– Consistently funny throughout
– Jerry’s side plot involving a “Jerry day care” is a hoot
– Morty learns the hard way that the universe isn’t black and white
– The assassin character is a riot
– Some phenomenal art direction during the dream/music sequences
– The “Roy” joke is a great spoof of Star Trek TNG‘s “The Inner Light” and might be the best one-off joke in the series
– Ending leaves an opening for some overarching plot craziness in the future
– Not enough time at the weird space arcade
– Not enough time with the assassin
– Some of the fart jokes are a little old (though they have a decent payoff)
Warning: Minor plot spoilers throughout. Also this ended up longer than I expected; whoops!
Fans of Rick and Morty know the series has a bit of a wind-up time for the first season. As such, I anticipated that season 2 would probably have a similar feel: a few episodes while it got its bearings and moved forward. Imagine my surprise, however, when we go straight from a decent but not the best season premiere, into one of the best episodes in the show so far.
Yeah, it’s pretty solid throughout. So let’s get to it, shall we?
The best Rick and Morty episodes have layers of jokes going throughout the episode, and often these multiple plot threads converge into bigger jokes later on. Episode 2 of Season 2 is no exception. Rick is helping teach Morty how to drive…by using his spaceship car (makes a lot of sense there). Jerry apparently hitched along by taking advantage of Rick’s neglegence (i.e. Rick wasn’t paying enough attention). So, seeing as Jerry is pretty much worthless in Rick’s eyes, they drop him off at a “Jerry Day Care” created by one of Rick’s multiple-reality selves, where he engages in basically a fun-room of Jerry comforts to protect him from the evils of the outside world. A great gag, which I’ll go into more detail later.
Morty, on instruction by Rick, ends up being part of one of his grandfather’s arms deals with a truly chivalrous assassin (who was my favorite character this episode). Rick justifies selling dark-matter weapons to the assassin who “just loves killing” by pointing out that now they can blow it all on a hell of a day at an interstellar arcade (“Blips n’ Chips), which I can totally get behind.
At the arcade we get one of the best throwaway gags in the series: the Roy machine. Basically, it’s an arcade game where you plug in your brain and live a complete life as the boy Roy, from childhood to death. This evokes very similar parallels to other stories in science fiction, the biggest being the rather legendary Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” where Picard lives out an entire life as a member of an extinct group of peaceful peoples. In “The Inner Light,” it served as both an interesting way to see Picard in a different setting, but also allowed us to see Picard post-experience think on the life he could have had (with a wife and family) should he had chosen to not pursue starfleet. It’s one of the more emotional episodes.
In Rick and Morty, you get a high score in Roy by living as long as possible. As Rick points out, “You went back to the carpet store after beating cancer?” All of Morty’s life accomplishments, emotions, dreams, and experiences as “Roy” boiled down to nothing more than a high score to beat (which Rick does shortly after). For what is essentially a minute-long joke, the meaning behind it (both as satire and as a sort of philosophical look on what is most valuable in life) is brilliantly executed, and having Rick berate Morty for essentially finding meaning in life as Roy because it didn’t live up to the game’s score expectations only further solidifies the joke. It’s damned brilliant.
Following that, Morty decides he isn’t cool with the assassin Rick sold guns to being allowed to murder somebody, so he steals the spaceship and saves the would-be target: a ball of sentient gas. What follows is a long chase where (understandably) hundreds die as they attempt to recover the creature, with Morty refusing to break free from his ideal that he is “doing the right thing” by saving the gas, even while entire city blocks are being leveled.
I should also mention the gas-creature’s “singing” (which triggers some psychedelic music-video visuals for Morty) is totally weird and absolutely fantastic. Just figured I’d have to mention that at some point.
Of course, the ending is a bit predictable in what exactly the gas creature is (this is Rick and Morty after all; a typical “happy” ending is out of the question) but the moral is, again, presented with dark comedic value as Rick breaks it down in the best way he knows how: by berating Morty. (“At least you know you saved him, Morty, and all those people who died didn’t die in vain or anything because you did the ‘right thing.'”) Again, Morty’s belief in true morality (much like how he played Roy) skewers him, while Rick’s amoral and anarchist tendencies (where he takes Roy “off the grid” in his version of the game) ended up being closer to reality.
Lastly, we have Jerry, who is in day-care with all the other Jerrys. Despite swallowing the obviously artificial pandering that this child-like playground is feeding him (including someone dressed up as his wife), Jerry bails and goes out to explore the world around. Of course this ends in him scared, confused, and unable to move forward. He eventually returns to his “safe space,” back where things are comfortable and familiar and he doesn’t have to engage in ideas that are difficult or overly expand his world (or universe) view.
Rick and Morty has been well known to tread on otherwise taboo subject (the “retard” bit in season one earned a handful of backlash), and Jerry’s inability to cope (and even lack of willingness to cope, based on the other Jerrys) with ideas that feel a little out of place is obvious satire of similar “safe-space” examples happening right now in real-life colleges. Like the bulk of this episode, it doesn’t overtly preach it’s position on the issue (Jerry is both happier and safer within the confines of his childlike, pandering daycare), but it does challenge the viewer to think about the contrast between Jerry (who ran and hid) and Morty (who confronted what scared him head-on, even if the end result wasn’t necessarily what he was going for).
This is Rick and Morty at its absolute best. The jokes are clever and are executed flawlessly. The pacing is fantastic, with never a dull moment throughout. The B-plot is just as captivating and provocative as the main story, and to top it of the episode forces us to actually think about some real-world analogies to the stories being presented here. It’s quick, it’s witty, it’s provocative, and it’s loaded to the brim with black humor. This is the Rick and Morty we love, and might be my favorite episode in the whole series thus far. Emphasis on might, as Rixty Minutes is still pretty dang phenomenal.
It sets one hell of a bar for the rest of the season, and television as a whole. Five out of five stars.