And trust me when I say, never thought Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke could be TOO soapy.
Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl/Ali Skovbye) and Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke/Roan Curtis) met when they were teenagers and have been best friends ever since, nearly three decades. Now, in 2003, Tully is hosting her own hit show and Kate is getting divorced from her husband Johnny (Ben Lawson) while trying to keep her relationship with her daughter, Marah (Yael Yurman). The show simultaneously plays through their teenage years, their twenties when they were trying to get started in the television industry, and the present.
I am a big fan of Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke and I was hoping that this would be a fun show highlighting both of their comic talents or, at least, their dramatic abilities. Unfortunately, this show did not do that. Not that Heigl and Chalke aren’t great in this show, they are, but the material frequently fights against itself. It constantly tries the most gimmicky and soap-opera-esque plots and the writing forces everyone to overact just to accommodate the lines.
I will say that I think that the girls who play the young versions of the characters do a great job. Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis both look like they could be the younger versions of the present day and also do rudimentary versions of their future mannerisms that are just different enough to make you think that they will, one day, become Tully and Kate.
A big part of what doesn’t work is that the show’s structure tries to make many of the themes play out simultaneously in the present and both of the past storylines, but the fact that we know how the storylines play out often ruins the impact of the past ones. For example, you kinda know how Kate’s relationship with Johnny will play out, since they’re getting a divorce in the present. Also, in order to keep the past plots secret, people in the “present” of 2003 will seemingly intentionally avoid saying anything about it, which becomes really annoying the fourth or fifth time you notice it. It probably would have been better if they just had two plotlines running. Maybe just do the 70s and the 80s plotlines and save the 2003 for later.
Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is a hyper-observant investigator who uses his skills to pretend to be a psychic detective along with his best friend Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill). The two worked in Santa Barbara, California, alongside the Santa Barbara Police Department under Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson). The two regularly pair with Det. Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Shawn’s now-wife Juliet “Jules” O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), and seek help from Shawn’s retired detective father Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen). It’s been 6 years since most of the cast moved to San Francisco when the show ended and Lassie has been the Chief of Police in Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, Lassie recently was shot and had a stroke during the operation to save his life, resulting in him being confined to a wheelchair with memory loss. It’s up to the Psych team to figure out who shot Lassie. Guests include Sarah Chalke as Lassie’s Nurse, Joel McHale as Lassie’s father, Richard Schiff as Lassie’s doctor, and Kurt Fuller, Jimmi Simpson, Sage Brocklebank, and Jazmyn Simon reprising their roles as Woody Strode, Mary Lightly, Buzz McNab, and Selene.
So, to truly appreciate this film, you not only need to have seen the show Psych, but also to know that Timothy Omundson had a major stroke in real life 3 years ago right before they filmed the first Psych movie. As a result, he was only in a small cameo via video in the film. His recovery has been hard, but honestly pretty inspiring. I don’t know the full extent of his mobility, particularly in his left arm, but I suppose it would have been necessary to address it somehow in the film. It surprised me, though, that this movie directly incorporated the stroke, albeit here from surgery, into Lassiter’s character. However, it worked amazingly. I’ve always loved Psych, so I admit that my opinion on this film might be a little biased, but having Lassie going through such a deeply personal journey enhanced almost everything about this film, even compared to the first movie.
The highlight of the show Psych, from the pilot on, was less the detective work of Shawn or the police, but more the interplay between Shawn and Gus. James Roday and Dulé Hill have such a wonderful natural chemistry that it makes almost any conversation between the two amusing. The friendship between Shawn and Gus is among the most believable on film, despite the fact that they are almost complete opposites in personality. This movie doesn’t mess with that formula, which is the right call, particularly since it’s been 3 years since we last saw them.
The main story is more compelling than usual, though, because it involves finding the person who hurt Lassie. Since the stakes seem higher, it has an added level of gravitas, even though the mystery is solved in the usual Psych style; which is to say a number of goofy scenes that slowly come together based around a number of coincidences and independent investigations somehow filling in the gaps. The film makes sure that the audience never forgets the center of the movie by having multiple scenes of Lassie questioning what his life means now that he might be physically and mentally reduced from what he was. Given that Omundson himself was likely dealing with those same thoughts, the performance is incredibly natural and powerful. I don’t want to spoil it, but the last scene with him in the film did legitimately reduce me to tears.
Overall, this was a solid movie if you’re a fan of the Psych franchise. The creators have said they want to make 5 films, and right now that almost seems like too few.
Sometimes a show just can’t keep the quality up to the end. A lot of the times shows go downhill for a while after they start running low on ideas, and sometimes they just won’t give up and die with dignity. However, even if the writing is on the wall and you’re given a year to plan to go out, you can still screw it all up with a bad ending.
For this entry, I am going to make two caveats:
The episode has to be intended as a finale. That means either it’s clear the production team knew the show was over, or didn’t have reason to believe it was going to keep going. So cliffhangers don’t count unless they were made AFTER the show was cancelled. Additionally, if an episode was meant to be the finale, but the network aired it out of order, only the intended finale counts.
If the show was rebooted later, the original finale still counts.
Also, The Sopranos is not going to be on here, because I have a long-running theory that makes me like that finale, and I refuse to debate it right now. If I’m wrong, then… well, it sucks.
RUNNER UP: Of Course He’s Dead (Two and a Half Men)
The Show: Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) is a jingle writer who lives a hedonistic lifestyle. His brother, Alan (Jon Cryer), and nephew Jake (Angus T. Jones) move in after Alan’s wife leaves him. Eventually, after Charlie dies, his house is bought by billionaire Walden Schmidt (Ashton Kutcher), who lets Alan and Jake stay. Eventually Jake leaves and Charlie’s unknown biological daughter Jenny (Amber Tamblyn) moves in.
The Finale: Alan receives a letter from a lawyer saying that Charlie has millions in unclaimed royalties, but can’t find Charlie’s death certificate. It turns out that Charlie is actually alive, having been kept prisoner by his crazy stalker Rose (Melanie Lynskey), after she caught him in bed with a goat. Alan, Jake, and Walden start to receive threats and the police tell them that they caught Charlie, but it’s actually Christian Slater. Charlie approaches the house, but a piano he ordered crushes him. The camera then shows creator Chuck Lorre, who says “winning!” then is crushed by a second piano.
This doesn’t make the list because this show had pretty much lost all of its quality when Charlie Sheen left. The writers never figured out what to do with Walden or Jenny, constantly shifting their characters, and it just kind of limped on for four years. Ensemble casts exist on relationships and when you can’t keep characters consistent, then the relationships can’t be consistent. However, dedicating your finale to throwing a tantrum at Charlie Sheen over him being a d*ck doesn’t really age well, particularly since it’s been revealed that Sheen’s behavior was related to him being diagnosed HIV positive. While the viewers would have understood what was happening at the time, I think anyone that watches this in a decade (if anyone does) probably won’t get what the hell happened and it’ll just seem like a waste of time.
10) These are the Voyages… (Star Trek: Enterprise)
The Show: This show takes place before any previous Star Trek series, in the 22nd century, aboard the spaceship Enterprise, the first vessel capable of real, effective interstellar exploration by humanity. The crew includes Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), Science Officer T’Pol (Jolene Blalock), Chief Engineer Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer), Tactical Officer Reed (Dominic Keating), Communications Officer Sato (Linda Park), Helmsman Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), and Medical Officer Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley).
The Finale: Taking place in the 24th Century, Star Trek: The Next Generation characters William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are looking for guidance on an issue (the TNG Episode “The Pegasus”) and decide to review the decommissioning of the first Enterprise. They interact at points with the Enterprise crew, who are holograms here. Captain Archer is set to give a speech, but gets sidetracked trying to rescue the kidnapped daughter of an ambassador. The kidnappers board the ship and Trip Tucker dies saving Captain Archer. Archer makes his speech and Riker figures out what he’s going to do. The last shot is a montage of Star Trek footage and Captains Kirk, Picard, and Archer giving the “where no man has gone before” speech.
This would probably be higher up if I had ever really liked Enterprise, but it remains the worst Star Trek series in my opinion. The only episodes I really liked were the ones set in the Mirror Universe where humans were the bad guys, because those seemed original and compelling, but most of the series just felt like recycled old ideas with skimpier outfits. What a waste of a Bakula. However, this has to go down as one of the worst finales because it’s a finale that doesn’t even really feature the characters of the show. Instead, the episode takes place during a different series and everyone from Enterprise appears only by hologram. Moreover, the events in the hologram take place six years after the rest of the series without a compelling reason for doing so and one of the main characters is killed as an afterthought. This episode was so bad that I don’t think I’ve seen a list of the worst Star Trek properties that didn’t include it, often at number one. It was so bad that it ended 18 consecutive years of Star Trek being on the air. When you can tank an entire franchise for a while, you earn this spot.
9) Remember the Monsters? (Dexter)
The Show: Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer who targets other serial killers. He uses skills taught to him by his adopted father (James Remar) to avoid detection and eliminate the monsters who evade the law. He spends most of the series hiding it from his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), only for her to find out what he does in season 7. Also, she’s in love with him despite them being raised as siblings, so… that’s a thing. Look, there’s a reason I tell people to stop watching after season 5.
The Finale: Dexter is planning on fleeing the country. Debra gets shot by serial killer Oliver Saxon (Darri Ingolfsson) while a hurricane prevents Dexter’s flight. Dexter leaves his son Harrison with his girlfriend Hannah and heads to the hospital where he is told Debra will recover. Saxon is captured and Debra tells Dexter to live a happy life, but then suffers a clot and goes into a coma. Dexter then kills Saxon in police custody and pulls Debra off life support. He takes her body and drops it into the ocean as he drives into the hurricane. Later, he’s seen working as a lumberjack in Oregon.
I have to admit I’ve softened towards this over the years, because for a long time I considered it the worst finale ever. It’s dropped down the list for two reasons: 1) Jennifer Carpenter’s performance as Debra is actually so good it almost single-handedly makes this episode okay. 2) Other shows since (mostly Breaking Bad) have convinced me that giving a bad person a happy ending isn’t inherently bad. However, I still think it’s a terrible ending to this show. A big part of why is that it missed the tone of the rest of the series, having a somber and sincere quality that the rest of the show never had. That might have worked for a finale, except that all of the sincerity felt crammed in and manufactured, rather than developing naturally. The characters are told that Debra is going to be okay, but their last conversation is still them saying goodbye in a last-rites kind of way. Then she dies anyway, making the previous recovery nothing but a device to keep the audience off-guard, particularly since the clot happens off-screen apropos of nothing. Oh, and as she’s dying, she tells him she loves him, which means… she might have been okay if he had left her on the machines? So, Dexter killed her, but it’s not really given as much weight as it should. Oh, and then the ending is that he’s abandoned his son and girlfriend (who he could find and join) to go be a lumberjack and somehow survived a hurricane, which was just such a cop-out. Also, can someone from Miami Metro get fired for being just the worst investigators on Earth? For what was briefly one of my favorite shows, the mighty fell hard.
8) Into That Good Night (Roseanne)
The Show: Roseanne (the show) focused on the lives of the Conner family: Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), her husband Dan (John Goodman), Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), and Dan and Roseanne’s kids Becky (Lecy Goranson/Sarah Chalke), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), D.J. (Michael Fishman), and Baby Jerry (Cole and Morgan Roberts). They’re a working-class family in the 80s and 90s living in Illinois, and possibly one of the most realistic ones ever put on television.
The Finale: In the 9th season of the show, the Conners win the lottery, suddenly becoming very wealthy, but Dan and Roseanne’s marriage has been on the rocks throughout the whole season, culminating in a revelation that he cheated on her. During the finale, after the family welcomes a new grandson from Darlene’s marriage, everyone is set to move on with their lives. Then, in the last 10 minutes of the show, Roseanne reveals to the audience that the entire show had just been a book she was writing. Dan was dead from a heart attack, Jackie was gay, and Darlene and Becky were, in fact, married to each-other’s husbands. No explanation is given for any of this except that Roseanne thought it was more interesting this way.
Roseanne had taken a massive dive in the last season due to destroying the thing that most people liked about the show, it’s blue-collar realism. The Conners were constantly screwed by normal problems that most sitcoms would just gloss over, like a malfunctioning fridge they can’t afford to replace or a light bill late fee that builds up. They lived the way that a lot of America lived. Once they were rich, that stuff all fell away and they stopped being relatable. That was bad enough, but to literally spend the last 10 minutes of the show revealing that everything in the show was fake, even within the reality of the show, was just icing on the crapcake. Roseanne is revealed to be a writer, a profession that stood completely against her character’s usual employment in various menial jobs. Dan’s dead, meaning that any of their drama in the last season was just Roseanne taking shots at her deceased husband. None of the relationships were real. What’s most astonishing is that all of this was just completely unnecessary. When they rebooted the show, they made the decision to just ignore all of this, which was smarter than anything in the finale.
7) Daybreak (Battlestar Galactica – 2004)
The Show: Humans lived on a set of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. The humans created the Cylons, a race of robots, that then rebelled. There was a peace accord, until the Cylons surprise attack and destroy most of humanity and the planets they populated. Only one military ship survives, the Battlestar Galactica, which sets off with the other ships to head to the thirteenth colony, Earth, while being pursued by Cylons. The survivors include Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), pilot “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff), pilot “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Barber), and scientist Gaius Baltar (James Callis). There are also Cylon infiltrators known as numbers 6 and 8 (Tricia Helfer and Grace Park)
The Finale: Turns out the Cylons got to Earth first, but blew it up. As the group tries to figure out what to do now, the Cylons capture Hera, a human-Cylon hybrid, and are studying how they can reproduce. Admiral Adama orders a rescue. Gaius and Six join the mission, and it’s revealed that the two can see each other’s “inner visions.” It’s complicated to explain, but each one has a hallucination of the other that they talk to, and here it’s revealed that those are not just hallucinations. The rescue ends with an all-out battle that is ended by Gaius promising to give the Cylons back their lost resurrection ability in order to buy peace. He’s told that he sees Angels telling him that both sides are governed by God. However, this ends up failing. The fighting resumes and damage forces Adama to order the ship to jump to anywhere it can. Starbuck uses “All Along the Watchtower” to arrive at our Earth in the distant past. The survivors, and the surviving Cylons, spread out and interbreed with the hominids that populate the planet. Starbuck turns out to be an Angel and disappears. Bob Dylan is implied to be God.
Okay, did you read the last four sentences of that summary? Yeah, that’s why this whole thing fell apart. The show, which had been a cold and depressing character study and a cautionary tale against the advances of human technology, ends on a happy note because of a literal deus ex machina. To be clear, this show was almost entirely sci-fi for most of its run, and the concept of having everything in the series designed as part of the ineffable plan by God seems to have been pulled out of nowhere. I once lauded the show Quantum Leap for dealing with cancellation by having an ending that said “God did it,” but that’s because that show’s continuity and logic had never made sense. This show had never even approached that level of metaphysics until the last four episodes hinted at it loosely. A lot of people liked the happy ending, but I will stare into the face of Bob Dylan and walk backwards into Hell proclaiming this to be a complete failure of screenwriting.
6) Project: ALF (ALF)
The Show: Gordon Shumway (Paul Fusco) is an Alien Life Form (ALF) from the destroyed planet Melmac. He follows a radio signal to the home of the Tanners: Willie (Max Wright), Kate (Anne Schedeen), Lynn (Andrea Elson), and Brian (Benji Gregory). The Tanners hide ALF from the Alien Task Force that seeks to hunt him down.
The Finale: In the last episode of the original show’s run, ALF is captured by the Alien Task Force. This picks up with ALF in custody under Colonel Milfoil (Martin Sheen) who is going to kill ALF. Two scientists help him escape, but after they are chased by Milfoil, they end up deciding to reveal ALF’s existence to the world. This ends up failing, but Milfoil is fired and ALF is declared an ambassador to Earth.
The original finale of ALF can’t be on here because the show was cancelled unexpectedly and thus ended on a cliffhanger. That’s not the fault of any of the writers, particularly since the show was still in the top 40 at the time and had just had a spin-off last two seasons. Even the network later apologized to the crew, saying that they’d screwed up by cancelling it too early. However, since they were given over a year to come up with a way to end the series with this three-part episode (or TV movie), and had 5 years to think about it before that, this was truly disappointing. Except for ALF, none of the Tanners were present in this, and all we hear is that they went to Iceland. As such, a ton of plotlines, including the cliffhanger about ALF leaving the Tanners, were left unresolved. Moreover, this episode made it clear exactly how much of an a**hole ALF actually was, retroactively making the show less cute. It’s like if you ended the Muppet Show by having Kermit be revealed as a Soviet Spy. Honestly, the cliffhanger would have been a more dignified way to go out.
5) Chapter 73 (House of Cards)
The Show: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is a politician who constantly lies, cheats, steals and murders his way to becoming the President and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), becomes Vice President. He’s assisted by Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), his Chief of Staff who routinely does Frank’s dirty work. Frank typically narrates to the audience his true, cruel thoughts.
The Finale: In Season 6, Claire becomes President following Frank’s impeachment and subsequent getting killed off for being a rapist. Claire also takes over Frank’s role as narrator. Doug, who stood by Frank loyally, has now flipped to testify to all of Claire’s bad acts, but Claire pardons him to gain his silence. In the finale, Claire promises a new level of honesty to America, then creates a new fictional threat so that she can keep her position. Doug is sent in to kill her by some of her rivals, but after he admits he killed Frank, she ends up stabbing him to death and then suffocating him. She turns to the audience and says “No More Pain,” mirroring Frank killing a dog in the pilot.
This is mostly on here for how completely unnecessary this finale was. After Kevin Spacey was removed from the show for being a rapist, the show was completely justified in writing him out. Despite that, his character still basically dictated everything over the last season. Claire was constantly saying how she denounced his legacy, but she always kept it alive rather than tossing it to the ashcan of history where it belonged. This finale made it much, much worse, focusing on Frank’s last will, which cut Claire out, then revealing Doug to have killed Frank because Frank was hurting his own legacy, then having Claire stab Doug to death in the Oval Office and use one of Frank’s own lines, cementing her as now being essentially just Frank all over again. It essentially made Claire a secondary character in a season where she was supposed to be the lead. If you’re going to write a character out, write them out, don’t let their ghost loom over the entire series.
4) The End (LOST)
The Show: A bunch of people survive a plane crash and end on an island. The island turned out to be filled with mysteries, ranging from a smoke monster that turns out to be the embodiment of evil, to a hatch that requires a code to keep being entered into it, to some polar bears. The show had too many cast members to really list here, with 14 star roles in the first season alone, but among the key ones in this episode are: Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and Locke/The Man In Black (Terry O’Quinn). It frequently has flashbacks, flashforwards, and flash-sideways. The last season has two parallel timelines, including a new one in which the crash never happened.
The Finale: Some of the survivors head to the heart of the island, including Jack who has taken on the role of protector of the island. The Man in Black, who is trying to destroy the island, manages to unstop the source of the island’s power, but is killed by Kate. Jack then dies replacing the island’s light. In the alternate timeline, everyone suddenly remembers the island, meet up in a church, and then they are revealed to be dead.
So, from the beginning of the show, a huge number of fans (myself included) were worried that the series would end with the revelation that everyone was actually dead all along. The creators and the writers all strongly denied that it was anything like that. Instead, it’s revealed that, in fact, the events of the island were real, but that the parallel timeline was actually a form of afterlife which is powered by the island, so… I felt like this was cheating. A ton of people were confused by it, a ton more were angered, and I don’t think anyone ever thought it was a perfect way to wrap up the series. The island is revealed to be the source of the light that exists inside of every living thing, but also what grants those things a second chance, represented here as an alternate world where everyone is a little bit closer to what they wanted to be. It’s not a paradise, it’s a purgatory, and then at the end apparently everyone moves on towards the actual afterlife, maybe. If that explanation sounds kind of boring or weird or confusing, then you know why this made this list.
3) Last Forever (How I Met Your Mother)
The Show: In 2030, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor/Bob Saget) is narrating to his kids the story of how he met their mother (Cristin Milioti). It turns out to be a story involving Ted’s best friends from his 20s and 30s: Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) and his wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), and Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
The Finale: After spending a season at the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding, we find out that Ted’s wife is the bass player in their wedding band. While she has met everyone from the group, she has not yet met Ted, until they share an umbrella that they both previously owned. It’s then revealed that the mother, Tracy McConnell, passed away in 2024. The kids reveal that the story was clearly about how Ted is still in love with Robin, and encourage him to get back together with her. The show ends with Ted and Robin smiling at each other.
This one is really a tragedy on two different levels. The show had always prided itself on the fact that they had already filmed the ending when they started the second season, because that meant that the kids, who had since stopped being kids, would still be in the finale at the same age. Unfortunately, they were so dedicated to this that they stuck to it even after their own writing and character development had rendered it a bad idea. Ted and Robin ending up together was a really good idea for a long time, until we spent two seasons building up Barney’s and Robin’s relationship and then an entire season on their wedding itself, only to have the finale tell us they broke up like 15 minutes later for vague reasons. It also doesn’t help that Cristin Milioti was so much more amazing than expected, particularly in the episode dedicated to her history. Everything about her was so perfect for Ted that you wanted to see them happy together. This meant that when the writers stuck with the original ending, it broke up two relationships we were invested in. At the same time, they undid all of Barney’s character growth and instead ended with him learning to love by being a father. To Neil Patrick Harris’s credit, his performance was so good I almost bought it, but it’s still bad writing. The reason why this is so high is because multiple people apparently brought up that this was a bad idea and that they should ditch the original ending, but the show wanted its gimmick more than a solid conclusion.
2) The Finale (Seinfeld)
The Show: It’s a show about nothing starring four friends: Jerry Seinfeld (himself), George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). In general, the series is just about the kind of weird things that happen to the four of them and consists of them talking about it. All four are generally crappy people, but make up for it by being funny. It was created by Larry David and Seinfeld.
The Finale: Jerry and George have pitched a series to NBC that resembles Seinfeld called Jerry. The four decide to go to Paris to celebrate before moving to California to work on the show, but a problem on the flight forces them to land in Massachusetts. While they wait for the plane to be fixed, they see a man get carjacked and record it while mocking him. They’re then arrested by the police for violating the Good Samaritan statute by not helping. The four are then put on trial and a number of witnesses from throughout the series testify to their bad character. They are ultimately convicted and put in jail.
This one is so high up because Seinfeld was one of the best shows on television and I remember being absolutely pissed off watching the finale. The build-up had been huge. Other shows, including Dharma and Greg, literally had episodes that were based on the assumption that this finale would be amazing. However, I think it completely failed. First off, the set-up was ridiculous. Having the characters get arrested due to an insane law and go to trial immediately was a weird decision. That’s not how laws, courts, or even civil rights work. The fact that the prosecutors are then allowed to parade a list of people as bad character witnesses is even weirder, because, again, not how that works. Also, if they had a duty to provide aid to the victim (they didn’t), they actually did, because they recorded the face of the carjacker on film. That’s more helpful than trying to fight him. Everything about this framing device was stupid. Second, they really just used it to do a glorified clip-show as the finale. That’s one of the weakest ways to handle any episode of television, typically reserved for when shows run out of money for an episode, as opposed to the finale of a top-rated show. Third, finally calling out how bad the characters were in such a stupid fashion basically mocked the audience for liking them. If you’re flipping the bird on the way out, you’ve messed up. While Larry David has defended it, Jerry Seinfeld has pretty much stated that they dropped the ball on this one. I concur.
1) The Iron Throne (Game of Thrones)
The Show: I cannot really summarize this. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros are thrown into a massive war after the death of the king Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). This ends up massively affecting the Stark family, including Sansa (Sophie Turner), Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), and Arya (Maisie Williams). At the same time, an army of zombie warriors start to descend from the North to destroy the world. Also, the daughter of the previous king, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), hatched three dragons and uses them plus two separate armies to try to come back and retake the throne. Her nephew and lover is Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who is also the adopted brother of the Starks. A lot of people die and there’s a lot of nudity. Also, there’s Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is amazing, and Cersei and Jaime Lannister (Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who suck.
The Finale: Daenerys has taken over King’s Landing and claimed the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Unfortunately, even after the people surrendered, Daenerys kept attacking, destroying a ton of the property and killing hundreds or thousands of people for no reason. When confronted, she insists that she has “liberated” the town and that she now plans to “liberate” the rest of the world. After finally realizing that Daenerys will never stop until she has conquered the world in the name of forcing her version of utopia, and will kill anyone that doesn’t submit immediately. Jon kills her and is imprisoned by her troops. Ultimately, he is banished and Bran becomes king.
I realize that this probably will not seem as bad years down the line and that the freshness of the wound is why this feels like the worst finale, but I will say that following: It’s impressive to get every character to the end of their arc and still feel terrible. Seriously, every character finishes in the position that they clearly were always going to have, ranging from Bran being the king to Daenerys being dead to Jon being banished, but at the end all of the ways they get there appear to be completely contrived or insane. Rather than having Daenerys’s madness be a result of her destiny as a Targaryen and a breaker of chains, it came off as being because Jon didn’t want to sleep with her after finding out they’re related. Rather than Bran being made king because of his abilities, he’s instead made king because “he has the best story,” despite Jon literally having resurrected from the dead and Arya having slain an undead king. Everyone gets to close their story in the right place, but it feels so forced that it undermines the rest of the series and its great plotting and character progression. Mostly, though, this whole thing felt completely unnecessary. HBO had the hottest show on the planet and had already stated they would basically give the showrunners carte blanche if they needed more episodes to come to a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the show rushed from the death of the Night King to the finale in only 3 episodes. This isn’t just dropping the ball, this is firing the ball straight down out of a cannon so hard that it currently resides in the molten core of the planet.
If you disagree with any of these, let me know. If you have other episodes you think should have made it, put them in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter.
How you start is important to getting popular, but how you finish is the key to being a legend. After all, who wants to sit through 75 hours of a show for a giant letdown? Here are ten series that managed to really stick the landing.
Runner-Up: My Finale (Scrubs)
The Show: John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) is a doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital with his best friend Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Turk’s wife Carla (Judy Reyes), his girlfriend and fellow doctor Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), his mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), the head of the hospital Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), and his nemesis the Janitor (Neil Flynn).
The Finale: Okay, this is only a runner-up because I am not willing to deal with people sending me messages that say “technically, the show had another season,” followed by me slapping my face in frustration and saying “Then why did they call it Scrubs: Med School? How come it changes location, most of the cast, and central character?” But, the DVD release still says Season 9, so… fine. It’s not the “finale.” That’s particularly sad because I think it would be a strong contender for the number one spot here if it was. Unlike many great finales, this one didn’t rely on any kind of subversion or loss. Instead, this episode gives its main character, J.D., the exact send-off that we probably hoped he’d get.
It probably stands out because of the last 5 minutes of the episode, when J.D. starts to walk out of the building, and the show, and is suddenly surrounded by every guest from the show’s run that they could manage to fit and afford. As he walks down a literal memory lane, he finally stands at the exit, and we see a projection of the future he’s headed for, filled with love, happiness, and friendship. It’s a happy ending that never feels too cheesy or overdone.
10) The Last Show (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
The Show: Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) is a single woman who is an Associate Producer for WJM’s 6 o’clock news, starring Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). She works alongside Executive Producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner), and head writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod). Mary’s best friend is Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), Rhoda’s nemesis who is also Mary’s friend is Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Mary’s friend who works at WJM is Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White). The other main character, introduced later, is Georgette Baxter (Georgia Engel), Ted Baxter’s girlfriend.
The Finale: For a show that contains what I consider to be the single best episode of all time, it’s pretty impressive that it managed to end with what was, for a while, considered the “gold standard” of finales. It was a regular exhibit in screenwriting courses. The creators of Friends said it was a major influence in how they wrapped their show. The key is that it really is an ending for the characters as well as the show. When a new station manager (Vincent Gardenia) takes over WJM, he decides he wants to fix the 6 O’clock News ratings. Unfortunately, he determines that the only person worth keeping is Ted, the person who repeatedly causes the show to tank. Everyone else is fired, devastating Mary. To cheer Mary up, Lou Grant arranges for Rhoda and Phyllis to visit her (both now had spin-offs), with both offering vastly different methods of support for Mary (and hatred for each other). Ultimately, Ted tries to do a sincere send-off, but instead quotes the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Everyone says goodbye, resulting in a group hug that no one wants to break, giving rise to the hilarious image of the entire team moving together in order to get tissues. Mary ends up smiling at the good times and turning off the lights on the set.
The key to this ending is that everything goes wrong for all the right people. Everyone who has spent years cleaning up Ted’s mistakes gets fired because of Ted, but because they kept making him look good, Ted keeps his job. He tries to protest the firings, but ultimately backs down when threatened, leading to Murray saying “When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.” When Lou tries to cheer Mary up, she calls in two of her friends… who hate each other and fight viciously. When Ted tries to be sincere, he just quotes a completely unrelated song. That’s what made the show great, watching people deal with all of life’s crap and unfairness with a laugh and a joke. It was the best way to end the show.
9) Come Along With Me (Adventure Time)
The Show: Adventure Time follows the journeys of Finn, the last human (Jeremy Shada), and his adopted brother Jake the dog (John DiMaggio), through the land of Ooo. They usually are accompanied by Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch) and Marcelline, the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), and sometimes the Ice King (Tom Kenny).
The Finale: The last episode of this show takes place far in the future from the normal timeline and the show now apparently stars two new characters named Shermy (Sean Giambrone) and Beth (Willow Smith), who appear to have a similar relationship to Finn and Jake. They go to meet with the King of Ooo, who is revealed to be BMO (Niki Yang), Finn and Jake’s AI game system. BMO tells them the story of the “Great Gum War,” what the show had been building to for a season, then tells them of the coming of GOLB, the anti-God of that universe. Ultimately, the war is averted and the world is saved, and Shermy and Beth take up the mantle of Finn and Jake.
The reason this is on this list is mostly because it contains three great elements. First, the Great Gum War is literally averted, rather than fought. Finn ends up convincing both sides of the war to stand down, and does so by forcing each side to view the situation from the other’s point of view. This represents the culmination of Finn’s growth from a boy to a man, finally realizing that violent solutions propagate violence, but that forgiveness can bring true peace. Afterwards, Shermy, now representing young Finn, complains that he thought the War would be more important, like the end of the world, only for BMO to casually say “no, that’s what happened next.” Second, after the apocalypse is averted, Shermy and Beth, acting as audience surrogates, ask BMO what happened next, only for BMO to respond with “Eh, y’know. They kept living their lives.” I think this may be one of the most perfect summaries to end a show. It’s not a bland “happily ever after,” but it is a way to tell everyone that, even though life goes on, this story has hit the end. However, the true ending is Shermy and Beth taking the pose that Finn and Jake take in the title screen, meaning that the adventure will always continue. Lastly, we see Marceline and Princess Bubblegum finally become a couple. Given how much crap the show had gotten in the past for even hinting at this, I love that they decided “we’re at the end, let’s go for it.” This finale summed up everything that was good about this show.
8) One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)
The Show: The series follows the lives of all of the people who work for or are associated with the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana: Idealist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), her husband Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), her Libertarian boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), her coworkers Tom (Aziz Ansari), April (Aubrey Plaza), Garry (Jim O’Heir), Craig (Billy Eichner), and Donna (Retta), as well as April’s husband Andy (Chris Pratt), and Leslie’s best friend Ann (Rashida Jones) and her husband Chris (Rob Lowe).
The Finale: By the end of the series, everyone is leaving and no one works for the Parks Department anymore. However, Leslie asks everyone to help her when a man asks them to fix a swing near his house. As they work together to navigate the bureaucracy to repair the swing, the show flashes forward and shows how almost every characters’ life progresses. We see Garry get a happy ending after being the sad sack for most of the series, Donna turn her success into helping children with her husband (Keegan-Michael Key), and Tom become a celebrity through writing a bestseller. Ron is shown to retire from his business to run a major park with Leslie’s help. April and Andy start a family and Leslie and Ben both become successful politicians, with one of them implied to eventually be president.
This episode should be terrible. It’s saccharin beyond anything else the series had done up to this point and it’s little more than an extremely elaborate “and they all lived happily ever after.” However, the way in which their flash-forwards are told give us a real picture of how all of these people, despite drifting apart, are always bonded by the events of the show. Even though they live in different parts of the world, they’re still a family and they always will be. Moreover, the world we see in the future is a hopeful and just one, with Leslie, who has always been thwarted by the stupidity of Pawnee, becoming governor of Indiana. We see a world where, despite still having problems, we find a group of people who are fighting for the right thing, even if they all disagree on what that is. To drive it home, Leslie even quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s line “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is to work hard at work worth doing.” We see a future where that kind of dedication is celebrated, and that’s what really makes this episode work.
7) Basil the Rat (Fawlty Towers)
The Show: Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run a hotel in England. Basil is an angry jerk obsessed with class mobility, always trying to become one of the elite, but his own incompetence usually dooms him. His staff includes the sensible Polly (Connie Booth) and the hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs).
The Finale: A health inspector (John Quarmby) informs Basil that the state of Fawlty Towers’ kitchen is below standard. If they don’t fix the problems in 24 hours, the hotel will be closed. At the same time, Basil discovers Manuel is keeping a pet rat, named Basil, in the kitchen, having been sold it as a “Siberian Hamster.” Basil tries to get rid of it, but Manuel protests and he and Polly hide it in the shed. After Manuel foolishly lets the rat back into the hotel, Basil the human poisons a veal shank in an attempt to kill the rat, but the shank gets cooked by accident. After every customer, including the returning health inspector, orders the veal, hilarity ensues. Eventually, the health inspector is handed the rat, but the cast attempts to cover for it as the episode ends.
The key to Fawlty Towers was the incredible combination of tight writing and amazing physical performances. Each episode typically took Cleese and Booth six weeks to write, which is probably why there are only twelve of them in two seasons over five years. This episode is the pinnacle of that, because all of the beats in the episode have to be precisely timed in order to keep the tension building. In the meantime, all of the characters have to keep scrambling and covering for their actions as they keep trying to find Basil the Rat. It also helps that this episode is the opposite of what Basil Fawlty had been hoping for. Rather than becoming an elite establishment, his hotel is almost closed down for being a dump, and at the end of the episode, it seems extremely likely that it will be shut down. Rather than a happy ending, we get a shot of Basil, having passed out from stress, being dragged unceremoniously from the room.
6) Weirdmageddon (Gravity Falls)
The Show: Gravity Falls is a town filled with strange happenings and mysteries. When two kids, Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal), come to stay with their Great Uncle “Grunkle” Stan Pines (Alex Hirsch) for the Summer at his Mystery Shack, they get caught up in the town’s weirdness, along with Stan’s two employees Wendy (Linda Cardellini) and Soos (Hirsch). Their greatest enemy is a dream demon named Bill Cipher (Hirsch).
The Finale: The final episode begins with Bill winning. He has finally figured out a way to enter the real world in his true form and he immediately reveals himself to be one of the most horrifying villains ever to be featured in a show for kids. He and his gang start to wreak havoc upon the town, until Dipper, Mabel, and the surviving cast fight back. Ultimately, they’re able to trick Bill into entering Stan’s mind, which they then wipe, destroying him as Stan’s dream self punches the demon out of reality. Then, finally, the Summer ends and the kids have to go home in a tearful goodbye.
The greatest strength of Gravity Falls was that it always focused on how the characters felt and what they were going through internally more than externally and this finale is no exception. The strength of the episode isn’t just in finally showing us the power of Bill Cipher and having the team overcome him, it’s that the last 20 minutes is just having a slow, sad, emotional goodbye from all of the characters to the two kids that changed the town so much. We see some nice flash-forwards explaining that most of the characters will be okay, and still be the eccentric oddities that we came to love, but also that everyone will be separated in their own lives. Maybe they’ll be together again one day, but it seems likely that this is the end of this story. It ends with a cryptogram that deciphers to: FADED PICTURES BLEACHED BY SUN. THE TALE’S TOLD, THE SUMMER’S DONE. IN MEMORIES THE PINES STILL PLAY. ON A SUNNY SUMMER’S DAY. I’ll admit that I still tear up reading that, because it’s just that adorably sincere.
5) All Good Things… (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
The Show: It’s the 24th Century and mankind has spread itself among the stars, meeting new life forms and threats along the way, and forming the United Federation of Planets. The top ship among the Federation fleet is the Enterprise-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Along with crew members William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Picard explores the unknown along the Final Frontier.
The Finale: Picard finds himself unfixed by time, his mind jumping between the present, twenty-five years into the future, and seven years in the past, just before the show’s pilot. These jumps are random, making people think he’s going mad. In the present, he goes to investigate a space anomaly. He then uses a jump to convince his future ex-wife Beverly to travel to the same anomaly, which is happening in the future as well. In the past, he declines to go to the anomaly so that he can have the encounter at Farpoint with Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent being who threatens humanity. However, it turns out that Q is actually causing Picard to jump through time, telling him that solving the mystery of the anomaly is the only chance to save humanity. Picard discovers that investigating the anomaly is actually what causes it, and sacrifices all three different versions of the Enterprise to stop it. This is revealed to be Q’s test and that Picard passed, saving humanity.
It’s one thing to manage to tie in the themes of a show with the finale, it’s another to literally tie the entire series together into one single cohesive expression of what the show is about. Star Trek has always been about humanity at its best; challenging the unknown, exploring the unexplored, bettering themselves for the sake of being better. This episode reveals that the entire series, from the Pilot to the end, was a test of whether humanity can evolve, with Picard as its focus. Picard proves not only that he can solve a four-dimensional problem, but that he and his crew are willing to sacrifice themselves in three different time periods in order to save the universe. It proves again that humanity has limitless potential both scientifically and socially, if only we can evolve beyond our selfishness.
The Finale: Fry (Billy West) decides to propose to his longtime flame Leela (Katey Sagal), and uses a device that rewinds time by 10 seconds (and has a 10 second recharge time) to set up the perfect proposal. Unfortunately, he ends up breaking the device, trapping him and Leela in a frozen world. Together, they live a long and happy life, until they’re discovered by the Professor, who fixes the device. He warns Leela and Fry that when he undoes the time freeze, it’ll take them back to before the episode started, with no memory of the events. Fry and Leela agree that, while they enjoyed growing old together, they both want to do it all over again.
This show gets bonus points because Futurama actually had four separate finales: “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” “Overclockwise,” and then this one. Despite having tried to wrap the show up multiple times, I am always impressed that this one is, in my opinion, the best of the four. It’s not just telling us that Fry and Leela will ultimately find happiness, we get to see them being happy together, with each of them clearly influenced by the other for the better. It helps that so much of the episode is really funny before that. We see Fry messing around with time in a number of fun gags, a throwback to the pilot, and Fry dying multiple times to the point that Leela starts to get bored with it. It’s a solid set of comedic scenes that turn into a sincere and emotional third act, which is basically what Futurama did at its best.
3) Goodbyeee (Blackadder Goes Forth)
The Show: Each season of Blackadder featured Rowan Atkinson as a different descendant of the Blackadder family. This one was a Captain in the British Army during WWI. He was commanded by the incompetent General Melchett (Stephen Fry) and his nemesis Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny). Each episode features his attempts to get out of actually having to fight, usually involving Blackadder’s incompetent aides George (Hugh Laurie) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson).
The Finale: Blackadder finds out that there’s going to be a full-scale attack the next day, meaning that he, along with all of his soldiers, will be running all-out into No Man’s Land. Since all of them will likely die, Blackadder pretends to be crazy in order to get sent home, but it fails. He tries to contact the British High Command to get sent home, but it fails as well. Darling is sent to the front line, despite his attempts to protest, while Melchett sits miles back. George and Baldrick discuss their losses during the war in a humorous way, until finally George admits that he’s afraid of dying. Blackadder and the rest of the group go over the top and are killed, with the shot fading to a silent poppy field.
It was a tradition for each season of Blackadder to end with death, usually that of the entire cast, but it was always done in a comic fashion. This entire season had frequently played off the massive casualties of World War One as a dark joke, which set everything up to do a similarly humorous or absurd conclusion to this season, but instead, they played it perfectly straight. It’s a sad, somber, painful ending to the show. It’s a subversion of the nature of the series, but it fits the theme of the season, that war is hell. The show sacrificed its own cast to make sure that people remember that the price of war is blood and tears.
2) Felina (Breaking Bad)
The Show: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a chemist who finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to partner with his ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to make meth in order to provide for his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and his son Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte). He does surprisingly well, eventually becoming a kingpin.
The Finale: Having managed to lose most of his money and betraying Jesse in the last season, Walt threatens former partners to leave a fortune to his son and decides to “make things right.” He rigs a machine gun to a mechanical arm and tries to make amends to his wife for all of his misdeeds, having a conversation in which she points out that his actions were always about him, never the family. Walt goes to meet the Aryan Brotherhood members holding Jesse hostage and uses the machine gun to kill almost all of them, with him and Jesse killing off the survivors. Walt is mortally wounded, but dies smiling surrounded by meth cooking equipment as Jesse escapes.
This episode works on so many levels. First, the title is an anagram for finale and a reference to the song “El Paso,” which mirrors the events of the third act. Like the subject of “El Paso,” Walt dies in the arms of his beloved: Meth. Second, it mirrors the pilot, both beginning and ending with sirens headed for Walt. In the pilot, Walt declines to shoot himself, but here, he dies by a shot from his own gun. Walt even dies in the same outfit he wore in the pilot. Third, it provides a satisfying conclusion to a series that was constantly escalating tension by doing exactly the opposite, being a quiet denouement for Walt after one last blaze of glory. The show was always building towards his death, and Cranston’s final moments on-screen send the character off in exactly the right way.
1) The Last Newhart (Newhart)
The Show: Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) is a writer who moves to Vermont to run an inn with his wife Joanna (Mary Frann). While Dick is a relatively normal and sane person, the town is populated by eccentric people whose inability to operate within the bounds of reality constantly drives Dick crazy.
The Finale: After years of putting up with the locals, the entire town is purchased by a Japanese tycoon who wants to turn it into a golf resort. While Dick and Joanna make a show of wanting to keep the town the same and refuse to leave, literally everyone else takes a huge payout and vacates. Years later, Dick and Joanna now run their inn in the middle of a golf course. All of their former neighbors pay them a surprise visit, but quickly drive Dick crazy until he gets hit in the head with a golf ball. He then wakes up in bed… as Dr. Bob Hartley, the main character of The Bob Newhart Show, next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). He reveals that the entire series of Newhart was just a dream he had, something that annoys his wife when he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blond.
This finale should be terrible, because the idea that the whole series was a dream would normally be stupid or seem like a cop-out. However, The Bob Newhart Show was a series about Bob Hartley questioning his own reality and Newhart was a series where everyone somehow played by rules that defied any established rules of logic, except for Bob Newhart’s character. It not only made sense that Newhart was a dream of someone who constantly questioned reality, it made MORE sense than any other explanation. Bob Hartley always defined himself as the “only sane man” in his life, so he still does that in his dreams. Bob Newhart essentially spent 20 years setting up this punchline across two different series and it served as a perfect finale for both of them. I think it’s telling that after Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston did a “fake ending” where he wakes up as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle that was inspired by this. When the second best ending has to pay tribute to something, you know that thing has to be the best.
Let me know if there are any others that you think I should have added by posting in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter.
Rick and Morty do a Star Wars episode and there’s an invisible truck.
Beth Smith (Sarah Chalke) is the leader of the rebellion against the Galactic Federation, which has apparently rebuilt itself after Rick destroyed their currency. Rebel Beth learns that she has a bomb in her neck and, realizing she’s a clone, returns to Earth to kill Rick (Justin Roiland). Rebel Beth confronts Rick, who reveals that the other Beth also has a bomb in her neck, and doesn’t say which is the original. The Federation follows Rebel Beth to Earth, with Tammy (Cassie Steele) leading the attack on the Smith/Sanchez family at Dr. Wong’s office (Susan Sarandon) after thinking that regular Beth was her. Rick saves Beth and Jerry (Chris Parnell), but when they meet Rebel Beth, both Beths are pissed at him. Rick gets bailed out by an attacking Tammy, who captures both of the Beths and tries to kill Rick.
At the same time, Morty (Justin Roiland) and Summer (Spencer Grammer) have been fighting over the use of Rick’s invisibility belt. Summer finally gets it just as the Federation arrives, but Morty convinces them that he has psychic powers and steals their ship. They arrive in time to save Rick, who then kills Tammy. They all go to rescue the Beths from the Federation. Summer and Morty destroy the planet-busting laser as Rick battles Phoenixperson (Dan Harmon). The Beths attempt to save Rick (so that they can kill him), but are defeated. Jerry arrives, using the invisibility belt and Tammy’s corpse to distract Phoenix Person, giving Rebel Beth an opening to stop Phoenix Person. Back on Earth, Rick reveals that he doesn’t know which of the two Beths is the original, but literally no one cares anymore. Rick then plays out the memory, which reveals to him that Beth asked Rick to decide if he wanted Beth to be part of his life. In response, Rick cloned Beth… then had a computer randomize the two so that he never knew which was which. He sadly mentions that he’s a terrible father, tries to talk to a still-angry Birdperson, and then sits, alone, in the garage. Jerry then drives an invisible garbage truck, which is marketed as a “new franchise” until he runs out of gas.
At no point would I have predicted this as the finale of this season, and I almost think that the show deserves credit for keeping the audience on their toes. Rather than being a mostly self-contained episode like the entire rest of this season, which, aside from “Never Ricking Morty,” seemed to go out of its way to avoid continuity, this episode went ahead and resolved a handful of different lingering plotlines. As of now, there’s pretty much just Evil Morty and the Citadel left outstanding as far as prominent canon threads go.
It’s probably all the more fitting that the episode that decides to try and continue/resolve a bunch of canon threads contains a bunch of references to Star Wars, a franchise famous for A) having a ton of plot threads that carry through generations of stories, B) having a ton of fan theories that get shot down by the actual canon later, and C) having a notoriously toxic fanbase. Aside from the title, the episode also has nods to Star Wars’ policy of having absurd but memorable names (by mocking Beth’s common name), the Death Star’s weak point (by having a planet remover that advertises no fatal design flaws), the presence of “fight chambers” where action sequences have space to happen, and, of course, having a close friend being brought back as a cyborg to fight an old man to the death. Rick even says that the entire ordeal feels a little Star Wars-ish, where good and bad are fairly unambiguous and cliches abound.
This episode felt a lot more like a “classic” Rick and Morty episode, and a big part of that is that this episode didn’t seem to try and be so meta about the fanbase or the future of the show or dealing with the realities of having to keep commercial viability alive. This episode just focuses on telling a story that has great jokes and a suggestion of much deeper workings behind the scenes. In particular, I thought the episode did a great job of doing the kind of fast, multi-level jokes that add to the rewatchability of the series. For example, when Morty spies on Summer using infra-red goggles to see her while she’s invisible, he says “to catch a predator,” which references both the show about catching perverts and also the movie Predator (since Predator sees in infra-red), but the show moves on before you really think about it. There’s also Rick’s line when he’s almost killed by PhoenixPerson where he says “I never thought this was how I’d die. We’re nowhere near Venice and you’re not a dwarf in a raincoat.” The line is funny, but it’s also a reference to the movie Don’t Look Now, which famously ends with Donald Sutherland stabbed to death by a serial killer in a raincoat. The joke here is that the movie’s theme is that preoccupation with death and loss leads to death and loss, which is the opposite of Rick’s policy of just moving on from everything. Also, there was a Pokemon battle involving a clown lion and I don’t think that was given enough screen time.
I also love that there is still a running meta-commentary about character arcs throughout this episode, particularly with the Beths and Morty talking about it. Every character completes an arc throughout the episode, ranging from Beth (and Rebel Beth) finally not needing Rick’s approval, to Morty and Summer resolving their differences to work together, and even Jerry’s puppeteering managing to save the day. Rick, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have completed an arc, but finally begun one when he actually recognizes that he’s a bad father. He’s said that he’s terrible before, but this time he seems to actually have bonded with Beth enough to realize that what he’s done is beyond the pale.
Overall, a really solid episode that still leaves me wanting more Rick and Morty. I also really appreciate that the episode ends on a sad, somber image of Rick, alone, drinking. Except for the pitch for Jerry and the invisible garbage truck which is amazing.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
First off, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. I was totally wrong on how they resolved the clone thing. I thought that Rick wouldn’t allow a clone to remember the choice being offered to Beth at all in order to prevent some kind of Blade Runner scenario, but instead Rick picked a third option: Not knowing which one is the clone. I assumed that Rick would want to avoid giving the non-clone an existential crisis, but it turns out that Rick just didn’t care. Instead, it turns out that Beth asked Rick to make a decision about what he wanted with their relationship, meaning that rather than being about Beth finally living out her potential, this entire clone saga was about Rick deciding if it was better to have a daughter who’s fulfilled in her life or one who is in his life. In true Rick fashion, he just cheated and said “Both.” Then, he not only declined to find out which one would be the “real” Beth, but apparently wiped his memory of making the clone in the first place. So, if even Rick didn’t know which one is real, what were the two devices in the necks for? After all, if the plan was just to keep Rebel Beth from coming back and revealing the whole thing or to kill off Beth so Rebel Beth could take her place, you’d only need one device.
Well, there are three possibilities:
The first is that they’re just a backup. If one of the Beths was killed, then the memories go to the other Beth and now the surviving Beth gets to know that she lived out the other one’s life and now knows which life is better and thus would get to choose which one to continue.
The second is that it was just a warning to Rick. If the device had stayed in Rebel Beth’s neck, then when they got too close, it would alert Rick so that he could figure out a way to resolve the whole situation.
The last, and sadly most likely, is that it really is a bomb. It was set to go off whenever Rebel Beth came back and would kill one of the Beths so that Rick’s actions wouldn’t be uncovered. If Beth dies, Rick doesn’t have to explain to Rebel Beth what happened, because she thinks the home Beth was just a clone she could replace. If Rebel Beth died, then Beth would never need to know she’d even existed. Basically, either one could die and Rick would be fine. The problem is, how would Rick decide which one could live? Well, the bomb probably was just set to kill the one that Rick would like the most.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you whenever the show starts again.
Rick screws an entire world. Yes, in that way, too.
The Smith/Sanchez family are going camping, much to the delight of Jerry (Chris Parnell). Summer (Spencer Grammer) and Morty (Justin Roiland) are upset because they’re missing out on drugs and video games, and it’s revealed that Rick (Roiland) only came because he’s ghosting a former lover. Summer steals his phone and it’s revealed that Rick’s ex says she’s pregnant. Beth (Sarah Chalke) forces Rick to go raise his kids, which are revealed to be the children of Gaia (Kari Wahlgren), a sentient planet. Rick denies that the kids are his, but when they come out looking kind of like him, Beth demands that he raise them. Rick and Beth work together to build a society, literally engineering it, for the clay people.
Meanwhile, Jerry tries to convince the kids to go camping on Gaia, but Summer tells him off because he doesn’t want to camp, he just wants to feel useful. Jerry wanders off, only to be sucked into Rick’s and Beth’s new city, where he is summarily kicked back out with the other “unproductives.” After showing the rejected clay people how to camp, he becomes their leader. The kids discover they have NO survival skills and almost die, until they find a crashed spaceship. They believe that the spaceship’s panels resemble a video game controller and Summer starts inhaling a drug which she believes is the collected knowledge of the dead aliens. The pair vow to show their parents what “video games and partying” can do.
After Rick and Beth manage to get the clay civilization to space travel, it’s revealed that the kids are not Rick’s, but instead the offspring of a Zeus (an alien species, apparently) named Reggie (Rob Schrab). Reggie ends up giving Jerry and the unproductives divine power to revolt against Rick’s city, so Beth and Jerry fight while Rick goes to fight Reggie in space. Rick is about to lose the fight when Morty and Summer activate their ship, revealing that they were completely wrong about everything they thought they knew about it, and crash it into Reggie’s brain. Reggie’s giant corpse drops onto the city, which leads Gaia to erupt and kill most of her offspring. Jerry saves Beth from dying and Rick and the family head home.
This episode seemed a lot like those clay creatures that formed the basis for the plot: Not quite done baking. Parts of it are amazing, other parts of it just feel like filler that no one could figure out a joke for. While they do a great job with the A-B-C-Plot interplay that I respect this show for, there’s not much to say when the C-plot (Morty and Summer) is really just a set-up for a deus ex machina later.
The A-Plot about Rick and Beth starting a civilization around Rick’s presumed offspring is definitely the best part of the episode and, honestly, I wish they’d spent a little more time on it. Some of the lines about how they’re trying to manipulate society through emotional engineering, like diverting teachers into playwrights by just spanking them more, are freaking hilarious. Although, as a lawyer, I should object to the line about bypassing the ethics tube, I have also been a lawyer long enough to know that this joke has been earned by other members of my profession. I also thought the “pachinko” style sorting to determine if the people believe in flat Earth, round Earth, or Middle Earth to be random and amazing.
The B-Plot of Jerry being the leader of the unproductives is a joke that practically writes itself. In the Season 3 premiere, Jerry is only successful in the new alien-dominated Earth because it was dependent upon bureaucracy so redundant that Jerry doesn’t even know what he does. He even gets into the situation because he tries to skip a rock and hits himself. Then, once he has power, he refuses to allow anything to evolve because any progress is a threat to him. It’s a reminder that while Jerry is mostly a character that exists to be humiliated by Rick, he would be just as much of a dick as Rick is if he had any of Rick’s intellect or drive. I particularly love that, as Rick points out, when Jerry gets a literal staff of divine power, he only conjures up plagues from The Ten Commandments. He doesn’t even try to create clothing for himself, he just rips off the Bible… or, let’s be honest, he rips off a movie. Rick would probably have used it to power a bong capable of smoking a planet.
Summer’s and Morty’s plot is really only funny in the sense that they’re so dumb that they think partying and video games can help them pilot a spaceship. But, it’s like Abraham Maslow said: “[I]t is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” I do also like the fact that they literally ex a deus with a machina, which is f*cking funny. Aside from that, though, the time spent on their adventure feels like a waste.
The highlight of the episode, though, has to be Rick literally challenging a god to a fistfight. Rather than do a ton of elaborate special effects or smite-and-countersmite, it just turns into an old-school slugfest, which is an amazing subversion. While it feels a little similar to the same thing from “The Ricks Must Be Crazy,” I think this one works better because Rick is also defending his kids from a bad father, meaning Rick is actually in the right, for once.
Overall, not the best episode, but not the worst. I will say that I laughed my butt off at “Planets Only.”
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
This season is not making these easy. Okay, so, why would Rick agree to go and raise these kids in the first place? Yeah, sure, Beth was going to yell at him, but what else is new? However, I think he realized that, as the show has gone on, he actually does care about what Beth thinks of him and knows that going to Gaia will give him a chance to bond with her. The evidence for this, aside from him being uncharacteristically complimentary of her during this endeavor, is that when the Zeus shows up, Rick doesn’t just take it as an opportunity to bail. Instead, Rick asserts that at least he stepped up and therefore all of the kids, and their civilization, is part of his family. This means Rick is trying to actually be a good dad for once, something that Beth will appreciate. It’s part of the payoff from “The ABCs of Beth,” where Rick tells Beth “[m]aybe you matter so little that I like you. Or maybe it makes you matter. Maybe I love you….” Rick isn’t quite as cold and dead inside towards Beth as he wants people to think, so spending an episode to make her feel happy isn’t a stretch. That’s probably why, when she’s mad at him at the end of the episode, Rick quickly lashes out by throwing her parenting under the bus.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in a week.
Rick and Morty deal with facehuggers and genocide.
Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland) suddenly regain consciousness on an alien planet where they have facehuggers attached to their heads. They kill the facehuggers, finding out that they are the Glorzo, and then discover that they’re attempting to use Rick’s ship for some master plan. Rick and Morty instead use the ship to fight their way off of the planet, committing a number of mass-casualty attacks, including an intentional Pearl Harbor reference (although avoiding replicating 9/11). They get home, but then realize they left Summer (Spencer Grammer) back on the planet. They go back to rescue her, only to find out that she’s now the new goddess of the planet and does not have a Glorzo on her face.
Summer fills in what happened to the pair, explaining that they fell under the control of the Glorzo, but she was spared because she had a toothpick in her mouth. She convinced the Glorzo to stop their cycle of latching onto people’s faces and then dying after 30 minutes as they lay eggs, instead developing a peaceful civilization. It turns out that most of the stuff Rick and Morty destroyed were dedicated to spreading peace throughout the galaxy. The Glorzo capture Rick and Morty, but Summer tries to save them, resulting in all three being captured. Rick has Morty play a tune on his harmonica which forces all Glorzo to lay an egg, killing them and destroying their entire civilization. Upon returning home, Rick and Morty both think they’re going to lay eggs, but instead crap their pants in front of Beth (Sarah Chalke). Meanwhile, Jerry (Chris Parnell) takes up beekeeping, something that makes Summer’s friend Tricia (Cassie Steele) want to bang him.
Sorry for the delay, hopefully the next release will get to me on time.
This episode is basically the opposite of what the last one was. Rather than a dense, complicated, experimental, and medium-challenging episode, this was just a fun, fairly straightforward (albeit mildly non-linear) episode about Rick and Morty just reacting to a situation. The only “twist” is that Summer had technically already solved the problem before they actually got there, meaning that their mass destruction of the Glorzo civilization was, in fact, pointless slaughter. Apparently the writer of the episode described Rick and Morty as the villains of the entire saga because of this.
The core of this episode is the moral issue of what a species is permitted to do in order to survive and how that shifts as the species “evolves” both culturally and literally. The Glorzo originally believe that they cannot live longer than thirty minutes, forcing them to constantly kill new hosts in order to perpetuate their life cycle, but once Summer points out that they don’t HAVE to do that, they immediately try to move towards a more peaceful species. Unfortunately, Rick and Morty end up taking inadvertent advantage of this, which allows them to escape being controlled and then murder the majority of the planet. This leads to one of the Glorzo to remark “this is what we get for evolving?”
The question, though, is whether or not the Glorzo were actually the bad guys to begin with. After all, they HAVE to take over hosts in order to exist. They have to kill those hosts in order to reproduce. Even after Summer reforms them, that hasn’t really changed, they just do it at a slower pace. The episode kind of side-steps it, but eventually the species would have to still kill their presumably still-aging hosts eventually and spawn the next generation. But are humans any different? We cannot really survive without killing something, at least a plant, for either food or shelter, so are we immoral? Well, from the point of view of the tree that’s getting cut down to build a gazebo, hell yes, but from our point of view, it’s more complicated.
However, the show takes it a step further with Glorzo Rick’s Plandemic-esque insane rant about how it is only natural for the species to kill their host pitted against Summer’s plans to try and progress the Glorzo beyond their natural biological needs. This is the kind of debate that humanity has engaged in for centuries, about whether we are okay with upsetting the “natural order” of things in the name of building a civilization that doesn’t necessarily agree with our Darwinian origins. After all, we don’t need the biggest and the strongest to hunt for us anymore, since the smartest and the most innovative can come up with solutions that don’t require hunting. In a fun mirror of many advocates of the more Spartan or “natural” lifestyles on YouTube and other media, Glorzo Rick is revealed to mostly be a total hypocrite, as he himself is not willing to actually just lay the egg and die like he advocates.
This isn’t the best Rick and Morty episode, but it is never boring and it does have some actual interesting points to it.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
Since the Rick and Morty plotline doesn’t have a ton that seems to be unexplained or lingering, my theory this week actually concerns Jerry. Why is Jerry taking up beekeeping? Well, three reasons: First, so that he can make a statement about how he has a right to exist and that he has dreams that would blend in with the theme of the other plotline. Also, bees have lives that are driven almost entirely by biology while still creating elaborate structures that can become extremely complex “societies.” Even if the subplot only has a few lines in the whole episode, this show’s still good about at least making sure there’s a cosmetic or thematic relationship between the plots. Second, it means that the B-plot is a literal Bee Plot, humor that is just the right kind of terrible and hilarious. Third, beekeepers are supposed to be extremely long-lived. This rumor started as far back as ancient Greece, but was further supported by Fred Hale, Sr., the world’s oldest man (until he died over a decade ago). I think that Jerry believes that one of the only ways that Jerry thinks he can get rid of Rick is to outlive him. Which, let’s be fair, is probably true.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in a week.
Much like its sister-show Brickleberry, this show tries to be edgy but really just comes off as derivative.
The Police Department of the City of Paradise, one of the worst cities in the world, is basically the least competent police force ever. The Chief, Randall Crawford (Tom Kenny), is a racist, sexist, narcissist. His son, Kevin (David Herman), is an idiot, but also the newest member of the force. The others include hyper-violent sexual predator Gina Jabowski (Sarah Chalke), her morbidly obese victim Dusty Marlow (Dana Snyder), the elderly pervert Stanley Hopson (Snyder), PTSD sufferer Fitz (Cedric Yarbrough), and the drug addicted police dog Bullet (Kyle Kinane). They have to deal with a cast of colorful criminals creating chaos.
If you’re a fan of Daniel Tosh, or were in college in the early 2010s, you probably remember hearing about the show Brickleberry. It was about the worst crew of park rangers in the world who monitor the worst park in the world, and was created by Roger Black and Waco O’Guin, just like this show. It was filled with dirty jokes relying on stereotypes, shock value, and scatological humor with basically no other substance or types of comedy present. It got three seasons, because of course it did, and for the most part was forgotten quickly. Then Netflix decided to reboot it, but since they didn’t have the rights (Hulu does), they just let the creators come up with an almost identical premise, something the show itself has mocked repeatedly.
While I admire their candor in admitting their unoriginality, I still just don’t like this show that much. The biggest issue I have is that there seems to be nothing to the characters. Any of them can be suddenly given a new and contradictory character trait or background and it’s just used for the episode and never referenced again. This wouldn’t bother me as much, except that the show is actually a loosely formatted serial with a continuous plotline, meaning that the events of one episode happened, but the character trait that led to those events might not have happened. I am sure a lot of people can deal with that, but it just ticks me off.
Also, I just don’t think it’s super funny. They can pull off a solid joke every few minutes, but all of the failed ones just aren’t worth it and sometimes they make one that just makes me feel unclean as a human. If you enjoy the humor of the first episode then it seems like it stays pretty consistent throughout, but I can say that it never got much better. I think I would enjoy it if I was watching it with a crowd that had been drinking to the point that silly talking dogs are inherently funny, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort.
Morty won’t stay in the car and suddenly snakes from the future are destroying the universe.
It’s Christmas time. A time for family. In that spirit, Rick (Justin Roiland) helps Jerry (Chris Parnell) hang Christmas lights by making him slightly lighter than air and his shoes slightly heavier, allowing him to jump higher. Okay, well, it’s less “in the spirit of family” and more “so that Morty (Roiland) can go on an adventure with him because Beth (Sarah Chalke) told Morty to make sure Jerry doesn’t die.” Jerry, naturally, immediately tries to show off this power and ends up floating to his doom. He refuses to accept help from Rick or Beth, insisting that he can take care of it.
Meanwhile, on their adventure, Rick and Morty hit something and Rick goes out of the car to fix the spaceship. Morty follows, against Rick’s orders, and gets bitten by a space snake, which he then kills. Rick and Morty go to the snake’s planet, a planet filled with racist snakes (racist against other colors of snake), and Rick finds the antivenom and cures Morty. Morty, however, feels guilty and buys another snake which he drops on the planet in the spacesuit. The snake planet ends up realizing that this is a snake from another world, leading somehow to the snakes creating time travel and killer robots, resulting in an army of snakes attacking the Smith/Sanchez household to either kill or save the family.
Rick, realizing what Morty did, travels to the Snake planet in the present, only to be greeted by a future version of themselves that are pissed off at them. Rick and Morty end up traveling back in time to an earlier point in the Snake World history and give the snakes a book telling them how to develop time travel. This leads to even more rampant time-traveling until finally the Time Police notice and destroy the first intelligent ancestor of the snakes. This destroys the entire snake population. Jerry manages to save himself from floating to his doom, finishes the lights, and then breaks his leg on the way down from the roof. Rick and Morty are about to celebrate, only to run into future versions of themselves that force them to re-enact the other half of the events in order to avoid a paradox. Rick punches Morty for leaving the car.
Rick and Morty has mostly avoided doing a time travel episode and I guess they decided to do all of them at once to compensate, then avert the hell out of most of them. In another strange decision, they made snakes, a typical symbol of evil or Satan, into the focal point of a Christmas episode. The episode doesn’t shy away from making anti-Xmas statements, either. Rick claims his superiority to Jesus by saying that he wasn’t “born into the God business,” instead he earned it. Jerry, upon agreeing to sacrifice himself to spite Rick or look good for Beth, declares himself “the Jesus Christ of Christmas.” It’s like they looked back at their earlier Christmas episode in “Anatomy Park,” said “that was too sincere,” and decided that this one should have some less-than-subtle blasphemy.
The snake world was one of the best parts of the episode for me. First, any sequence in which we have to figure out what’s happening solely through visual storytelling is amazing. Second, the sequence in which they bring in a linguist snake to interpret the speech of the Earth snake Slippy that Morty used to replace the space snake is hilarious. It’s a combination of references to A Beautiful Mind, Stargate, and Nell, the last one from the fact that the linguist snake realizes if he slows down the speech, the other snake is hissing just like they are. If you haven’t seen Nell, there’s a big part of the movie involving someone speaking English in a way that is perceived as a different language, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the snake is doing during that scene.
The time travel elements contain a ton of fun and funny references. When we meet the first time traveling snakes, they’re clearly all a ton of variations on the Terminator franchise, with robots, robot protectors, cyborg protectors, etc. each showing up to thwart the previous one. It really drives home the absurdity of those kind of movies and reminds me of the Great Time War from Doctor Who, where after every battle, each side would go back in time and change the outcome to make their side win until eventually the battle didn’t occur in the first place. We see that taken to the extreme… with snakes. We also see the traditional plotlines of trying to save Lincoln and kill Hitler, with saving Lincoln ironically resulting in the US becoming Nazis. I feel like this is an allusion to Abradolf Lincler, albeit indirect and serpentine. At the end of the episode, when the Time Police eradicate all of the snakes, they bite their tails and transform into Ouroboros, a symbol of infinite that often represents the ending of a temporal paradox (because the causal loop is closed).
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
So, why are Rick and Morty so pissed at themselves? I mean, while they technically have to say whatever they heard themselves saying earlier in order to avoid violating causality, it’s clear by the end that they really are resenting their past/future selves, even though they know that they are bound in the same loop and forced to go through the same motions. Well, that’s exactly why.
Rick and Morty telling themselves how to finish the adventure, particularly using a journal containing the secrets to time-travel, resembles the plot of the famously internally consistent time-travel story “By His Bootstraps” by Robert Heinlein. Of course, since this is Rick and Morty, the pair are massively pissed off at being dragged into a causality loop, requiring that they fulfill the actions that they already did in order to not get caught by the Time Police themselves. In other words, Rick and Morty, two characters who are usually allowed to do whatever the hell they want with no thought towards the consequences, are now unable to alter the course of their behavior in any way. That makes it feel less like an adventure and more like a chore.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Overall, this episode was pretty funny, but I still expect more from the show. I am still anxiously waiting for the next half of the season when it comes back.
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.
Rick gets drunk with a dragon and also dragons are real and kinda creepy.
Morty (Justin Roiland) goes with Rick (Roiland) on an adventure, only for it to be revealed that Morty had only agreed if he got a dragon. Rick, eventually giving in, gives Morty a dragon that he contracts with a Wizard to obtain. Morty rides the dragon, named Balthromaw (Liam Cunningham), but quickly realizes that the dragon doesn’t like him. When Balthromaw starts accidentally wrecking the house, Rick goes to get rid of him, but finds that the beast’s hoard is filled with things that he treasures. Upon talking to the dragon, the two start getting along and partying together, leading to them both ignoring Morty. After a particularly revelatory evening, Rick and Balthromaw end up soul bonding just as Morty revokes his contract. The Wizard returns to collect the dragon, but it turns out that Rick now feels any pain that Balthromaw does. Since Balthromaw is going to be killed for being a “slut” dragon, Rick, Morty, and Summer (Spencer Grammer) follow the Wizard back to his dimension, only for the Wizard to easily defeat Rick.
At the same time, Jerry (Chris Parnell) has been dealing with a talking cat (Matthew Broderick) that convinces him to fly to Florida. The cat constantly comments on the fact that he won’t explain why he can talk. Jerry and the cat have a good time until the cat blames Jerry for pooping on the beach, getting Jerry ostracized. The cat then tries to party with some college kids, but ends up pissing them off by questioning their games. The cat gets kicked off of a party boat and reunites with Jerry, asking for a ride home.
It turns out that Rick’s science doesn’t work in the realm of magic. Morty saves Rick with a magic spell, then Rick manages to build a “magic-punk” gun that allows him to turn Summer into a magic archer and devastate the forces of the Wizard… right up until Summer screws up and the Wizard retakes the upper hand. Morty frees Balthromaw and the group flees to a cave filled with other “slut dragons.” The slut dragons are revealed to be, in fact, extremely sexual, which unnerves Morty until the elder dragon forces everyone to soul-bond and create a soul dragon that destroys the Wizard and frees all of the dragons. Balthromaw follows the group back to Earth, but everyone just wants to be done with him, declaring it the “worst adventure ever.”
Rick goes to pick up Jerry and the cat, but ends up scanning the cat’s brain to figure out why it can talk. While undisclosed, the cat’s mind horrifies Rick and makes Jerry nauseous to the extreme. Rick is about to kill himself, only to instead wipe Jerry’s memory and get rid of the cat. It eventually meets up with Balthromaw and asks to go back to Florida.
So, this definitely was not one of my favorite episodes, but the more I thought about it while writing this review, the more I think that maybe it’s not as bad as I initially thought. I mean, it was never “bad,” because Rick and Morty is just naturally a bit more creative in storytelling than other shows, but I thought it was a little bit of a low point.
A big part of what I think is missing in this episode is the traditional A-plot and B-plot interplay that the show does so well (AND I WILL NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT IT UNTIL OTHER SHOWS GET IT RIGHT), but here the two don’t seem to really have any thematic connections on the surface and the B-Plot is extremely short. However, both of them are actually about dissecting two different sides of the fantasy genre. The traditional Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones high fantasy subgenre is shown to consist of a repressive wizard who captures and enslaves dragons for profit and dragons which are revealed to be very aggressively sexual, bordering on rapey. The cat, meanwhile, is a representation of magical realism subgenre. It’s just a cat that shows up, talks, and offers adventure to a poor schlub… but it turns out that the cat’s just kind of an a**hole (like most cats), the adventure is just a beach party that the cat ruins, and that the reason why the cat talks, which in most magical realism will be a major revelation, is never revealed and we’re apparently better for that. While it’s not the best subversion in the series, or even the season, it’s a little better upon realizing that both plots are at least hitting the same genre.
Rick being a dragon is a neat parallel to draw. Rick, like a dragon, is destructive, old, and also brilliant. Rick and Balthromaw end up bonding over his hoard, because while Balthromaw hoards valuables, Rick hoards his technology from anyone else. They both thrive on keeping stuff from others to make themselves superior. Unfortunately, they don’t really leave it up to the viewer, instead having both Balthromaw and Rick himself say that Rick is a dragon.
One thing that I both like and dislike about the episode is that the show couldn’t let Rick be powerless. When Rick is shown to have no technology in the wizarding world (sue me, Rowling) and Morty quickly starts to recite spells from the book, it seems like we’re looking at a rare role-reversal with Morty taking the lead. This quickly gets undone by Rick managing to create a new version of technology using magic that puts him back in charge. When I first watched the episode, that kind of annoyed me because it rendered Morty’s use of the spellbook as mostly pointless, but in retrospect it just shows us that Rick’s mind is so amazing that he can adapt to new laws of nature. Magic is just a sufficiently advanced technology and vice-versa. Still, I kind of want to see Morty have the upper hand more often and this was a good opportunity.
I also kind of liked the idea of the villain being a slut-shamer, except that the dragons he was shaming ended up being creepily sexual, so… really a plus and minus there as well.
Oh, and Rick interrupts the Wizard masturbating, which is funny.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
There aren’t a ton of floating theories here since there is no indication that Rick planned all this nor is there anything about the situation that would give him a motive to. So, instead, I’m going to take a stab at the big unknown:
WHY DOES THE CAT TALK?
First, what do we know? The cat was not born able to talk, because that would be his explanation. Instead, he somehow gained the ability from something which he is extremely ashamed of. It’s also something that is horrifying not only to Jerry, but, more impressively, to Rick freaking Sanchez. Rick is about to kill himself out of pure disgust, as opposed to his usual depression, so he’s seeing something worse than the stuff he does which means worse than enslaving a planet or a lot of genocide. While we don’t see what it is, we hear a few things. We hear what appears to be boots marching in sync, explosions, and babies crying. HUMAN babies. We also get the implication from Jerry that no one else would remember the events, which is why Rick chooses to remember them.
Second, what is the cat a reference to? Well, several things, but most prominently the 1978 Disney movie The Cat from Outer Space, which the episode even directly references. In that movie, there’s a cat that talks telepathically and, like the cat in this episode, hardly ever seems to stop doing cat things while talking (because it was a real cat in the movie and cats are a**holes). However, none of the events of that film really lend themselves to a backstory like that… unless you consider that at the end of that film, Jake, the titular cat, has a girlfriend, superior technology, and a pending litter. While Jake can’t really talk or use his powers without a collar, it’s stated in the film that the telepathy powers are only AMPLIFIED by the collar. They are innate to Jake’s species, unlike the telekinesis which the collar provides. So, what happens when Jake’s offspring learn what happens to common cats like their mother, like being locked up in the pound or put down? Well, they might end up very, very upset at humanity for how they treat cats… and that their dad can call down an armada.
My proposal, therefore, is that the cat in this episode is the son of the cat from outer space. He ended up using his species’ superior technology to eradicate humanity on another Earth, but humanity ended up taking the cats out with it, since this is the only survivor. Since one of the collars in the film was ultimately given to the humans as a token of goodwill and the other would be with his father who likely would oppose his plan, in order to destroy humanity, the cat had to focus and develop his powers to be able to talk without a collar. Him learning to speak ultimately destroyed both sides of his family. So why does that look worse than Rick’s usual murder sprees? Well, because this is presumably an army of cats clawing people, including children and infants, to death, ensuring total genocide of both species. That’s going to be a very, very, graphic image, even for Rick.
Or maybe the cat’s Cthulhu, but I’m going with the reference here.
LEAVING THE CORNER
This was still one of the weaker episodes of Rick and Morty, but I still had an okay time with it. Plus, it referenced The Cat from Outer Space, which I love.
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.