I’ve complained about it before, let’s be honest: reviewing Rick And Morty is a pretty sweet gig, even when it means staying up until late and having to get up early for your real job the next morning. (Thankfully, not this week. Huzzah for federal holidays!) There are times when I worry I’m swinging out of my weight class, or that I’ll miss references or misinterpret plot points, but for the most part, I feel like I’ve got a decent vibe on what the show is trying to accomplish on an episode-by-episode basis, and even when I’m critical of it, I rarely feel completely adrift. Tonight, though? I’ve got no fucking clue. I feel like I have to be missing something. Because on the surface, this felt like an empty exercise that leaned way too hard on playing sad songs (a Rick And Morty trick that generally works for me) and being simultaneously heartfelt and cynical without ever coming to anything like a point. And I worry because I keep telling myself, there has to be a theme. Right? There has to be some joke I’m missing, some fundamental point that’s escaped me. Which is a fun way to start a review.
I’ll give it this much: when it became clear that “A Rickconvenient Mort” was going to be about the environment (in case the episode title wasn’t a clue or anything), I was terrified we are about to get some deeply cynical spin about how stupid it was to care about the planet. Given the summer we’ve had so far, the way everything seems to be headed, my ever-present anxiety about climate change and humanity’s apparent inability to alter its behavior in the face of a civilization destroying catastrophe—well, let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood for a cartoon getting all smug about me trying to recycle my plastics. But “Rickconvenient” isn’t really about that. It’s maybe as close to a theme as the story gets, but even on that level, it’s never particularly dark or obnoxious or satirical. The most you could say is, we’d probably have to kill a lot of people if we wanted to save the planet, and we aren’t going to do that, so people are going to die anyway. But even that feels like it’s saying more than the episode ever gets around to establishing.
Worse, the jokes aren’t all that funny? There are a few good bits, and the guest cast (Alison Brie as Planetina, Jennifer Coolidge as Daphne, Steve Buscemi as Eddie, the first of the knock-off grown-up Planeteers that Morty kills) is fantastic, but the laughs are few and far between, and there’s no real build here, no sense of escalating chaos or growing energy. Rick and Summer’s storyline has a couple of decent turns but there’s no payoff, and the same could more or less be said for Morty’s relationship with Planetina. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a Rick And Morty episode—the incredible violence, the cosmic scale, the juxtaposition of petty human concerns against a large context, goofy looking aliens—but it never has the coherence that makes the show really sing. The strongest impression I get is that the pieces here never add up to anything larger than the whole, and that’s unusual for the show; even the episodes I don’t like at least seem to have a point to them.
There are two storylines here. In the first, Morty makes a connection with a Captain Planet knock off named Planetina. She falls surprisingly hard for him, despite their age difference, and Morty is eventually forced to take steps to free her from the horrible grown-up Planeteers, a quartet of shitty selfish adults who exploit Planetina for merchandising and who also plan to sell her to a rich Arab. (Which, I gotta say, weird joke for a modern cartoon to make.) Beth objects to the relationship, Morty storms out to spend all his time with his older love interest, but eventually, it doesn’t work out. Freed from the Planeteers’ control, Planetina goes apeshit on the humans polluting the earth, slashing tires and murdering miners when they refuse to listen to her version of reason. Realizing he can’t keep dating a killer (which, come to think, is a bit odd given how many people and aliens he and Rick have killed over the years, but sure), Morty ends the relationship, and sad music plays.
While all this is going on, Rick, pissed off that Morty has dropped him for his new girlfriend, takes Summer to party on a trio of planets entering into the end times. The rule is, they have a crazy good time (Summer plans to eat a lot of [bleep] and or [bleep], Rick is down to consume a heroic quantity of [bleep) and form no attachments whatsoever, since Summer is trying to get over a broken heart; but Rick fucks things up when he gets super attached to Daphne, a Morglutzian with amazing elbow titties, and he brings her along to the next two planets. Summer freaks, and saves the last planet from disaster in order to stop Rick’s good time. Rick is pissed but impressed, and I guess we all learn a valuable lesson about how our solipsism and personal concerns make us indifferent to the suffering of others.
Is that it? I don’t think the episode is being a scold or anything, and it’s not like the denizens of the any of the planets that get destroyed make much of an impression outside of the “expendable dipshit” range, but it’s the main point that both Morty, and Rick and Summer’s, stories share: the idea that they’re focused on the personal, but the global is where the real consequences are at. Planetina’s methods seem horrible, but it’s not like the destruction of the planet isn’t going to involve catastrophic loss of life—300 human deaths to save the world is bordering on insignificant in the grand scheme of things, even if it does give Morty qualms. Maybe the idea is, people are going to be people (or freaky aliens) no matter what’s going on around them. Which, absolutely, this is definitely true, but I’m not sure the episode really makes enough out of it to be interesting or particularly entertaining.
Really, whether or not I missed the point, that’s my main takeaway: in spite of the stacked voice cast, this felt like a nothing of a half hour, and it’s not funny or clever enough to make me want to dig any deeper than a mildly amused shrug. Rick And Morty has had its share of clunkers before, and there’s only so much benefit of the doubt I’m willing to give it before chalking an episode up as a loss. I’m glad this didn’t go hard into “you’re an idiot for caring about the environment” territory, I really am, but that in and of itself isn’t enough. If I did miss something obvious here, my apologies. But all I’m seeing was thirty minutes of filler with a cute board game and some famous names and not much else.
- It may be unfair to hold this week’s credit stinger to last week’s standard, but going from “puppet Jerry viewing the endless digressions of evolution and civilization” to “ha wouldn’t it be funny if an alien had sex with his dad and then they didn’t die and had to go on like everything was normal after” is a drop.
- The Planetina joke doesn’t really go anywhere either. So many choices in the episode are the most obvious choices for this show to make, from the Planeteer knock-offs being a bunch of selfish shitty grown-ups, to Morty killing them, to the songs they keep playing like they’re supposed to mean something. Why didn’t the episode do anything with Morty having all those magic rings? What the hell did he do with them?
- “What a romantic story about our son killing a room full of people.” -Jerry
- Beth being upset about Morty dating an older woman is both reasonable (he’s still 14) and fucking insane (but it’s fine that he runs around the universe with his murdering psychopath grandpa). That in and of itself could be a joke, but the episode plays the whole thing so straight it never really lands either way.