Alright, so, if the last episode really started to nail the Rick and Morty mix of dark humor and subversion, this was the first episode that started to explain why everything in Rick and Morty is not only supposedly meaningless to Rick, but justifiably so.
It’s flu season at Harry Herpson High School and that means it’s time for the annual Flu Season Dance (which Principal Vagina (Phil Hendrie) reminds everyone is about awareness and not actually dancing when you have the flu). Morty (Justin Roiland) tries to ask his crush Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), but is stopped by her on-again-off-again boyfriend Brad (Echo Kellum) who tells Morty to stay in his league. Back at home, Jerry (Chris Parnell) tries to comfort his son by saying that he met Beth (Sarah Chalke) in high school despite her being out of his league, but Rick (Roiland) points out that Jerry’s marriage is in bad shape so he shouldn’t be giving advice. In contrast, Rick says that love is a lie brought on by brain chemistry and that Morty should focus on science to “break the cycle.”
Morty thinks about what Rick said and promptly isolates the exact wrong part of it, asking Rick to make a chemical to cause Jessica to fall in love with him. Rick refuses, asking Morty for a screwdriver, but Morty protests that Rick never does anything for him, so Rick gives him a formula made from vole-extracted oxytocin that will supposedly make her fall for him. However, right after Morty leaves, Rick adds the caveat that it might cause problems if she has the flu.
Jerry asks Beth if she loves him, but she responds that love is work and she puts up with him, therefore she’s working and therefore she loves him. She then leaves for an emergency horse surgery with her co-worker Davin (Hendrie), which angers Jerry.
At the Flu Season Dance, MC Haps (Dan Harmon) is doing his Flu Hatin’ Rap and everything seems to be going well. Morty spills some of the potion on Jessica, which quickly works, causing her to love Morty. She then sneezes, infecting Brad, who, in turn, infects the rest of the dance by sneezing into the vent and punch bowl. Back at the Smith House, Jerry is still worried about Beth being with Davin, provoked by Rick, so he heads to the Horse Hospital. Rick asks why Summer (Spencer Grammer) isn’t at the dance and, when she says it’s to avoid flu season, Rick realizes his error.
At the dance, Jessica is getting sexually aggressive towards Morty, shortly followed by everyone else fighting to mate with Morty. Rick shows up to rescue Morty and tells him that the serum interacted with the flu virus and became airborne. Rick, however, is immune, because the serum doesn’t affect close relatives. He tries to fix it by spraying an antidote composed of praying mantis DNA on the crowd, however, that doesn’t work, instead mutating all the people into mantis/human hybrids, making them monsters. Monsters who are still horny for Morty, apparently.
Jerry gets stuck in a traffic jam caused by the rapidly-spreading mutations. He’s attacked by the mantis-people but grabs a shotgun and starts removing heads. Back at the Smith House, Summer finds out what’s happened by global news broadcasts showing that everyone on Earth is infected before she’s attacked by mutants and forced to flee. In the desert, Rick creates a third serum using koala, rattlesnake, chimpanzee, cactus, shark, golden retriever, and dinosaur, which he claims will add up to normal humanity. Morty immediately points out the stupidity of that statement, but Rick ignores him.
At the Horse Hospital, Davin and Beth exit the clean room and Davin starts to hit on Beth before he gets infected, mutates, and attacks her. Jerry shows up with a crowbar and beats Davin to death. This appears to rekindle the spark in the marriage. Rick then sprays all of Earth with his third formula which, at first, appears to turn everyone back to normal. Then, as Rick gloats, the serum causes everyone to mutate into disgusting blob creatures they call “Cronenbergs” after David Cronenberg’s body horror films (I assume mostly The Fly). Jerry and Beth modify a car with sharp objects and fight their way through the crowds of Cronenbergs, showing that they are surprisingly good at killing monsters and openly flirting. They find Summer and Beth finally condemns all of Rick’s actions, including leaving her mother.
Rick and Morty watch the world falling into chaos and madness, arguing over who is at fault. Rick agrees to fix it with his emergency solution. It then shows Rick and Morty returning home with the newspapers reading “Genetic Epidemic Averted.” Rick then asks Morty for the screwdriver from the beginning of the episode and, with three turns of the screw, blows up the garage, killing them both. The “real” Rick and Morty then walk out of a portal. Morty panics at the disco-very (f*ck you, I’m leaving that joke in), but Rick tells him that there are infinite universes and that in a few dozen of them Rick solved the genetic crisis and in a few of those universes, Rick and Morty died shortly after. So, they’re going to take their place. Rick and Morty then bury their counterparts (to the tune of “Look On Down From the Bridge” by Mazzy Star) and a clearly traumatized Morty watches the new universe play out just like his old one.
After the credits, a Cronenberg Rick and Morty come to the old universe, now happily surrounded by fellow Cronenbergs, while Summer, Beth, and Jerry seem to be living a simple but happy life.
So, I think we have to start at the ending and acknowledge that Morty is fundamentally changed by this episode. This even sets up the absolutely devastating speech he will give in two episodes. Despite Rick telling him explicitly “don’t think about it,” that seems to be all Morty can do, and can you blame him? Sure, he’s been to other universes before, but he clearly has never had to deal with the reality that there are also other versions of himself. That’s a big discovery to stack on top of destroying the world, probably never seeing his original family again, seeing his own dead body, and being informed that, had Rick not destroyed the world, he would also be dead right now. So, yeah, Morty had a pretty bad day and it does change his character a bit.
This episode also really introduces the show’s particularly brilliant version of nihilism: Infinite Nihilism. Because there are an infinite number of universes, everything happens. Every possibility happens, constantly branching off of the current universe with every action. And there are an infinite number of each of those branches, because each fraction of infinity is also infinity. So, there are an infinite number of universes where Rick saves the world, an infinite number where he fails, an infinite number where he fails and dies, an infinite number where he succeeds and lives, an infinite number where he says screw it an eats tacos, etc. So, if everything happens, then does anything matter? You’re not really “doing” anything. You’re just existing in the branch of the multiverse where the thing you do happens, but it’s also not happening at the same time in another universe. If you’re Rick and can just jump sideways onto the next one, then your choice in the previous universe was meaningless. However, at the same time, another Rick is jumping in exactly the opposite way between two other universes, because INFINITE. Everything is meaningless.
What’s interesting is that being able to go between all these universes may also be the thing that does make the difference between Rick being a supergenius and Rick being the near god-level being that we see in the series. In fiction, when people actually gain the ability to move between universes at will, it usually grants them near omniscience, because you can find a universe where death is curable by pill or a universe where P=NP has been solved already. Look at Byakuran from Katekyō Hitman Reborn! or Angstrom Levy from Invincible, these characters point out that, if there’s an infinite number of universes, or even just a very large number (say, Graham’s Number if you replace all of the threes with Graham’s Number), then if you have a problem you can always find one where an answer already exists. Rick travels between dimensions that all have different levels of technology and learning in every field, allowing him to constantly push the boundaries of human knowledge just by combining all the common knowledge of those worlds.
So, why does Rick say that there are only a few dozen universes where Rick and Morty save the world and only a few more where they die after? Well, because the multiverse is infinite, Rick’s time isn’t. It’s probably difficult to search through a constantly-increasing multiverse, even within the “Central Finite Curve” that Ricks usually travel within (a clearly finite subset of the infinite multiverse which we later find out has multiple “iterations”). So, Rick found a couple dozen “nearby” universes that fit the bill using whatever method he uses. Why does he say that he and Morty can only do the swap 3 or 4 more times? Well, either his methods limit him, the Council of Ricks limits him, or, more likely, Roiland and Harmon just wanted to limit it so they wouldn’t be tempted to re-use the idea of dimension-hopping.
They also probably limited it because, like I said before, Rick could always just solve his problems by looking at the solutions that other Ricks were forced to find for their problems, since, in an infinite multiverse, there’s always some other Rick who has solved it ten minutes before.
To be fair, I also don’t think that there are actually an infinite number of alternate realities, even if the Many Worlds Interpretation is correct, because there was a starting point to the universe (at least, most evidence suggests so), so the only way it could be infinite is if an infinite number of realities spawn from all quantum interactions (or at least from one particular interaction). I actually point to Isaac Newton for my reasoning why that doesn’t happen. When Newton created Calculus (as did Leibniz, but Newton’s the one who actually mentioned the specific thing I’m going to address), at one point during a proof he stated that an infinitesimal multiplied by an infinitesimal was equivalent to 0 and thus could be ignored for the purpose of the proof. Well, that’s not something that really is justified by any mathematical study of infinite, but Newton used it and no one complained, because, by eliminating that squared infinitesimal, CALCULUS WORKED. Accurate derivations and integrations could now be made. But, if there really was such a thing as infinity within the universe, then it should have always been off.
A second proof would actually be Zeno’s Paradox. I’m sure you’ve all heard it by this point: If you shoot an arrow at a target, the arrow has to travel half the distance to the target. Then, it has to travel half again. Then half again, then half again, then on and on and it should never get there, because there are an infinite number of halves. However, if you shoot an arrow in real life, it’s going to get there.
Both of these suggest that there is somewhere out there a minimum distance or a minimum unit of time for something to take place in (and no, not the Planck Length, that’s not actually what Planck was saying), which means that there can never be an infinite number of anything. Just a really, really, really, really big number. Like, sooooo big that you might think it’s infinite, but it isn’t. And that’s okay.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Yeah, I did technically give a “theory” about why Rick said there were only a few dozen versions of this universe, but that’s not the one I’m gonna count in this review, especially since I’ve got a much bigger related theory coming later.
For this review, I want to address why Rick failed. Think about it, Rick really screws up in this episode, something that even he points out doesn’t happen often. Rick isn’t perfect, of course, but this is a notably stupid screw-up to the point that even Morty points out Rick’s logic is terrible. In most shows I’d chalk it up to bad writing, but this is Dan Harmon’s show hitting its stride, so I assume almost nothing is allowed to be just for plot necessity. What is it about this episode that caused Rick F*cking Sanchez to fail 3 separate times?
Well, what is Rick dealing with in this episode? Normal humans. The one thing that Rick absolutely never seems to be able to grasp is normal emotional interactions with other people. The closest thing we ever see to Rick’s relationships is with Unity in Season 2 and that’s a hive-mind who he seems to only be using for extremely weird sex (not kink-shaming, just saying that even the giraffe looked violated). So, when Morty asks Rick for a love potion, Rick instead gives him a lust potion. When he tries to figure out how to counteract that, Rick assumes that hate is the opposite of love and just adds mantis DNA. What’s particularly interesting is that Rick classifies these not in terms of emotions but in terms of how species conduct their mating practices: Voles are for life, Mantises eat their mates (for the record: only when the female believes resources will be scarce during pregnancy). So, rather than trying to address emotional complexities, Rick just treats people like on/off switches. Then, when he does actually try to contemplate more sophisticated models of humans, it’s revealed that Rick knows so little about people that he basically just combines an almost random assortment of animals (and plant) together.
People’s emotions are Rick’s kryptonite. Hell, he almost admits it to himself in “The Wedding Squanchers” when he says that he couldn’t make marriage work, despite being able to do things that seem impossible. But this episode managed to present that fact without having to really comment on it, which is extremely impressive, considering the other absurd amount of character and series changes they put into this episode. Really, the fact that this revelation is secondary… I guess tertiary?… within the episode should be lauded. In most shows, this would be the focus of an entire episode, here, it’s just a thing that defines Rick as he plays out other plot lines, which, for the record, IS A GOOD THING.
THIS HAS BEEN JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Overall, this is a weird episode for me in that I didn’t like at all the first time I watched it, because the ending felt like a cop-out. In most shows, the concept of just jumping to another world at the end would literally be a huge deus ex machina that would be summarily ignored in the rest of the series. Now, having seen the rest of the series, this show averts that trope so hard it almost seems like they wrote the rest of the series as a f*ck you to all the shows that would just allow something so massive to go without comment.
I also have to give credit to the episode for showing us a Jerry and Beth relationship that actually starts to work, because Jerry is forced to actually be the Alpha Male he always wants Beth to think he is. I’m not saying that you have to be an Alpha Male or even that it’s a good thing, but it’s what Beth was looking for and what Jerry wanted to be. Other relationships might not work well with that dynamic, but the reason why it works here is that they are both very broken people (wait ’til “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez”).
So, ultimately, I enjoyed this episode more on the re-watch, because, in context, this is a massive game-changer, not a typical sitcom reset.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
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