Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An all-new Rick And Morty treads comfortable, entertaining ground

Civilizations rise and fall while Morty tries to get to first base

Image from Adult Swim's Rick & Morty
Rick & Morty
Image: Adult Swim

It’s funny that Rick has never had a nemesis before. I mean, I’m assuming. This is, as far as I can remember, the first time Mr. Nimbus, lord of the sea and sexual bon vivant, has come up. And it’s the first time we’ve heard Rick freak out about Morty touching the ocean. I could go back through all the show’s previous episodes and try and confirm this, but I’m not going to do that, because it would take a lot of time; also, it’s not really in the spirit of the show. Rick And Morty’s take on continuity has always been flexible—it’s useful when it can lead to better jokes and interesting character turns, but it has no inherent worth on its own. So when Rick yells at Morty about the ocean, and when he calls Mr. Nimbus his “nemesis,” my guess is that we’re supposed to take the ideas at face value while also recognizing the absurdity of both “never touching the ocean” and “the universe’s most brilliant mad scientist has never mentioned having an arch-enemy before on a show that repeatedly riffs on genre convention.”

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Hey, we’re back—welcome to another round of Let’s Make Jokes Less Funny By Analyzing Them. I’ll be your host, as ever, and I’m pleased to report that Rick And Morty’s fifth season premiere is a good time, a fun riff on sitcom farce and “Narnia” shit. Rick spends most of the half hour trying to avoid all out war with Mr. Nimbus, a pansexual Namor-type who rules the sea and bedroom with equal aplomb; Morty tries and fails to get closer to Jessica; Jerry and Beth embrace a “sex positive” lifestyle and wonder if they’re ready for their first threeway; and Summer, well, Summer sits most of this one out, although she does get some good lines before heading off to the Mariana Trench to retrieve the seashell that is the sort of all of Mr. Nimbus’s power.

After a tease of a cold open that has Rick and Morty running through a field of crystals showing their alternate reality adventures (I remember this being featured in the pre-air promo material, and thinking “Oh that’s going to be a really cool meta episode,” when in actual fact it’s just a tossed off gag that’s never mentioned again), our heroes find themselves with a dilemma. Because Morty crash-landed Rick’s ship in the ocean, Rick has to have Mr. Nimbus over for dinner, so they can sign a treaty and make peace again. But wouldn’t you know it, Morty also has a date with Jessica on the same night, which means… well, not quite as much awkwardness as you’d expect, but a fair number of shenanigans. One of the things that keeps this from being a classic is that it never manages the manic energy that you get from the best farces. It’s absolutely well-paced and never drags, but the actual “farce” part (Morty running back and forth to another dimension to get wine, desperate to please Jessica while Rick keeps yelling for his help) is more clever than really funny.

Thankfully, the high-concept part of the story makes up for the difference. Rick drops a few cases of wine into an alternate dimension where time moves faster (the “Narnia” shit) in order to age it to Mr. Nimbus’s liking. He tasks Morty with grabbing the wine as needed, which leads to some problems when Morty gets help from one of the pleasant, vaguely humanoid cow-like blue aliens who live on the other side of the portal. Through a series of escalating misunderstandings (I guess this really is a sitcom), Morty creates an entire culture obsessed with killing him. It’s a fun bit, building humor out of some of the show’s usual obsessions, and while there’s a certain degree of familiarity to the gags—juxtaposing the depth and lore and complexity of a group, only to have them die with comical abruptness, is maybe the closest thing Rick and Morty has to a well, return-wise—it’s still got that gratifying mix of stoned philosophy and nihilistic carnage we’ve come to expect.

There’s no one single factor preventing “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” from being a stone cold classic; if I’m lukewarm on it, it’s only because it feels extremely safe on a show that prides itself on being the opposite. The Beth and Jerry jokes could’ve been plucked out of the first season, apart from the reference to Dr. Wong. The biggest difference is that the two seem to be largely on the same page, even ending up at Mr. Nimbus’s apartment for a threesome in the post-credits sequence (doing the classic “But I thought you wanted to do this!” “So it was all just a big misunderstanding!” before Mr. Nimbus opens the doors and sucks them in with his irresistible sexual charisma). They’ve settled back into the closest thing to stability they’re likely to get, with Beth getting drawn into Jerry’s well-meaning doofus energy, and if it isn’t the most unexpected turn, it does, as mentioned earlier, set us into the current status quo.

Honestly the biggest flaw in the episode is the return of Jessica, who continues to have no character. This week tries to lampshade that by the end, and her exit (after spending apparent eons frozen in a time cube, able to perceive the true scope of the universe but unable to act on it) at least makes her more interesting than “well the writers definitely had a crush on somebody in high school, I guess.” But up until that point, her behavior makes sense only as an excuse for making the rest of the story happen. Morty has come into his own over the past couple of seasons, but he’s still kind of a whiny weird looking nerd, and Jessica’s decision to show up at his house for a date doesn’t really track. It gives Morty something to get worked up about, as he comes close to once again having a shot at the girl of his dreams, only for Rick’s plans to get in the way, but apart from being interested in having wine, it’s impossible to know what Jessica’s deal is. That’s usually not hugely important, but here it was distracting because I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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Really, though, it’s not a huge problem. “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” is a pleasant start to the new season, and a good reminder why we enjoy having these weirdos around.

Stray observations

  • “Being nervous is sort of selfish sometimes.” Maybe I’m resistant to this storyline because I’ve literally never had a crush on someone where it turned out they were actually interested in me the whole time? I dunno. At this point, it is absolutely a cliche on TV shows for crushes to lead somewhere positive (mostly because showing people getting rejected all the time and never learning from it can make for dull television), and Rick And Morty does spend a lot of time skewering cliches, so… again, I dunno.
  • “Mr. Nimbus is an ice-cold dick killer, Morty.” Congrats to the show on just nailing what Rick’s nemesis would be like—the guy’s vibe is perfect.
  • “I’ve seen you fuck a planet, and this is the guy you’re afraid of?” -Jerry
  • “We now return to Nintendo 69.”
  • “Where’s the wine?” “Dad was horny and I dropped it.”
  • “Goddammit, you see this whisper kitchen Frasier shit you’re making me do.”
  • “I liked your other one more. What was his name? Kyle?”—Mr. Nimbus, throwing down a bit of mindfuck on Morty. (There’s an exchange earlier on where Nimbus mentions a dead “Donna,” and Rick gets pissed at him establishing continuity. It’s great, I just couldn’t get the exact wording of what Rick said down.)
  • It’s easy to overlook, but I like the fact that Rick spends most of this episode getting his ass kicked. Morty has to save him at the beginning, and Mr. Nimbus has to save him at the end. Even his plan to thwart Mr. Nimbus’ powers goes awry. (Although seriously, Summer, just destroy the shell, don’t blow into it.)
  • “Fuck off, I’m a time god.”—Jessica, ascendant.
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