Starring a prick who has two thumbs, here’s “Something Ricked This Way Comes.”
Summer (Spencer Grammer) asks Rick (Justin Roiland) for a ride to work at her new job at the store “Needful Things.” It turns out Summer’s boss, Mr. Needful (Alfred Molina), is the Devil and the store “sells” cursed objects to people for no money. Needful tries to give Rick a microscope that would make him mentally handicapped, but Rick turns the tables and develops a device that can determine the curse on any object. Deciding to f*ck with the Devil, Rick starts a store called “Curse Purge Plus,” where he removes parts of the curses on the items to make them incredibly valuable. The Devil, realizing Rick is better at evil than he is, tries to kill himself, but Summer saves him and gets him to re-make the store into an internet site, before he double crosses her. To get revenge, she and Rick work out, become muscled giants, then beat the hell out of the Devil, as well as some neo-nazi and a member of the Westboro Baptist church.
In the B-Plot, Morty (Roiland) asks Jerry (Chris Parnell) to help him with his science fair project, a model of the solar system. Jerry becomes irate when Morty mentions that Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. He refuses to accept this, something that leads a group of Plutonians to use him as a source of propaganda to fight against accusations that Pluto has been shrinking. Despite the fact that he has absolutely no scientific credibility and is being bankrolled by the people that would most benefit from what he’s saying, Jerry becomes a star scientist and is beloved by the population. A real scientist, Scroopy Noopers (Nolan North), tells Morty that the Plutonian corporations have actually mined the planet so much it shrank, which Morty tries to tell Jerry. Jerry refuses to listen, but eventually realizes he’s an idiot and tries to tell the truth to Pluto before reconciling with Morty.
This makes the second episode where Rick and Morty are in separate plots, after “Raising Gazorpazorp,” but the plots in this one are a huge improvement over that episode.
Rick and Summer’s plot is a subversion of the traditional “Deal with the Devil” trope right from the beginning, because Rick immediately recognizes who Needful really is. Usually, finding out that the mystery salesman is the Devil is a major plot point, but to Rick it’s just an observation to make in passing. He even lists all the shows (including Friday the 13th: The Series) that the Devil is ripping off (though Rick avoids pointing out that Needful Things is itself a Steven King book and movie about this exact plot). After the Devil tries to outsmart Rick, which fails miserably, Rick decides to mess with the Devil by using science to render him powerless. The Devil even says of Rick:
People like Rick are making me obsolete. I mean seriously, I may be the Devil but your grandpa is the Devil! I just want to go back to hell where everybody thinks I’m smart and funny.
That’s the beauty of Rick Sanchez. Since he believes that everything is meaningless, even good and evil can be rendered pointless. In this episode, the Devil’s items’ punishments, while cruel, teach people lessons about their own personal faults. Rick doesn’t give a crap about human morality or ethics, believing that science is more powerful. Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson), the first victim we see, even has the traditional breakdown from the end of a normal story, only for Rick to give him an injection which removes any consequence and causes Goldenfold to shout “I haven’t learned a thing!” Even at the end of the episode, after Summer has been betrayed by the Devil, she and Rick ponder whether or not there’s something they could learn from this experience, but then instead decide to beat the Devil up.
Meanwhile, Jerry and Morty basically go through a thinly-veiled metaphor for how companies can manipulate science reporting. Jerry is reported by the media to be a scientist and is even awarded the Plutobel Prize, despite the fact that all he does is say that all of the other scientists are wrong. He never provides a case for why they’re wrong, nor does he actually listen to the explanations for why Pluto isn’t a planet. He just stubbornly states his opinion over and over again, but because the opinion is profitable to the wealthy, they promote it as a fact. Most people seem to say this episode is a metaphor for Climate Change, but it could just as easily be one for smoking causing cancer or heliocentricity, if you replace “company” with “church.” The Plutonians could easily be a metaphor for any kind of group that’s easily manipulated by the media.
So, the episode’s about how science can be abused. Rick abuses it to eliminate people having to learn from their mistakes while Jerry and the Plutonian elite abuse it to promote an agenda that they can benefit from. These might seem to be connected, but the message from each one is actually pretty different. As Rick says in another episode, it’s just a “cosmetic connection our mind mistakes for thematic.”
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
I think Rick particularly has it out for the Devil, because the existence of a Devil suggests, although it does not necessarily require, the existence of a God. In other words, this would make Rick wrong about his grand pronouncement that “there is no God” and call into question his belief that everything is meaningless. After all, if there is a higher power that created the multiverse, then it’s probable that life actually inherently does have meaning.
While Rick usually dispatches people who try to one-up him fairly quickly, he goes to extraordinary lengths to make the Devil suffer, lengths that even he later realizes he didn’t really want to reach. So, Rick got insecure about maybe being completely wrong about one of his bigger postulates, and overreacted, causing the Devil to almost kill himself.
See, it’s sentences like that that remind me how much I love this show.
LEAVING THE CORNER
This is a great episode, even by Rick and Morty standards. It’s right up at the top of my list of best episodes, particularly because listening to Alfred Molina say “I’m the Devil, beeyotch!” is basically crack for my ears.