“Rickdependence Spray” is the dumbest episode of Rick And Morty I’ve seen, and since I’ve seen every episode of the show, well, you do the math. It’s so dumb that I spent about ten minutes assuming it was building to some kind of “Vat of Acid Episode” style meta joke; that, in the last minute or so, Rick would pull back the curtain to reveal this was all part of yet another sadistic game to teach Morty a valuable lesson about not lying to his grandfather. But then, I went on the same journey with last week’s episode, and at a certain point, you realize that there’s not going to be another twist. That this is very much a story about Morty’s enhanced sperm terrorizing the planet; Rick fucking a CHUD (Cannibalistic Horse Underground Dweller) princess; Summer having one of her eggs removed and blown up to gigantic size; and one of Morty’s enhanced sperm successfully impregnating that egg, and turning it into a… heavy sigh… giant incest baby.
Maybe there’s a second layer here—but wait, I said that last week, didn’t I? Fuck it. This is dumb. It is very dumb. It is aggressively dumb. There are jokes in here that Family Guy, at its absolute shittiest, wouldn’t touch; and while sure, that’s probably because the Fox censors only let that show get away with so much, it’s still galling to see Rick And Morty, which usually does a great job at being an extremely smart kind of stupid (or stupid kind of smart) do something so half-assed. The episode commits to the bit, I’ll give them that. They dig down until they hit a bedrock of gross inanity, and then they keep on going. There are a few moments of self-awareness, a few winks at the audience that yes, everyone involved knew exactly what they were doing, but I’m not sure the winks were enough. Especially in the last five minutes or so, when it stopped trying to even be inventive in its bullshit and just did the same shtick that pretty much every adult cartoon has been doing for the past ten years—see, it’s a big asinine climax spetacle, but it’s ironic. Or something.
We’re five seasons in at this point, and if I ever need to point to an example of the definition of coasting, “Spray” is it. Is it funny? I laughed a few times—more than enough time to keep this from being an absolute disaster. And I suppose there’s some charm in the show shrugging its shoulders and deciding to just not give a shit for the week; I’m not sure they’ve earned it, exactly (we may be five seasons in, but this, what, the 44th episode of the run? That’s awful early to start resting on the laurels), but I get it, work is hard, stupidity is forever, and if you had a chance to produce a half hour of television devoted to a horney pubescents’ mutated killer sperm, why the hell wouldn’t you. Good taste and comedy instincts aside, it reads like one of those bucket list entries you lord over everyone else at the retirement home.
That doesn’t necessarily make it a fun viewing experience for those of us stuck at home, though. Again: there are some good jokes. The sheer outlandishness of the premise is worth a few points at least, and watching Morty desperately cover his tracks as the situation gets increasingly worse (and as Rick begs him to cover for him, since Rick doesn’t initially know the truth and assumes he fucked up some science on that big barrel of “100% Horse Semen”) is funny, in a familiar but enjoyable kind of way. There’s a weird self-awareness throughout the episode, like watching the long form of one of those “Interdimensional Cable” sketches—like you can almost feel the writers/actors/animators watching you with sick grin, nodding along. Yes, we know this is dumb as balls. Yes, we’re pretty surprised we got away with it. Isn’t that crazy.
But that’s not really enough. The thing about trying to do an aggressively dumb episode is that you need to escalate so that all the stupidity just gets to be so much you can’t help but laugh at it. “Spray” is clearly trying to accomplish that here, with the third act involving Rick learning he fathered a child with the CHUD princess… Poneta, and the wild battle in Las Vegas as the army, the CHUDs, and everyone else (including Cirque Du Soleil performers and the Amazing Jonathan) fight off Morty’s giant sperm, but there’s a certain emptiness to it all that’s impossible to completely shake. Rick And Morty was never going to be able to lean on the novelty of its particular vision forever, but the show has still managed to offer up smart concepts and good character writing even when we know more or less what to expect. This feels like someone writing a parody of a show that’s already only a half a step away from self-satire, and the results are passable, but entirely forgettable.
There’s a joke of a theme, involving Kathy Ireland (not actually her voice) and the death of a marine who looks like a badass but absolutely isn’t, but even the novelty of making a joke about how stupidity of the theme feels staid. The Simpsons pulled this shtick ages ago, and while they doesn’t mean it’s off limits, there’s nothing fresh about doing a ridiculous story and then shrugging your shoulders at the end of it. It’s that old problem with lampshading in art: just because you have someone point out how bad a thing is in the context of the fiction doesn’t actually make it less bad.
And hell, I didn’t need a theme, I just needed a script that didn’t assume “random and gross” was also always funny. This is bordering on Assy McGee territory, and the thing about Assy is, those episodes were only 11 minutes long. “Spray” has isolated moments of cleverness, but more than anything, it feels like where Rick And Morty is going to end up once the ideas run dry. Not the worst show on the air, as the cast and artists and writers are too talented, but one that goes through the motions without any effort, because they know that’s probably going to be enough. It’s more or less how last week felt too, right down to the “well, let’s push boundaries of good taste because that’s what this show is all about, right?” vibes. The only reason this week is any better to me is because at no point did anyone pretend I was supposed to feel anything about any of this.
I mean, we also got to hear Keith David saying, “Jesus, how big are space dicks?” That was pretty funny. I definitely snickered at that one.
- Can’t quite figure out why the whole “asshole men ignoring Summer and Beth’s contributions” rubbed me the wrong way, but the joke never really lands or matters.
- Didn’t really talk about the horse-sperm extracting machine that started all of this, but then, what the hell am I supposed to say? It does seem a bit excessive even for Morty; you’d think someone who’d owned their own sex robot (and then had to deal with the child that sex robot produced) would be little more gunshy about sticking his dick into machines, but hey, I haven’t been a teenager for a couple decades, maybe I’ve forgotten what it’s like.
- “This is out there, even for us.” “They can hear you, Morty.”
- Christina Ricci was in this, apparently.
- Really can’t overstate how bad that post-credits gag was. Just really unfunny and indifferent.