Okay, this is the third of the add-on episodes. Oddly, most of them are animated. I don’t know if that’s because lately animated shows are able to take more risks than live-action, or because, like in the case of WestWorld and Mr. Robot, that live-action shows that have insanely high quality are so invested in serialization that it keeps any one episode from standing out enough to be noticeable or distinctly memorable. But, whatever the reason, the animations tended to stick out.
Rick and Morty is a show about the futility of existence and other nihilist stuff most shows would consider impossible to joke about. Rick (Justin Roiland) is a super-genius on a scale that surpasses most portrayals in fiction. Rick is often called a god, because he can basically do anything. He travels between alternate universes, creates sentient life to power his car battery, destroyed planetary, galactic, and interdimensional order because they annoyed him, and even turns himself into a pickle just to show that he can… and also to get out of going to family therapy. Morty (Roiland) is his grandson, whose role in their adventures varies over the course of the series, from unwilling participant to instigator.
Rick believes that nothing means anything, and, in his case, he’s completely justified. Usually, when a character has that kind of attitude, it arises out of a religious nihilism. In Rick’s case, though, it’s different, because it arises from the fact that he has seen that there are infinite alternate worlds and infinite versions of himself, meaning that everything he ever does is being done in another world at the same time, or that he’s only doing it because another version of him is doing the opposite. Nothing matters because everything happens. Because of this, Rick is a miserable jerk most of the time, an alcoholic on a cosmic scale, and arguably out-eviled the devil through science. The last is not a metaphor, he actually drove the devil to suicidal depression through rendering him obsolete. Prior to this episode in the series, he and Morty wreck their version of the world and move to a different universe to replace the deceased Rick and Morty there, abandoning the rest of their family (not particularly caring if the others live or die).
Some people will probably be angry because they don’t think this is the best episode of Rick and Morty. Much like my entry of the Office, I can only say, this is not my favorite episode of Rick and Morty, but it is the one that I think distinguishes the show the most for two reasons.
First, most of the episode is improvised. The premise is that Rick upgrades the family’s TV to get channels from every dimension, meaning that they can see things such as “Showtime in a world where corn evolved instead of humans.” However, all of the programming, with limited exception, was improvised by series creator Justin Roiland, mostly while he was stoned. Even when other actors were asked to do the voices, they were told to copy everything about the way that Roiland had spoken. I consider this to be an extremely weird, but brilliant, way to do this episode, because it seems like ad-libbing both produces the absurd kind of things that one might encounter by looking through infinite realities, and also because it makes the interdimensional content very distinct from the show itself, confirming that they’re not in the same universe. Some people might not enjoy it, and maybe not all of the sketches are gold, but it at least sets it apart.
Second, and most important, is the B-plot. At the beginning of the episode, Morty’s dad Jerry (Chris Parnell) sees a version of himself who is a celebrated actor, and decides he wants to see other realities where he has a different life. Similarly, his wife, Beth (Sarah Chalke), and daughter, Summer (Spencer Grammer), want to see other universes where they have lived their dreams. During the course of this, Beth and Jerry accidentally reveal that Summer was an unwanted pregnancy, and that most or all of Beth’s and Jerry’s dream realities are where they broke up after having her aborted. This shakes Beth and Jerry over the fact that their marriage definitely kept them from achieving their dreams, and Summer over the fact that her entire existence was not just the result of a mistake, but one that she can confirm ruined her parents’ lives. Yeah, not the happiest moment in TV history.
Summer decides to leave the family, and Morty confronts her. She at first says that he can’t understand because, as the second child, he wasn’t the cause of her parents’ pain, only a biproduct of it. Morty responds by telling her that he’s not really her brother, that her brother is dead and buried in the yard, and that he’s a version of her brother who can tell her not to run and she’ll know it’s sincere. He then delivers 13 of the greatest words in the history of anything.
Nobody exists on purpose.
Nobody belongs anywhere.
Everybody’s gonna die.
Come watch TV?
I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve read a lot of philosophy. I’ve read the core texts of most religions, and I subscribe to one or two. I’ve been sick on a hospital bed waiting to die. But, despite all of that, I believe that I have never seen anything summarize the human condition as well as Morty does in this episode.
Morty straight up tells everyone that, despite the fact that he’s realized the futility of existence, he doesn’t care. He chooses to be happy anyway, by just enjoying what he has. Depending on your perspective, this arguably makes him better than Rick, because Rick is a miserable human being, whereas Morty can actually find enjoyment in aspects of life.
Rick insists that his unhappiness is because when you’re smart, the universe is yours, and the universe is not going to like it. It’s going to fight your desire to control or comprehend it. However, really, despite the fact that Rick has seen things that no other human has seen, done things no other humans have, or even can, do, he isn’t able to grasp the idea of just being happy by embracing futility and moving on anyway, because it requires accepting that he’s responsible for his own happiness. He constantly says that the key is NOT to think about it, but that’s wrong. You don’t have to try not to think about it, because trying to avoid thinking about it is still refusing acceptance.
Many of the episodes on this list deal with the idea of facing your mortality or the void at the end of existence. Some involve turning to God, some involve denying mortality, some involve just accepting that you’re gonna die, but this one nails it hardest. Whatever is true doesn’t matter. You get to exist. That alone is something to enjoy. Be happy anyway.
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Watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim’s website. Give them revenue, jerks.