The creator of Adventure Time brings us a trippy and strangely brilliant series.
Welcome to Midnight gospel, a vidcast produced by Clancy Gilroy (Duncan Trussell), where Clancy interviews people throughout his simulated multiverse voiced by Phil Hendrie. Clancy projects his consciousness into an avatar, then lands on a planet and typically conducts an interview on a topic that is almost completely separate from the events which are happening around him with topics including magic, mindfulness, religion, loss, and death. Interviewees include Dr. Drew Pinsky, Author Anne Lamott, and even Duncan Trussell’s mother.
This show is an unbelievable combination of insane and brilliant, but I have no idea what the ratio is of each. I don’t know what to think of it and I binged it twice in two days. There’s something so brilliant about the juxtaposition of the audio and the images, because the audio is mostly repurposed interviews from Duncan Trussell’s podcast “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour,” while the animation is… beautiful madness. The first episode, for example, takes place during a zombie apocalypse and features an interview with Dr. Drew Pinsky as the president of this world discussing the legalization and use of opiates and hallucinogens. During a zombie apocalypse. The discussion is amazingly sincere, mostly due to Trussell’s interviewing style, but it constantly appears to be in conflict with the surroundings… until suddenly it isn’t in conflict at all and makes perfect sense. That’s how most of the episodes work.
This isn’t a real follow-up to Adventure Time by creator Pendleton Ward that’s geared towards adults. This is an entirely different animal, aiming more towards trying to enlighten its audience in new and complex ways that eschew a lot of the traditional storytelling frameworks. Despite that, the show is a serial, with themes and ideas feeding into one another, leading up to a very interesting final episode that will leave you with a lot of questions and a bunch of answers that seem hard to handle. I am doubtful that this show will get renewed due to its very unusual nature, but I would love to see more of this.
I will warn you that this show is pretty adult, not just because there are f-bombs and boobs, but because they don’t actually explain many of the terms or people referenced in the dialogue. You might have to do some homework, which can be off-putting for a cartoon audience. Still, I think it’s well-done and I would advise you to at least try the first episode.
Fry finds out that he’s the chosen one yet again as Leela tries to save the environment.
This is my favorite of the four Futurama films. It’s got a ton of fun subplots, a lot of memorable jokes, and some creative visuals. The thing that holds it back the most is that it is essentially repeating the same plot idea of Fry being the Chosen One from “The Why of Fry.” Just like in that episode, Fry’s secret ability is his imperviousness to mind-reading, which likely derives from his being his own grandfather. The main thing this film does right is that it somehow builds up the connection between Fry and Leela throughout the story without having a lot of specifically romantic moments. Instead, it focuses on each of them doing the right thing to their own sense of morality and shows us that ultimately they both want to help each other, they both trust each other, and they’re both good people even if they aren’t always the smartest. Ken Keeler wrote the original finale in which Fry and Leela are implied to finally realize their feelings, but it was still nice to see them explicitly admit their love in this one.
The main thing I loved about this film was that all of the subplots and threads got adequate coverage and they all ended up playing in with each other, something that the show had sometimes struggled with. It just was well-done all around.
Here are the top 3.
Bender winning the poker tournament
Bender somehow wins the poker game by having a coaster dealt to him which contains the “King of Beers” logo on it. It’s even lampshaded by the commentators that it somehow counts, despite all logic. I just find it ridiculous that Bender’s luck apparently extends to bending the rules of poker.
2. The Striped Biologist Taunter
One of the extinct species contained within the Encyclopod is a species called the Striped Biologist Taunter. First, the name indicates there are multiple species of Biologist Taunters. Second, the species’s call is apparently “What are you gonna do, shoot us?” Third, they naturally evolved bullseyes, and that’s hilarious to me.
3. The Moon Landing
When Fry reads Richard Nixon’s thoughts, it’s revealed that the US faked the moon landing, but they did so on Venus. Given just how hard it is to land an object on Venus compared to the moon, it’s amazing to think of trying to fake a moon landing there. It just brings up so many more questions than it answers.
Out in space, a green wave brings life to a barren system with a violet dwarf star. On Mars, Leo Wong (Billy West) destroys a massive oasis and a habitat of the Martian Muck Leeches while trying to build “New Mars Vegas.” Leela (Katey Sagal) saves one of the leeches, which continually sucks blood from her. At an environmental protest, Frida Waterfall (Phil Hendrie), of the Waterfall family, ends up embedding her necklace in Fry’s (West) head accidentally after Leo tries to blow up the protestors. Leo gives Fry an entry chip to a poker tournament to keep him from suing. Leela supports the protestor, but Leo says he hired Professor Farnsworth (West) to do an environmental survey… which Leo is paying him to botch. Fry begins to hear people’s thoughts due to the necklace in his skull. He starts to go crazy until he meets a homeless man named Hutch (Hendrie) who gives Fry a tinfoil hat and reveals that he, too, can read minds. However, he is shocked to find that he can’t read Fry’s mind.
Back in New Mars Vegas, Bender (John DiMaggio) and the Robot Mafia are at the same theater and Bender hooks up with the Donbot’s (Maurice LaMarche) wife, Fanny (Tress MacNeille). Bender enters into the same poker tournament as Fry. Fry uses his mind-reading to cheat while Bender relies on luck from him being made up of 40% horseshoes, having the Donbot’s lucky foot as provided by Fanny, and stepping on a leprechaun. Bender and Fry make it to the final table and Fry gets four aces, but Bender somehow gets five kings, winning the tournament. However, this alerts the Donbot to Bender’s affair with Fanny, so the Robot Mafia drive the pair into the desert and shoot them. This is revealed to be a warning in Robot terms.
Leo, Leela, and Amy (Lauren Tom) are playing miniature golf. Leela complains about Leo’s sexism and mistreatment of the environment. Leo reveals that he’s building a giant miniature golf course with colossal holes. Leo plans to destroy a chunk of the galaxy to build it, including the violet dwarf system. Despite it having life on it, Farnsworth writes an environmental survey allowing Leo to destroy it. The environmental feminist protestors, or Feministas, go to protest at Leo’s club along with Leela, but end up accidentally killing the headless body of Agnew. Leela and the Feministas are declared outlaws and subsequently dedicate themselves to sabotaging Leo Wong. They use the muck leech as a mascot.
Fry gets abducted and introduced to the Legion of Mad Fellows, led by the Number 9 Man (David Herman). The Number 9 Man explains that the green wave is Chi, the thing that started all life in the universe. Chi previously had waned, but the presence of it in the violet dwarf system means that a new age is coming and Fry is the one who is supposed to guide it. Fry takes a job for Leo in order to spy on him. The Feministas keep gaining support, to the point that Leo asks Zapp Brannigan (West) to track them down. Bender agrees to help him for money. Farnsworth, Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and Zoidberg (West) get hijacked by the Feministas. Frida is killed by a mysterious “dark one.”
Fry is abducted again and informed that there was once an evolutionary arms race between the Dark Ones, who seek to destroy life, and the “Encyclopods,” the preservers of all life. After Chi subsided, the Encyclopods died out, but the violet dwarf star is actually an Encyclopod egg that they can hatch. However, a Dark One is going to try and destroy it. Since the Dark One’s thoughts are unreadable, but they can read minds, Fry is the only one who might be able to stop it. Fry gets a call from Leela and they arrange to meet, but Bender has leaked the location to Zapp. Zapp chases after the Feministas, who manage to narrowly escape thanks to Amy’s mini-golf expertise… until they’re caught anyway. The Feministas are convicted and put in prison.
With the Feministas gone, Fry seeks the Mad Fellows to help stop Leo. They give him the “Omega Device,” the only thing that can stop the Dark One if activated within a few feet of it. Fry and Hutch come up with a plan to find the Dark One at Leo’s ceremony to destroy the Violet Dwarf Star. Bender breaks the Feministas out of prison because it makes him public enemy number one again. They are helped by the Professor, Hermes, and Zoidberg who have joined their side. At Leo’s demolition, Fry searches for a person with unreadable thoughts and finds no one, except himself. Based on that, Fry concludes that HE is the Dark One, so he activates the Omega Device to kill himself. It does nothing to him, but kills the Martian Muck Leech, who is revealed to be the Dark One. As he dies he kills Hutch, revealed to be Frida’s lost brother, as Hutch pulls out Frida’s necklace and removes Fry’s powers. The Violet Dwarf hatches and the Encyclopod emerges. Zapp resumes his pursuit of the Feministas, but they escape in the Planet Express ship. Fry and Leela admit they love each other just as the ship goes into the wormhole, creating the opening for Futurama.
Zoidberg celebrates his freedom in a way that the rest of the planet finds unconscionable. Hilarity and war ensue.
It’s Freedom Day on Earth, a day in which people are encouraged to do whatever the hell they want, including naked hot tubbing. Zoidberg (Billy West) is particularly fond of the holiday, stating that Earth’s freedoms are given to everyone, while on his planet people suffer to get it. The Planet Express employees go to Washington, DC for a parade. Earth President Richard Nixon (West) asks the planet to salute the Earthican flag, Old Freebie, only to find out that Zoidberg has just eaten it as a celebration of his freedom. Enraged, Nixon orders his execution.
Zoidberg flees to the embassy of Decapod 10, his home planet. Ambassador Mervin (David Herman) supports Zoidberg, but Nixon is about to order the embassy raided until Leela (Katey Segal) tells Nixon that eating a flag is constitutionally protected. Nixon challenges this in the Supreme Court, where Zoidberg is defended by Old Man Waterfall (Phil Hendrie), the father of the deceased Free Waterfall, Sr. from “The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz” and grandfather of Free Waterfall, Jr. from “The Problem with Popplers.” Old Man Waterfall is a bisexual polygamist Satanist multi-war veteran lawyer who believes that freedom has to include things that challenge that freedom. The Court ends up ruling against Zoidberg (and also declaring polygamy legal) and ordering him to either publicly apologize or die.
Zapp Brannigan (West) comes to arrest Zoidberg at the embassy, but attempting to go on sovereign soil results in the Decapodians declaring war on Earth. They quickly defeat Earth’s forces due to Zapp giving an obvious spy the Earth defense codes. The Decapodians then enslave the humans and unveil their Mobile Oppression Palace. Fry (West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela try to fight back using a heat-seeking missile. It fails due to Decapodians being cold-blooded, until Zoidberg lights a flag on fire and attracts the missile to the mobile oppression palace. Zoidberg is hailed as a hero, eats another flag, then contemplates eating the Shroud of Turin.
This is one of the rare Futurama episodes that’s taking a firm and pretty unambiguous political stance. Sure, it gets couched in a ridiculous story, but throughout the episode the narrative clearly says that Zoidberg is the only one that is truly celebrating freedom. Since the episode is an analogue for burning a flag in protest, including having Zoidberg literally burn one, the show actually supports the constitutional right to protest your government through peaceful subversive acts. Given that this was 2002, after the invasion of Afghanistan but before the Iraq War, and patriotism was at a high, this is kind of a ballsy message.
This is the third episode focused on Zoidberg after “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?” and “That’s Lobstertainment,” and it’s actually a step up from the latter. Part of it is that this episode actually makes Zoidberg the optimist rather than his usual depressed self. They don’t make much mention of him being broke or perpetually alone. The closest thing we have to his usual negativity is when he’s thinking about his past on his home world of Decapod 10, where he claims people have to suffer for freedom. It shows that his life has been filled with people guilting him into different things. First, a woman who is not his mother (because Decapodians die when they mate) guilted him out of being a comedian by telling him he’d make his parents roll over in their graves. A man guilts him out of voting for a candidate by telling him it’d cause a recession. Last, the same woman makes him feel guilty for giving up being a comedian in favor of medicine.
What’s most interesting about Zoidberg’s past is that he says that he loves the Earth’s version of freedom more than his planet’s, but… is his planet any less free? His planet never seems to say that he can’t do anything, only that people try to talk you out of doing things, whereas the Earth tells you to indulge. That means that if you want to do something on Decapod 10, you have to be confident enough in your decision to deal with people saying that you shouldn’t do it. That’s not less free, it’s just more difficult and is likely to deter people from doing things for stupid reasons. However, Zoidberg prefers the complete indulgence of Earth… only to find out that Earth actually has LESS freedom to do certain acts.
Overall, not a bad episode, but definitely not one of the best ones.
Everything Old Man Waterfall says to the Supreme Court.
He starts by saying that unlike the Hyper-Chicken (Maurice LaMarche), he’s not a big city lawyer, which is like trying to out-Matlock Matlock. He then proceeds to give a speech about how he is a patriot:
‘Cause I lost my real hand plantin’ the flag when we took back Halley’s Comet! Yet it was worth it, so much do I love that flag. I love it even more than I love my seven wives — that’s right, I’m a polygamist. Yet I would gladly eat a flag myself, had I not used my intestine as a rope to hoist a flag made of my own skin, if it would protect the freedoms of the proud people who salute that flag. Freedom such as polygamy. I rest my case.
This is a funny, fairly impassioned speech which completely fails at being any kind of argument towards why eating a flag should be protected. He says that HE believes that it is a freedom that should be protected, but literally nothing about why he believes that. In contrast, the Hyper-Chicken says that freedom of speech applies only to what comes out of the mouth and cites a case saying that eating the Constitution was found to be non-protected speech. That’s right, the Hyper-Chicken was actually the better lawyer. Now, does that mean that the Supreme Court still had to side with him? No, but it does make it more reasonable in the episode.
Bender causes a massive environmental disaster and then loses his mind twice. Comedy!
The crew are told by the Professor (Billy West) that they are going to have to take a delivery of Colombian dark matter aboard the Juan Valdez tanker. Leela (Katey Sagal) worries about the risk of leaking and ends up refusing to participate when she finds out that it flies through a penguin preserve on Pluto. She goes to join the group protesting the tanker and Bender (John DiMaggio) is made captain, much to Fry’s (West) chagrin.
Leela joins Free Waterfall, Sr. (Phil Hendrie) in his organization “Penguins Unlimited” and tries to help them in their incompetent efforts to stop the tanker. On the ship, Bender quickly goes mad with power and annoys Fry until he quits. Depressed without Fry, Bender refuses to drink alcohol, resulting in him acting like a drunk, and crashes the tanker into Pluto, flooding the penguin preserve with the dark matter. Bender is sentenced to help clean up the penguins, but quickly decides to escape by putting on a tuxedo, retracting his limbs, and sliding off, but he ends up getting attacked by a killer whale and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, his system re-defaults to penguin, making him believe he’s actually a penguin. He tries to start a penguin family, with mixed results.
Back at Penguins Unlimited, it’s revealed that the dark matter has made the penguins ultra-fertile, to the point that they’re laying 420,756 times their previous egg rate (I did the math), and the eggs hatch 136 times faster than normal. I don’t know how all of these eggs are getting fertilized, but… well, let’s just not think about that. To avoid the population boom, the conservationists plan on hunting the penguins, something that Leela finds horrifying, but eventually agrees to do. However, she shoots Bender, resetting him back to normal. Leela tries to convince the conservationists not to hunt, but they refuse. Bender leads the penguins to attack the humans, resulting in them eating Waterfall. His father, Old Man Waterfall (Hendrie) vows to avenge him.
The penguins attack the rest of the humans, then Bender and Leela when he takes off his tuxedo. They flee onto an ice floe, but the penguins give chase and surround them. Fry returns in the ship and lands it on part of the ice floe, resulting in the penguins being dropped into a killer whale’s mouth. The trio escape, with Fry and Bender making amends. On Pluto, it’s revealed that the penguins now have guns… but appear to be using them on each other.
Two quick thoughts from this re-watch: First, baby penguins are adorable. This episode points that out multiple times and I give it credit for properly cashing in on the magical cuteness of the baby penguin.
Second, Penguin Preserve on Pluto would be a good name for a prog-rock album. I am surprised it’s not been done yet, but Google found nothing. It also bugs me that they call it the penguin preserve, but there are also orcas and puffins on Pluto. If it’s a preserve, why did you import one of their biggest predators? Also, I get that the penguins are the big attraction, but if you’re going to have other things there, why not call it the Polar Preserve on Pluto?
This episode is one of the more ripped-from the history books plotlines in the series, as opposed to a twist on a classic sci-fi trope, because it’s basically just a hilarious take on the Exxon Valdez disaster from 1989. Given that this episode aired in 2001 and when I watched it then I thought it was hilarious, apparently 12 years is the amount of time for an oil spill to move from tragic to comic. Admittedly, that’s because in this version all the penguins were fine and, in fact, improved by the accident, as opposed to the real version, but it’s still impressive that they depict a horrible environmental tragedy and make it hilarious. I think the best crystallization of how it works is when they have Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and Linda (Tress MacNeille) show the penguins slipping and sliding on the oil with funny sounds added and the caption “Sound Effects Added To Lessen Tragedy.”
Penguins Unlimited is a shot at Ducks Unlimited, a conservation group that preserves wetlands but also advocates population control through hunting. Leela points out that it’s not exactly “natural conservation” if you’re just doing it because you enjoy killing the animals. However, the end of the episode basically points out that everything is kind of pointless because all of the efforts now are just designed to counteract what we’ve already done in the past, so human involvement is implicitly always a very mixed bag.
Overall, I think this episode is fun from start to finish. It’s not particularly insightful and doesn’t have as many gags that I can point to and go “this was great,” but it’s such a goofy and interesting premise that I always enjoy it.
Because I’m 12 years old on the inside, I’m going to have to say it’s the following exchange:
Free Waterfall Sr.: Good way to avoid frostbite, folks: Put your hands between your buttocks. That’s nature’s pocket.
Leela: Uh … I think I’ll go check on Bender.
Free Waterfall Sr.: Watch that he doesn’t pick your pocket.
Free Waterfall has a few of these pieces of old-timey wisdom, including rubbing your body with permafrost to keep warm, but this one is definitely the best. He’s literally got his thumb up his ass while he says this, and I can’t think of anything funnier than that.
The Planet Express crew finds a delicious foodstuff and strikes it rich… right until the bill comes due.
Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are on the way back from a delivery only to realize that they have no food. After foraging on a planet they discover tiny motionless animals that resemble chicken nuggets. Upon trying one, Leela finds that they’re delicious and the crew takes a load of them back to Earth. They decide to sell them under the name “Popplers,” because that is one of the only Trademarkable names left. They’re quickly discovered by “Fishy” Joe Gilman (Maurice LaMarche), who offers to sell them at his restaurant “Fishy Joe’s.” They soon make a fortune, selling millions of the creatures. The only seeming downside is protests by Free Waterfall, Jr., an annoying hippie (Phil Hendrie). However, Leela finds a week-old Poppler (Lauren Tom) that ends up calling her “Mama.”
Leela tries to stop people from eating the now-revealed-to-be-sentient creatures, but Fishy Joe refuses. Then, the Omicronians invade Earth again and inform the world that the Popplers are actually baby Omicronians. To make things even, they ask to eat 198 billion people, but Zapp Brannigan (West) and Kif (LaMarche) negotiate Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8 (LaMarche), down to just one human… Leela.
At the eating, Zapp tries to disguise an orangutan as Leela, but Free Waterfall, Jr. saves the ape by exposing the ruse. Leela is sent to be eaten by Lrrr, but the baby Poppler, now called Jrrr, tries to stop him. Lrrr instead eats the hippie, which gets him super high, leading the Omicronians to leave. There’s a celebratory feast, but Leela is offended at eating dolphin, because they’re intelligent. Bender counters that this dolphin played the instant lottery.
This is one of the bigger continuity-referencing episodes thus far in the series. We have Zapp Brannigan, Kif, and the Omicronians, all featured with relatively little re-introduction. Additionally, this episode gets referenced several times in the future, including having Jrrr become recurring in the later seasons. It’s also the first episode that tells us Leela’s and Fry’s first names, Turanga and Phillip (though Turanga is actually Leela’s family name). It’s fitting, then, that this episode is consistently listed among the best episodes of the show.
Part of what makes this episode so good is that it ratchets everything up to 10. First, the crew finds the Popplers, then quickly starts making a fortune off of them by selling them at Fishy Joe’s. Second, while the title promises a problem with Popplers, it’s hard to guess that the problem is that THEY’RE SENTIENT BABIES. Third, the response from the Omicronians is complete genocide, which is reduced down to Leela. Fourth, in the stinger, it darkly parodies ideas of eating certain animals by having it be okay to eat a dolphin as long as it was a particularly stupid dolphin.
The whole episode is a parody of all the discussions about ethical food consumption. I remember some talk on TV from the year before this episode aired, most of which just kinda involved people yelling at each other about the inevitability of eating otters and pandas versus the inevitability of eating mung beans for every meal. This episode points out both of the extremes: The Hippies trying to force a lion to eat tofu versus Fishy Joe’s assertion that we only don’t eat humans because “it tastes lousy.” In the meantime, we have Leela who is actually trying to find a reasonable ethical compromise.
The Fishy Joe’s Poppler jingle.
It’s absurdly honest about the product and is sung to the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” song, which is the common intro to the Popeye the Sailor Man song. The lyrics go:
Pop a Poppler in your mouth, When you come to Fishy Joe’s, What they’re made of is a mystery, Where they come from, no one knows, You can pick ’em, You can lick ’em, You can chew ’em, You can stick ’em, If you promise not to sue us, You can shove one up your nose.
I mean, it’s openly stating that the product is completely unknown and that the company doesn’t really care about any consumer beyond avoiding lawsuits. Despite this, it’s set to a montage that shows them being sold by the millions.
Rick and Morty try to save the world through the power of their music.
A giant floating head (Dan Harmon) appears in the sky above Earth and starts exclaiming “Show me what you got!” Rick (Justin Roiland) immediately recognizes the threat as a Cromulon and takes Morty (Roiland) to the Pentagon to inform the President (Keith “f*cking” David). It turns out that the Cromulons travel to planets seeking a live performance of a catchy new song. Unfortunately, the Cromulon’s arrival created an earthquake which killed all of Earth’s famous musicians except for Ice-T, who won’t make it in time to save the planet. Desperate, the President asks Rick and Morty to perform. Rick proceeds to spontaneously compose the song “Get Schwifty” which, as the President says, is a jam. The head is pleased by this and teleports Earth to another galaxy filled with giant heads for another performance.
Meanwhile, Beth (Sarah Chalke), Jerry (Chris Parnell), and Summer (Spencer Grammer) evacuate to the local church where Principal Gene Vagina (Phil Hendrie) decides to go outside and pray to the head. By coincidence, the head tells Rick and Morty “I like what you got” at the same moment that Vagina is praying, so the people believe that Vagina’s prayer pleased the head. After the head moves Earth to a head-filled area, Vagina convinces everyone he can speak to the heads and turns the neighborhood into a cult under his rule.
Rick is joined by Ice-T (Dan Harmon) to compose a new song. Morty wants to run away with his family, but Rick claims to not have enough charge in the portal gun. This is proven false when Rick shortly forgets his lie and grabs snacks for Ice-T. Morty, angry, steals the portal gun and ends up with Birdperson (Dan Harmon) who advises Morty indirectly to put his faith in Rick. Ice-T reveals himself to be an alien from Alphabetrium whose true form is that of Water T. He was punished for his lack of empathy by being frozen and banished, so he doesn’t care about what happens to Earth.
Beth and Jerry are pleased with how Summer is behaving now that they are part of a cult, but when offered positions within the cult, they refuse, believing that using the Cult as a substitute for parenting doesn’t work. They’re summarily set to be launched into the sky by balloons.
Rick begins to play his improvised song, but it is poorly received. Morty returns to find out that Earth is up, however, a rogue General, General Nathan (Kurtwood Smith), launches nukes at the Cromulons over the President’s objection. This disqualifies Earth and the Cromulons try to disintegrate it, but Ice-T blocks the shot and advocates that Rick and Morty should get a shot. They, along with the President, perform “Head Bend Over,” which wins the contest. At the same time, all of the Cromulons’ reactions to Rick and Morty are interpreted as being against Principal Vagina’s claims of being chosen by the heads, resulting in him being launched into the sky, temporarily.
This episode marks the first time (aside from the temporary Giant Santa in “Anatomy Park”) that Rick and Morty face a public, global threat. It’s also the first time that we see them interacting with the President, who will later become the focus of the Season 3 Finale. Between these two episodes, it’s implied that the President will call on Rick and Morty to address a number of off-screen threats, but never allows Morty to take any pictures. Interestingly, the President doesn’t attempt to threaten Rick himself, which probably suggests that he believes that Rick won’t tell anyone or that telling Rick not to do something is the only way to guarantee that he does it. Justin Roiland says that he believes that Rick and the President were best friends in the past, but Rick’s intro in this episode suggests that they haven’t met before.
Rick and Morty’s arc is ostensibly about whether or not Rick actually cares about anything. While Birdperson seems to agree with Morty’s assertion that Rick doesn’t care about anything other than himself and never thinks about the consequences, Rick’s conversation with Ice-T makes it clear that he does actually care about stuff, even though he has spent a lot of his life trying to avoid it. It also confirms that Rick has a history of being a musician, something that he will spend more time doing after this episode. It’s implied that Rick basically comes up with two songs spontaneously, something that I imagine is extremely difficult, even if they have very repetitive lyrics.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
I don’t have much in this episode, but I have one theory about Ice-T. When we see Ice-T leave from Rick, his last words to Rick are a dismissive statement that he’s just going to wander around the universe, but then he reappears spontaneously to say, in an unconvincing manner, that suddenly he cares more. It seems like a complete 180 of his character combined with a deus ex machina of him saving the planet from the Cromulons. So, what actually caused the change of heart?
Ice-T didn’t learn to care from Rick, he learned that you can give people another chance from Morty coming back. It stands to reason that, although Ice-T had left the planet, he still wanted to see the results of the contest, if only to know if he could return to the planet and resume his life of luxury and not giving a f*ck. That means he’s watching when Morty returns, despite having given up on Rick previously, and sees how happy Rick is to see him. We now know that Magma-Q, Ice-T’s father, is the one that banished him. This is likely the one thing Ice-T relates to and realizes that his father will be happy to see him, even if he won’t admit it. So, he decides to do the one thing that might reunite them: Pretend to care. That’s why he doesn’t sound convincing, because he’s not actually caring much about Rick and Morty, he just knows that’s the only way to see his father again. Of course, this still means he has realized he cares, just not about Rick and Morty.
LEAVING THE CORNER
This is a pretty solid episode, but it’s still less sophisticated and the storytelling is a lot less efficient than other stories. On the other hand, Mr. Bulldops would have been my profile name if it hadn’t been taken.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
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.