A few days ago, I saw an article about Rick And Morty in the Trending Topics bar on Twitter, suggesting that the next big bad for the show might be “Evil Summer.” I didn’t click on this link, but I did think, “Pfffft, that’s dumb. This isn’t a show that has Big Bads. Dan Harmon hates continuity wanking, presumably Justin Roiland does too, and while they’ll use serialization for jokes, it’s rarely ever the point of anything. They don’t build a season around a single threat. They just have references they exploit when the mood takes them.” Unlike most of the things I think when I read Twitter, I stand by this; it does a disservice to the writing team to keep using Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland as shorthand for the whole group, but otherwise, yeah. Rick And Morty isn’t, like, a season of Buffy. It doesn’t really build to anything, even if the finales do tend to have a bit more kick.
What’s funny is that when the show does decide to lean into continuity, it’s almost always great. The second episode of tonight’s two part finale is the culmination of a storyline first introduced way back in the first season (episode ten, “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind”). That aired over seven years ago. Even shows that pay very close attention to serialization rarely manage that kind of slow burn. I’m not going to be an idiot and claim all of this was planned, because it clearly wasn’t. But that’s why it works. Most shows, when they introduce a recurring villain, they worry about building the narrative tension, rising action, stakes—not just episode by episode, but season by season. That’s incredibly difficult to pull off, and Rick And Morty doesn’t bother trying. It just says, at one point, there’s a Morty with an eye-patch. Maybe we’ll see him do some crazy shit in a few years. Or maybe it’s just a meta joke about the whole idea of show lore. Wait and see and probably forget about it, kids.
Before we get to the grand finale, though, we have “Forgetting Sarick Mortshall,” in which Rick and Morty break up… again. I’m curious as to why both episodes aired tonight. It’s definitely a two-parter, in that the first episode ends on a cliffhanger that leads directly into the plot of the second episode, but it’s not like it would’ve killed anyone to see this spread out over two weeks. Maybe it was an act of mercy, maybe it was just the show needing extra time to finish the season. Theoretically, as the reviewer, I should’ve researched this, but I’m not going to embarrass any of us by claiming I have integrity and or patience for that sort of thing.
Of the two episodes, “Mortshall” is slightly weaker, while still being pretty darn good. I spent a lot of this season bemoaning the weaker entries, and like I said last time, it’s shit like this that makes me complain when stuff gets super dumb. “Mortshall” just feels like a Rick And Morty episode in a way that, say, Morty’s sperm turning into an army of mutant killers doesn’t, and that’s partly because it’s built on the relationships between the characters, and it’s partly because the writing just feels that much sharper. Like, the Garbage Goober introduced near the start of the episode, an alien Rick keeps around just to gobble up trash; there’s a funny gag where Goober tries to turn the “better sidekicks than Morty” wheel to point to his name and Rick shrugs him off; and even better post credits gag where we learn that the Goober is actually a married doctor named Harold who’s been to Harvard, and his wife is just sick of this shit.
This is a good joke—it’s clever, and a little mean, and it also fits in nicely with the episode riffing on toxic relationships, the way we can spend so much of our lives gobbling garbage that eventually we kind of get a taste for it. It’s not heavy, exactly, although there is some emotional weight to both episodes, but it’s the kind of silly that isn’t just leaning into assuming we’ll laugh if something is both extremely stupid and aware it’s stupid. It’s clever without being shallow, and resonant without being tedious or heavy-handed. I don’t need every episode of this show to mix sarcasm with gut-punches, but I do want gags that are stupid-smart, not just stupid-stupid.
But enough of that, I’ve wasted a lot of all our time complaining already, and there’s good shit to talk about here. So: Morty gets into a bit of a situation when he accidentally spills some portal juice on his hand. He and Rick fight about it, and Morty decides to quit, which gives Rick an excuse to pull out the Wheel of Sidekicks Better than Morty. The wheel lands on two crows, which gives Rick his plot for the rest of the half-hour, as he first trains the crows, then tries to get rid of them, then ends up pissing off a race of super evolved crows. Meanwhile, Morty makes friends through the portal in his hand with another guy Rick apparently screwed over, some dude named Nick who claims to have gotten portal juice on his thigh while hanging out in Rick’s garage. The two bond over being-pissed-at-Rick, Morty rescues him from an asylum, and then they go on adventures that inevitable end in a lot of dead people and Morty realizing he’s made a mistake.
It’s fun—the birds thing is random, in that Rick just happens to misjudge a planet full of super-evolved crows, but the self-aware swerve as the advanced crows realize that Rick took on two crow sidekicks just to make Morty feel bad, is a nice chance to see Rick hoisted on his own petard, so to speak. It’s not really surprising that Nick turns out to be a psycho, but I always like seeing Morty getting a chance to be a bit more competent, and watching him cutting off his own hand to defeat the bad guy was convincingly badass. In terms of the overall story of the finale, it’s smart how much emphasis the episode puts on the juice in the portal gun, as that’s going to be a major factor in “Rickmurai Jack;” the portal gun is low key the most important invention in Rick’s arsenal, and the episode does a good job of underlining that without belaboring the point.
In the end, Morty is on his own again, but Rick decides to stick with his two crows after they save him from the super evolved baddies. It’s the sort of separation that’s so clearly temporary (and feels like something the show has done a few times before, albeit not in this specific way) that it’s probably for the best that we got the follow up soon after. The only real knock against “Mortshall” is that “Rick and Morty get sick of each other and split up for a while” feels kind of old hat at this point—the comic premise of the show requires their relationship to be toxic (because a lot of the humor comes from seeing Rick be a shit and seeing Morty try haplessly to deal with Rick being a shit), and they can only try and sell the illusion that anything is going to change so many times before it starts to get stale. Still, this was good stuff, and the simple fact that Morty cleaned up his own mess helped elevate it from yet another “Morty learns a valuable lesson about not to fuck with Rick.”
The real big ticket here is the second episode, which brings back Evil Morty (or Eye-Patch Morty, if you prefer), and blows up the Citadel of Ricks yet again, as the end result of a catastrophic plan that spans the deaths of thousands and exists solely for one little boy to maybe possibly theoretically escape the tyrannical rule of his genius grandfather. I already said my piece about how satisfying the continuity nod is here; maybe that makes me the target of the joke, but this all felt pretty sincere in an extremely satisfying way. It’s possible that this didn’t have quite as many jokes as the previous episode, as “Rickmauri Jack” leaned hard into the major story reveals in a way that maybe didn’t leave a lot of time for humor. But that feels like a taste issue even more than usual. I like the laughs, and I like the good story stuff, and I will sacrifice one for the other if it means the end result is this strong.
We do get a fun riff on anime as Rick tries to live out his life having adventures with the two crows in a strange land where owls and crows are at war for… reasons. Best gag here is the Crowscare, Rick’s nemesis who, it turns out, was actually in a relationship with Rick’s two crows before they became Rick’s sidekicks. (Given that Rick catches them via a Rick scarecrow, this actually makes a weird amount of sense?) Rick lampshades the whole “thank god this is all a metaphor for a relationship and not an actual relationship” angle of the joke, and then the Crowscare explains that, no, he and the crows enjoy each others bodies quite a bit, proceeding to demonstrate to a horrified Rick as he flies the room and rejoined regular continuity.
So, Rick and Morty are together again, but since Morty aged himself into a miserable looking forty year-old, he and Rick have to go to the Citadel to get some de-aging done, which is where, unsurprisingly, all hell breaks loose. Last we saw the Citadel—oh hell, I don’t know the last time we saw it, but I do remember that episode that had three different Citadel of Ricks stories, where we first learned that Evil Morty is president. He’s still president here, and when he invites Rick and Morty to dinner, Rick already knows the shit is about to go down. And it does.
“Rickmauri Jack” has two big story reveals, and both of them worked well for me. We finally get confirmation on Rick’s back story, and while I understand why Harmon et al played cagey with it for so long, I think it works. It’s not really surprising; yes, the bit we saw ages ago where Rick’s wife and daughter were killed about another Rick when he first invented the portal gun was actually true after all, and Rick spent a lot of time since then trying to get revenge, before he just got sick of killing himself over and over and decided to help build the Citadel. Yes, the Dead Wife And Kid back story is a cliche, but it works for me here, because the show spends so much time resisting and mocking the obvious that those occasional moments when it acknowledges that, yes, sometimes you have to settle down and actually just tell a story almost always work on me. Maybe this will turn out to be a bluff next season, but I hope it doesn’t. We’re not watching the show for the lore, but leaving one extremely obvious mystery unsolved inevitably made the answer seem more important than it needed to be. (See also, The Venture Bros not telling you who Hank and Dean’s mom is.) It was likely any resolution was going to seem like an anti-climax, and I thought this reveal threaded the needle quite well.
The other big twist is that the Citadel is, in part, designed as Morty breeding facility, given how important Mortys are to Ricks; and more unsettling is that the Ricks banded together to wall off all the infinite universes where Rick is the smartest person in the universe away from all the other infinite universes where he isn’t, effectively creating, as Evil Morty points out, an “infinite crib built around an infinite fucking baby.” This is bordering on being too clever, but I appreciate how it answers a question before I had a chance to ask it. If there are infinite universes, of course there’d be infinite universes where Rick isn’t the smartest person around. But we’ve never seen Rick end up in a place where other people are appreciably smarter than him. Oh sure, more emotionally intelligent, better adjusted, well-rounded, but not smarter. It makes sense that Rick, being both clever as hell and also enough of a control freak bastard inside that he can’t bear the thought of not being able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, would’ve arranged circumstances to make sure no one would ever have the tools to rain on his particular parade.
And it also makes sense that eventually, a Morty would figure a way out. He’s Evil Morty because he kills thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of versions of himself and Rick to achieve his ends, but all he really wants in the end is to escape the cycle that being on animated television series inevitably leads to; where relationships can’t really change that much because the comedy and plotlines depend on it. Rick and Morty can break up again and again, but it’s still their names in the title. Rick can promise to be a better person, but the main joke of the show is still going to be him being a brilliant piece of shit, and Morty never quite being able to let him go.
The genius of Rick And Morty is the genius of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, Lucy and the football, Ignatz and Krazy Kat; to show us creative iterations on the same two notes, and convince us over and over that we’re hearing and seeing something new. I complain about stagnation but I don’t really want things to change, because when they do, it will mean the show is over. And as disappointing as some parts of this season were, I’m not quite ready for that yet. But hey, one Morty escaping, even as the “real” Morty stays behind? That works. In a universe of boundless possibilities, it’s only right that every once in a while, we get to have our cake and eat it too.
So, evil Summer next season? Sounds great. See you then.
- The grade is the average between a B+ and an A-. Math is fun.
- I’ll be interested to see how the show deals with Rick no longer having a functional portal gun. There’s a good chance they’ll just write around it, but it would be neat to watch him having to scramble for a bit.
- The guards in the asylum where Nick is being held lick the prisoners’ faces, which is definitely a reference to Terminator 2.
- “Cool place you got here, very Dark Crystal meets Hot Topic.” This is an odd joke, giving how much Hot Topic is already pretty intensely Dark Crystal.
- “Man, crows are empathetic as fuck.”
- The final post-credits scene of the season had Mr. Poopybutthole bemoaning the state of his life and his relationships. Still pulling for that guy. Hope he figures things out soon.