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The Waterfall Family: Futurama's Tragic Activists

Unflinching freedom, independence, and compassion often formed the backbone of many beliefs in the subculture known as hippies in the 1960s, but what would this group of tie-dye-wearing and patriarchy-destroying individuals look like a thousand years from now? Luckily, "Futurama" is here to answer that specific question, and it seems as if the Waterfall family is the response. Although "Futurama" has plenty of callbacks and reoccurring jokes, like the hypnotoad, the soft drink Slurm, and the folk-song compulsion of Bender (John DiMaggio), the Waterfall family always pops up in exceptionally inopportune times — at least they are for the family itself.

The reason why the previously mentioned family is considered tragic is that whenever a member of their family appears in "Futurama," the end is near. More often than not, a Waterfall family member will be introduced in a particular episode only to meet a grisly fate soon after, but this isn't always the case, and sometimes, these characters might make it more than one episode. However, the end result is almost always the same, and despite their best efforts at activism, they almost always die, sometimes by the very thing they are defending. So, who are the people who make up the Waterfall family, and what happens to each one in "Futurama"?

Free Waterfall Jr. is the first member of the family to appear

The very first member of the Waterfall family to appear in "Futurama" shows up in the fan-favorite episode "The Problem with Popplers." This episode begins with Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender making one of their typical deliveries, but Leela soon comes across a bed of small round objects. Consuming them out of hunger, Leela and friends realize that these objects are delicious, and soon they are called "popplers" and sold by Fishy Joe's fast food chain of restaurants. It is later revealed that the popplers are actually the young of the Omicronians when one of the popplers refers to Leela as "mama."

Throughout this episode, a character named Free Waterfall Jr. (Phil Hendrie) protests outside the Planet Express building and claims to be the leader of the Mankind for Ethical Animal Treatment group, which becomes the acronym MEAT in a twist of irony. However, for the transgression of consuming their young, the Omicronian leader Lrrr (Maurice LaMarche) demands the life of the person who first consumed the popplers, which turns out to be Leela. Luckily for Leela, Free Waterfall Jr. soon attracts the attention of Lrrr, who swallows him whole, and Junior's last words are "this isn't happening." Oddly enough, Lrrr quickly feels intoxicated from eating Junior and says that there was something funny about that hippie before staring at his hands.

Free Waterfall Senior meets a grisly penguin-based end

The next member of the activist family to pop up in "Futurama" is Free Waterfall Jr.'s father, Free Waterfall Sr. (also voiced by Phil Hendrie) in the episode "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz." This episode begins with a tragic oil spill on Pluto, which is caused by Bender. Oddly enough, Pluto is absolutely dominated by penguins, and the planet's surface looks much like modern-day Antarctica. Unfortunately, the oil spill has the side effect of acting as an aphrodisiac, and the penguins are soon breeding at unsustainable levels.

Although Free Waterfall Sr. runs a group called "Penguins Unlimited," which counts Leela as a temporary member, he soon gives the order for his group to cull the penguins lest the penguins ruin their species and their planet. This is in stark contrast to his first appearance in the episode, where he asks his followers not to clap because the motion would kill microscopic life, and instead, he tells them to give an "eco-friendly" thumbs up. Free Waterfall Sr. ultimately meets his fate after attacking the penguins, and due to Bender's influence, the penguins soon respond and kill Waterfall, but not before he asks the onlookers to make sure that the penguins use every part of his body.

Old Man Waterfall dies defending the flag and Earth

With the first Waterfall family members being a father and son featured in "Futurama," the next to pop up is known as Old Man Waterfall (still voiced by Phil Hendrie) in the episode "A Taste of Freedom." Although Old Man Waterfall can be spotted in "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz" when he vows revenge for his son's death, he is one of the main characters in "A Taste of Freedom," which is about what happens when Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West) consumes the flag of Earth. Zoidberg's actions on the aptly named Freedom Day soon earn the ire of the entire planet, and Old Man Waterfall acts as his lawyer.

While presenting his case, Old Man Waterfall makes several poignant points while tossing in personal anecdotes that cause the crowd to alternate between both jeers and cheers. Eventually, the judges see the weight in Old Man Waterfall's words, and they are willing to forgive Zoidberg, assuming he apologizes. However, Zoidberg makes a stand and refuses, which leads to an invasion of Earth by Zoidberg's species, the Decapodians. The Decapodians are able to defeat Earth, and they soon terrorize the population with their Mobile Oppression Palace, but Old Man Waterfall makes a heroic effort at resistance, where he loudly proclaims that they make crush his body, but they will never crush his spirit.

The Decapodians follow this statement up by crushing Old Man Waterfall, and some of his last words are "Oh, my spirit!" This brutal action gets Zoidberg to change his mind, and the Decapodians soon leave Earth to its devices.

Two Waterfall siblings appear in a Futurama movie

Before Old Man Waterfall dies in "A Taste of Freedom," one of his great-granddaughters named Frida Waterfall (also Phil Hendrie) rushes to his aid, though she is featured much more prominently in the straight-to-DVD movie "Into the Wild Green Yonder." As a leader in a group called the Eco-Feministas, Frida is dedicated to ecology and women's rights, and she enjoys coming up with slogans and making signs to convey her thoughts. Her positive message of empowerment soon attracts Leela to her cause, and the two and their compatriots soon engage in civil disobedience and sabotage in order to stop the construction of the giant miniaturized golf course ordered by Leo Wong (Billy West).

Also appearing in "Into the Wild Green Yonder" is Hutch Waterfall (still Phil Hendrie), the brother of Frida. Whereas Frida recruits Leela into her organization, Hutch recruits Fry into his organization — The Legion of Mad Fellows. These individuals are able to read the minds of others, and they are only able to turn this ability off by donning a tinfoil hat. Unfortunately, both siblings are slain by the last Dark One, which is actually a Martian Muck Leech that Leela had saved at the start of the movie.

A Waterfall family member pops up in a comic book, and the family's DNA is stored by an alien creature

Although the Waterfall family of activists certainly means well within their respective episodes of "Futurama," each one is generally killed off relatively quickly, and usually by something involving the very thing they are defending. Free Waterfall Jr. is killed while he tries to get people to treat living creatures with respect, Free Waterfall Sr. is killed by the very animals he swore to protect, Old Man Waterfall is killed defending a flag that he thinks people have the right to destroy, and Frida and Hutch are slain by the Dark One, which both were fighting against whether they realized it or not.

Surprisingly, there is another member of the family that only appeared in the comic "Who's Dying To Be A Gazillionaire?" named Free Waterfall III, but he is killed while defending a holographic forest during a dangerous game, which is definitely in keeping with the tragic fate of all of the Waterfall family. Luckily, the DNA of Hutch Waterfall is preserved by the Last Encyclopod in the final moments of "Into the Wild Green Yonder." The Encyclopod is a giant space-faring creature that saves the genetic makeup of all endangered or threatened creatures. Considering the reoccurring and deadly joke involving the Waterfalls, it makes perfect sense as to why the Encyclopod deems their bloodline worth preservation from extinction.