A Rick and Morty Meta-episode goes off of the rails… or does it?
This episode is almost impossible to accurately summarize because the story is revealed to be an anthology crafted by a meta-character that is trapped within a larger meta-narrative that is trapped within a storytelling device that is contained within a commercial. Still, here we go:
Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland) are on a train with no memory of how they got there, but everyone on the train is telling stories which are related to Rick. Rick finds Morty and ends up discovering that the train is a giant circle, never going anywhere, because it’s just a storytelling device. Rick detonates a container of continuity so that they can move around the train after killing the ticket taker. They manage to survive using meta-fictional awareness and eventually arrive at the lead car, where they find the Story Lord (Paul Giamatti). The Story Lord beats the crap out of the pair, often so hard that they leave canon, before draining them of their narrative potential. Eventually, he shows them how the story of Rick and Morty ends, but Rick destroys the narrative by bringing in Jesus (Chris Meloni), allowing him to trap the Story Lord inside of the broken terrible story. Rick tries to stop the train, but it’s revealed that the train is actually a toy that the real Morty bought at the citadel of Ricks. Inside the Story Lord’s domain, he explains the meta-story to Jesus, who then uses his powers to derail the toy train.
Welcome back Rick and Morty and thank you for deciding to try and break every boundary that exists in narrative structure.
First, I want to give the show credit for not backing away on anthology episodes. Since the first one, “Rixty Minutes,” was one of the best episodes of the show, and of television in general, fans of the show have taken shots at their two follow-ups “Interdimensional Cable 2” and “Morty’s Mind Blowers.” I thought those episodes were actually pretty good, but I acknowledge that they weren’t at the level of “Rixty Minutes.” This episode doesn’t quite reach the original’s heights, but it manages to reach an almost unheard of level of deconstruction of narrative theory, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
I once said that the “Three Stories” episode of House was one of the best examples of a pataphysical narrative that was actually understandable, even though people can’t even agree on what constitutes “pataphysics.” I am not sure what definition currently dominates, but I am positive that this episode meets it, because this is metaphysics on metaphysics on metaphysics. This episode has more nested levels of narrative than there were dream levels in their Inception parody in “Lawnmower Dog” and the nested levels of the story can actually interact with each other, because why not? Perhaps the most insane example is the part where the ticket taker from the story is killed, but then wakes up in a “Blips and Chitz” VR simulator a la “Mortynight Run,” has an existential crisis, then it’s revealed that he’s just dying in the train reality… only for the camera to go back and focus on another character inside the “Blips and Chitz” reality who believes that his virginity keeps the universe going because they live in the ticket taker’s mind… only for that reality to die when Rick mercy kills it, which the kid in the sub-reality thinks is because of him. Or maybe it’s when the Jesus that Rick prayed for inside of Story Lord’s fake ending to Rick and Morty the series that managed to derail the fake narrative inside of the train uses his powers to derail a train inside of the “real” world. THAT SENTENCE WAS JUST WRITTEN AND IT HURTS MY BRAIN BUT I LOVE IT.
It would take me days to sort through all of the references and meta-references in this episode, but there are two that I want to bring up now. One is that the map of the train is actually the story wheel that Dan Harmon repeatedly has brought up as the backbone of his storytelling. Rick even points out that the episode has to follow the same beats in order for them to get to the climax allowing them to get out. I mentioned Wisecrack’s dissection of it in my review for “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.” The second is that, in order to break the usual narrative, Rick has Morty tell a story that passes the Bechdel test, something that Rick and Morty almost never passes, according to its critics. However, critics of the Bechdel Test point out that trying to match an artificial standard often leads people to sacrifice appropriate storytelling, particularly when the writer is not naturally progressive, exemplified when Morty cannot tell an unforced story that passes it. I just think both of these are strong commentaries by the show on its own storytelling limitations.
Overall, honestly an amazing episode and I may spend more time going through it in the future. It’s got so many shots at the fandom and at critics alike as well as at the show itself it’s amazing.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
How could I even come up with a theory in an episode in which basically no events actually happen, and the ones that do are part of a fake commercial and commentary on capitalism? Well, actually the fake commercial is the theory. I’m sure that several of you immediately tried to search for whether or not the Story-Train website was real, only to be slightly confused when, rather than a fake page (or even a real one), the page simply didn’t exist. Why would Cartoon Network go to the effort of buying the domain but then not at least put SOMETHING on the page (aside from just trying to avoid someone stealing it for a scam)? Because Rick doesn’t want other people selling his crap in this dimension, where he’s fictional and can’t collect royalties. How can a fictional character impact the real world? Well, in the episode, Jesus manages to derail the real train even though he’s a fictional idea within a fictional setting, so the idea might be that Rick can do the same. As to why it doesn’t have a message from Rick, he probably can’t do that much, only delete the page. Is this ridiculous? Yes, but I don’t have time to come up with anything else if I want this posted before Monday is over.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in a week.
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NEXT – 38: Promortyus
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