actions here to shape how we view her character.

Why the Prince of Space was never a real threat

One fun benefit of waiting for an anthology episode to pay off that old King of Space line is that it gives the show a chance to juxtapose it with other versions of Fry and Leela. Although Leela's dismissal of Fry in the main story seems incredibly cruel, almost like it's insulting the fans who've invested literal decades in their slowly-growing romance, we at least get the rubber ducky storyline to balance things out. This fun (and adorable) alternate universe features rubber duckie Fry meeting wobble toy Leela for the first time, and even though they're from completely different cultures and species, the two still fall in love. 

It goes to show these two are soul mates who will always find their way back to each other, no matter the universe. Even if that ill-defined spell had never died along with the Prince, and even if the King of Space hadn't tricked Leela into killing his son, it seems like Fry and Leela's love would've endured in some manner. A Prince might sabotage their relationship for a minute or two, but by this point in the run of "Futurama," he didn't stand a chance. 

New episodes of "Futurama" premiere every Monday on Hulu.