Rick and Morty find out that living and dying is a lot different on the multiversal scale.
At Breakfast, Rick (Justin Roiland) tries to ignore the family and then drag Morty (Roiland) onto an adventure, only for it to be revealed that the new family rules require him to actually ask Morty politely to join him on adventures. Rick is extremely angry about it, but Morty does still agree when asked. Rick goes to collect “Death Crystals,” rocks that show you how you’re going to die. Rick uses them to avoid dying by finding out all of the ways in which he’s about to die and avoiding them. Morty takes one and tries to use it to find out how he gets to die old and married to Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), his perpetual crush. Morty ends up crashing the car, killing Rick, only for a hologram Rick to appear and try to convince Morty to revive Rick. It turns out that Morty doesn’t want to clone him, because that sends him to a different death, so he gets harangued by a horde of Holo-Ricks.
Meanwhile, Rick, having closed down his automated revival system in “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez,” finds that his equipment has instead shunted his consciousness to a different universe. He gets revived in a universe run by fascists until he ends up dying. He gets revived yet again in a shrimp universe, which turns out to ALSO be fascist, as does the care bear universe he ends up in next. He finally finds a universe of wasps that help him get home.
Morty ends up trying to follow the flow of the death crystal, but ends up pissing off a bully who creates a lot of futures where he kills Morty. Morty then ends up following the crystal until it leads him to kill the bully, as well as other bullies, then the cops and eventually the army. He surrenders and is tried, but by following the crystal avoids any consequences. He ends up becoming an Akira-esque monster at the heart of a giant nanotech tree. Rick and Wasp Rick arrive and remove the crystal from Morty. The Holo-Rick then takes the nanotech to become a physical being and then a physical god, but Wasp Rick kills him. Jerry and Beth (Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke) then try to lecture Rick about endangering Morty, but Morty insists that it was all his own doing.
At the end of the Episode, Rick and Morty both speak over each other about the fact that the new Rick and Morty can do “a little of this and a little of that,” meaning they can do some classic Rick and Morty stuff while sometimes being experimental and creative. 100 years of Rick and Morty pushing it to the limit, but also not pushing it at all. Summer (Spencer Grammer) then comes out and mocks them, ruining the Season 4 premiere speech, much to their anger.
At the end, it’s revealed that the future Morty was chasing was not a happy one at all, but merely a future in which Jessica lies to people as they’re dying alone and unloved, breaking Morty’s heart.
Rick and Morty is back and… trying to convey the impossible situation that they’re in. They have to be loyal to their old formulas so as to not alienate their fanbase but also try to be innovative at the same time. In this episode, their compromise is that one of the plotlines, Rick’s, is similar to a classic episode, while Morty’s plotline contains innovative storytelling and animation, including directly referencing Akira in several transformation sequences. Interspersed throughout the episode are a number of callbacks, including the return of Mr. Meeseeks, along with a number of new elements. Then, in traditional Rick and Morty fashion, they proceed to lampshade the hell out of the plotlines at the end saying that as long as the series keeps going, they are just going to “split the difference.”
Both plotlines, however, still deal with the infinite possibilities of the multiverse and how that relates to mortality. The crystals that are the, essentially magical, applied phlebotinum for the episode show a myriad of possibilities to anyone holding them, essentially showing all of the possible universes that can spawn from this moment. Rick claims that their only real use is to figure out when the other guy in a shoot-out is reloading. Morty, in a surprising moment of genre-savviness, realizes that this means he can use it to determine what courses of action to take, including figuring out what words to say and what weapons will be useful against future opponents. However, he never considers the, eventually true, possibility that what he’s seeing is not what he thinks it is. Since Morty has an unbelievably strong crush on Jessica, that rings true.
Morty’s plotline showing that each action just creates a multitude of different ways to die is a variation on the idea of Quantum Immortality: Namely that you can’t ever really die because there’s always a possibility that you’re alive in another multiverse and if there are an infinite number of universes, then the possibility is always above 0. So, you would never know that you’re dead, because there’s just another you existing out there that branched off from your current line. In this episode, Morty just gets to pick which of the paths he’s consciously following, edging out the parallel version of himself that normally would be following it. He’s not traveling between universes so much as just staying in the right one as it’s made.
Rick’s plotline embraces the more traditional Rick and Morty version of the multiverse, with Rick waking up over and over again in universes that clearly diverged a long time ago, and with them being increasingly more distinct from the original as time goes on. Interestingly, though, a running gag is that Rick keeps running into fascist universes, to the point that he complains that it is now the default in the multiverse. When he finally finds a non-fascist universe, it’s occupied by humanoid wasps that specifically developed empathy to deal with the horrible nature of what they do naturally. I’m not sure if this is a joke about the fact that the word “fascist” gets thrown around a lot more lately, or if it was just because someone wanted to write the words “Care Bear Hitler” down really badly. Honestly, I can’t blame them if it’s the latter.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
I admit that it’s tough to come up with a theory based only on the first episode of the season, but here goes: I think the reason why Rick ends up in fascist universes is actually because most of the Ricks outside of them destroyed their clones the way that Rick did back in “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez.”
In the past, we have seen that most Ricks, even if they are of different species or constructions, still tend to take the same general actions throughout their lives unless the divergence is a specific part of their backstory. So, it stands to reason that a lot of Ricks who built the cloning devices that are a part of “Operation Phoenix” probably also went through a time of trying to use it and arriving at the conclusion that aging is a part of life. So, who wouldn’t go through that experience in that way? Well, one would be wasps, because an insect’s life cycle is in distinct stages, so they probably wouldn’t ever clone “younger” versions that were larvae or pupae as they’d be useless. Another would be people who are too afraid of death to learn that lesson, and there are few people more cowardly than fascists.
I mean, think about it, what do fascist systems almost always use to acquire power? Fear of outsiders and traitorous insiders trying to secretly threaten the citizenry. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to being manipulated. Being manipulated leads to wearing a ton of matching outfits and executing minorities. Since most fear is derived from the fact that one day we’re going to die and we have no idea what happens after that, and that Rick is subject to this as we’ve seen in the past, it makes sense that the fascist Ricks would be the ones most afraid of dying and most willing to keep their resurrection systems active. So, it’s not that fascism is the “default” now, it’s just that fascists were the ones most likely to still have the machinery.
NOW LEAVING THE CORNER
Overall, this was a pretty solid episode of Rick and Morty, even if it seems pretty standalone at this point.
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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