– Rick and Morty are back, hooray!
– Good to see Summer engaged in more screen time
– One particularly poignant character moment with Rick
– Also, the joke about laughing at references you don’t get was brilliant
– Watching indecision finally screwing Morty over was quite entertaining
– B-plot involving a deer revival and Beth’s insecurities is straight up dull
– Having “split realities” is a fairly tired joke for the show
– No particularly jarring “punch” to the conflict throughout
– Resolution felt a little contrived, with it not really building to anything monumental
– Certainly one of the weaker episodes in the Rick and Morty lexicon.
Hell yeah, Rick and Morty!
As this is the first episode of a new season (and I haven’t reviewed season one on The Berg yet), I should probably give a quick rundown of why I love this show so much. Or, rather, I started loving it around episodes 4-6 of season one.
Rick and Morty started as a Back to the Future knockoff cartoon, which is fairly obvious considering the subject matter and characters. Rick is a consistantly drunk but unquestionably genius mad scientist. He’s amoral to the point of hilarity and is also world-(or universe) weary, making him a bitter pessimist. Morty, on the other hand, is both paranoid, ignorant, yet is still trying to grasp to some threads of a moral code in his ever-widening world-(or universe) view. Together they go on adventures through space and time, where Rick is a jerk and Morty tries (and often fails) to be a moral compass.
What makes the show great is two-fold. First, the juxtiposition of the bitter genius Rick and the obviously ignorant but still “good” Morty is an excellent lens to examine fairly complex moral and social issues. Because these two characters are not only polar opposites but caricaturistic extremes, it makes both both easy and hard to identify with. Rick will often shrug off super-horrific stuff, and on the flip side Morty will overreact to even the smallest problems. This puts us, the viewer, somewhere in the middle, where we can soak up both opinions and make our own conclusions.
It was about episode four of season one (but especially the resolution of episode six) where Rick and Morty really took off. The best Rick and Morty episodes are ones that aren’t just about Rick and Morty’s weird in-world plots. Rather, they use the premise of “go anywhere, do anything” to tackle actual real-world questions about what it means to be an individual, the illusion of choice, and even some meta-level jokes about the genre they’re in. It’s an additional layer on top of a bunch of already great humor, and it made the latter half of the first season considerably better than the first half.
Why do I say all this? Because, unfortunately, the start of season two just doesn’t have that underlying punch that previous episodes did.
The new season starts where the last one began, cleaning up the killer party Rick and Summer threw that totally trashed the house. Rick stopped time to clean it all up but it ended up taking six-months of frozen time, which results in an eventual time fracture. While the kids and Rick send their parents off to eat ice cream, the trio have to deal with time constantly fracturing whenever one of them is wrought with indecision, resulting in a parallel universe depending on their intended actions.
The “split the main crew into multiple realities” is hardly new ground for Rick and Morty, and I was honestly a bit disappointed to see it come into play again. It does allow for some good gags though, particularly with Rick never altering what he does or says across all realities (because he is so confident he’s sure of his every action, making his every action in each split the same across the board), whereas Morty’s insecurities keep breaking things up and making it all worse. Rick also gets to do what he does best: berating and insulting his grandchildren, and there’s some fun lines here as he tries to sew the whole mess back together.
Rick and Morty usually as some sort of b-plot going on (usually involving the blissfully ignorant parents Beth and Jerry), and this episode is no exception. Unfortunately, almost everything about the b-plot is bad. When they go to get ice cream, Jerry hits a deer. Beth, insecure about her skills as a horse surgeon (which I guess has a little precedence based on previous episodes) decides to prove that she’s capable by saving the deer’s life. This leads to a long string of gags that are, frankly, poorly executed and generally unfunny. The ending payoff isn’t even that great either, with some sort of Cold Stone tipping gag being the final, hard-hitting “joke.” It takes up far too much of the episode and doesn’t contribute anything to the main arc.
That isn’t to say the main cast isn’t doing much better. While Rick, Morty, and Summer’s fractured reality is entertaining, it doesn’t really go anywhere. Rick has a moment of self-identity crisis, convinced the other dimensions are trying to kill him (but as we can see them all at once, we know it’s just a misunderstanding). This is swiftly resolved, however, making one wonder why it happened it all. The deus ex machina ending (with a “time cop” basically showing up to save them) is absurdly contrived, though it does lead to one of the series’ most touching character moments and a look at a side of Rick you don’t usually see. Still, it isn’t really worth it. Honestly, the post-credits gag is funnier than most of the episode.
All-in-all, this is still smart television. The dialogue is sharp throughout (as usual) and it’s really great to see these characters interacting again. Rick and Morty’s relationship feels more natural now then ever before (particularly considering the first two episodes of season one felt like they stumbled a bit) and most of the one-off jokes are worth several chuckles. But, taken as a whole, this episode feels fairly flat. The pacing is a bit off and, as mentioned, the b-plot just drags the whole things down. If I were comparing it to other television I’d say it’s still a hoot, but considering the bar of quality I’ve expected from this show, it’s a little disappointing.
Still, it’s great to have these characters back. While the horse might have stumbled a bit out of the gate, I have high hopes for where season two of Rick and Morty is heading. And here’s hoping there’s more Summer, because she makes a good third character in Rick and Morty’s bizarre, sociopathic relationship.
Three out of five stars.
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