Rick and Morty gives us one of the greatest pranks in the history of television by pulling a bait-and-switch and presenting an amazing anthology.
Rick (Justin Roiland) and Morty (Justin Roiland) prepare to go to Atlantis, when another Rick (Justin Roiland) and Morty (Justin Roiland) arrive in order to solicit donations to fix the Citadel of Ricks, which Rick C-137 blew up. The C-137 pair decline and leave, with Morty wondering what happens at the Citadel.
The episode then shifts to the Citadel of Ricks which is now essentially a society populated by Ricks (Justin Roilahyougetitalready) and Mortys where there are 4 primary interwoven narratives.
First, a new Rick joins the Citadel police. Cop Rick is surprised to find that he’s being partnered with a veteran Cop Morty. He’s even more surprised that the Cop Morty possesses strong anti-Morty attitudes. Granted, it’s not so close that it feels like it’s anything more than a thematic reference, which is the absolute best way to do this kind of thing. Cop Rick and Cop Morty go investigating a robbery in Mortytown, a ghetto where solo Mortys roam the streets. Cop Morty tries to blend in and talk to some of the Mortys around the area, but ends up threatening to kill one of the Mortys in order to find out that the Mortytown Lobos, a local gang, committed the robberies. Cop Rick points out that’s illegal, but Cop Morty doesn’t care. They arrive at the Lobos’ hideout and raid the place, but Cop Rick is suckered by a supposed innocent Morty who stabs him before Cop Rick kills him. Cop Rick goes out to treat his wounds while Cop Morty blows up the building. They then go to a strip-ish club and meet with Big Morty, a local crime boss. Cop Rick resists the bribe, resulting in a shootout that has Cop Morty shoot Big Morty and Cop Rick shoot Cop Morty.
Second, at a “School for Mortys,” four Mortys (Lizard Morty, Slick Morty, Fat Morty, and Glasses Morty) are set to graduate and they decide to find the legendary Wishing Portal located on the citadel. Along the way, they try to steal some mega fruit from Farmer Rick and are chased off, then camp out in the woods. They discuss their ideas about the Wishing Portal, and Slick Morty expresses his opinion that it’s just a place where broken dreams are dumped. When asked why he’s such a downer, he reveals that he was implanted with a trauma chip. Glasses Morty tells him that’s not all he is, and the four continue on their journey. They finally reach the portal and each of them throws in an object precious to them while making a wish, until finally Slick Morty wishes that the Citadel would change and jumps in, sacrificing himself for his wish. It’s then revealed that the wishing portal is just the citadel dump.
A factory in the Citadel produces “Simple Rick’s” wafers, a wafer coated in the psychic resonance of a Rick who continually sees images of his loving daughter. A worker at that factory named Rick J-22 is incensed after being passed up for a promotion in favor of Cool Rick, a Rick that is just very very cool but has not worked at all for the company. He snaps and kills the Regional Manager Rick and runs into the room holding Simple Rick whom he holds hostage, becoming the TerroRick. Swat Team Rick arrives and tries to negotiate, but TerroRick refuses, pointing out that the entire society is based around destroying individuality and suppressing the masses. He asks for a portal gun, but when he tries to send Simple Rick home, it kills him. TerroRick prepares to go down fighting, but is bailed out by the factory owner Rick D. Sanchez III, who takes his side and escorts him out of the factory, only to shoot him in the back and put him in the place of Simple Rick. The wafers are now flavored with “shattering the grand illusion” and sold as the taste of Freedom and Rebellion.
The last segment reveals that, following the deaths of the entire Council of Ricks during the series premiere, the Citadel has decided to allow democratic elections for a new leader. There are a ton of Ricks running, but also a single Morty, Candidate Morty, who is polling terribly due to him being a Morty. His campaign manager, Campaign Manager Morty, advises him to drop out, but then Candidate Morty attends a much-publicized debate and delivers an absolutely devastating speech about how there is not a divide between the Ricks and Mortys, but rather a divide of class arising from the people who are manipulating the “race” division for their own benefit. He then fires Campaign Manager Morty. Campaign Manager Morty goes to a bar to drink his pain away and is shown some secret documents by Investigator Rick, who tells him that he needs to be afraid of Candidate Morty. Candidate Morty continues to play up his image as a hero of the common man, when suddenly Campaign Manager Morty shows up to a rally and shoots him.
It’s revealed that Candidate Morty survived and won the election. He immediately is told by all of the Ricks that run the Shadow Council that he is nothing more than a puppet. He has them executed, including Rick D. Sanchez, III. President Morty quickly has all of the Police Departments and Schools redone, leading Cop Rick to keep his job and the three Stand By Mortys are sent to work on the farms along with Rick rather than being assigned to them. All of his enemies are shot out into space, with documents in Campaign Manager Morty’s body floating out to reveal that President Morty is actually Evil Morty from “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind.”
This is a strong candidate not just for the best episode of Rick and Morty, but for one of the best episodes of television. It’s an amazingly well-crafted and densely packed narrative for 22 minutes. Not a second is wasted, putting it up there with “Meeseeks and Destroy” in terms of narrative efficiency.
Cop Rick’s story is basically Training Day. It’s a parable about police and racism, except instead of black and white it’s Rick and Morty. It’s not particularly subtle, either. Mortytown is portrayed as being a ghetto and Cop Morty calls Mortys “animals” and “yellow shirts,” a reference to racial slurs and racially coded language. This shocks Cop Rick, who expected Cop Morty to be more sympathetic to his own people. Later, we see the Cop Morty even “code switch” from speaking like an officer to speaking like a Morty, using an exaggerated number of “Aww Geez” lines in his speech. Cop Morty then becomes enraged when told he just “look[s] like a sidekick,” which is clearly a serious slur among Mortys. Cop Morty, much like Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris, often tries to simultaneously separate himself from his race by looking down on others and also to use it to his advantage when convenient. We even see him use to to justify his murder of the Mortytown Lobos, telling Cop Rick “same old story, Mortys killing Mortys,” a reference to the supposed practice of officers blaming officer shootings on gang violence. Whenever Cop Rick tries to confront him over his abuse of power, Cop Morty simply tells him nobody cares about police brutality on Mortys. Even Cop Rick, who acted with integrity throughout the entire storyline, is forced to kill a fellow officer and is effectively now working for Evil Morty, a reflection that even good intentions can be ineffective against a corrupt system. He’s even told that his abuses of power and violations will no longer be against the codes.
The Stand By Me Mortys are a reflection of the hopelessness and cynicism of the youth. The four Mortys are told that their futures will consist solely of being appointed to serve as the sidekicks of Ricks, effectively removing any of their agency after their childhood. The four Mortys try to make the most of the remainder of their freedom, but when confronted with the object of their desire, the Wishing Portal, three of their wishes are mostly small and selfish, with only Slick Morty wishing for something substantive: Change. That change, in their eyes, is powered by Slick’s sacrifice, but we are shown the truth: The change happened through manipulation of the masses by Evil Morty. While the four get what they were really wanting, an opportunity to express agency aside from just being Rick’s sidekick, they are still supporting a system that was established through lies and murder and appears to be set-up to serve a monster’s whims. Fun times.
The story of Rick J-22 in the factory is a reflection of the dissatisfaction between the laborers and the managers in most industries. Rick J-22 is stuck in the same job for 15 years, despite, as Evil Morty points out, having the same IQ and being the same person as his manager. There is no real reason that one has to suffer taking unpleasant public transit while the other is shown to be eating sardines and drinking champagne in a flying car, except that one is stuck in a system controlled by the other. The Ricks running the Shadow Council are not smarter, wiser, or more ethical than the Ricks that are working in the Citadel, they’re just the ones who were there first. Even more disheartening, when we see Rick J-22 finally rebel, his rebellion is literally eaten by the system, with his feeling of “shattering the grand illusion” now flavoring cookies. The movie Network dealt with a similar theme, when it featured a group of Communists given air time on a network eventually being reduced to yelling about not getting their merchandising rights for selling shirts that say “down with capitalism.” The beauty and horror of the capitalist system is that it can turn the rebellion into part of the system. After all, the t-shirt company doesn’t care if you’re buying a shirt dedicated to Adam Smith or Karl Marx, as long as you’re buying the shirt. However, we actually see the thing that can somewhat break this wheel at the end, and it’s something far worse. Which brings me to…
The campaign of Evil Morty is the traditional campaign of Change. Morty is effectively a minority candidate, coming from a class of people who didn’t have any authority to choose their own leadership or even most basic rights. Something brought down their previous system (in this case Rick, in most real cases economics or war), and a populist leader is trying to seize power in the vacuum left from it. The parallels to historical rises are basically innumerable, some arguably good, but most evil. However, the main thing to note is that unhappy people want change more than they want change in a positive direction. My counterpart even wrote a series about it. That’s what Evil Morty is preying upon. He doesn’t even state what his policies are going to be, unlike Juggling Rick or Retired General Rick, he just says that he’s going to bring something new and some statements about bringing down the powerful. Instead, he just makes himself powerful.
Ultimately, this is an episode about all of the ways in which systems can be manipulated such that even the good people within the system can be made to support evil. The biggest decision made by any character in the episode would be who to vote for, because that gives Evil Morty control of the citadel by a narrow margin, but everyone is focused more on their own personal struggles than that of the society. Everything is crap kids, and even the good things you do don’t mean anything in the long run compared to civic activism. Time for whisky? Time for whisky.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
As I mentioned during the theory for “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind,” I believe that Evil Morty created the Morty Shield used in that episode specifically to increase the Morty to Rick ratio in the citadel. At the time, the Citadel was run by the Council of Ricks and Mortys had no authority or legal rights, meaning that it’s extremely unlikely that this was part of a plan to become a populist candidate. However, this episode does give us a few clues about how he had actually planned to seize power prior to Rick giving him a helping hand when he destroyed the citadel.
The biggest clues are that Evil Morty is running as the “Morty Party” candidate, but still appears to have at least enough funding to qualify as a legitimate, if dark horse, candidate and that after his election, on the day of, in fact, he has loyal Rick soldiers willing to kill fellow Ricks at his command. See, while the “Morty Party” is definitely a real party, it’s clearly effectively a joke. One reason for this is, potentially, that Mortys can’t actually vote. While this is never said for sure, the fact that he only barely wins the election among six candidates despite Mortys being the majority of the citadel suggests that they can’t. Also, they’re minors and treated as second class citizens, so it kind of makes sense that they wouldn’t get the vote from the Ricks. Despite that, and the fact that most of the Mortys are stated to be unemployed (and unassigned), Evil Morty has enough backing to at least be allowed in the Debate. It’s possible that he was only allowed in as a joke, but that seems unlikely, given the number of candidates already needing time.
If Evil Morty couldn’t get any actual effective help from Mortys, that means that he was getting help from other Ricks. Most Ricks would likely be hesitant to be under a Morty, naturally, but it is clear that he has at least some extremely loyal Ricks by the time of his inauguration. So how did he get their loyalty? Well, we know that, based on the increased activity of Seal Team Ricks in the Season 3 Premier, that the Council had become more directly interventionist recently, likely in response to the events of “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind.” This would likely not sit well with many of the Ricks who weren’t on the Council, making them prime targets for Evil Morty to convert to his cause. Essentially, he set up a problem, allowed the government to react to it, then played upon the fears of the populus based upon the government response. I’m sure there’s no historical precedent for this.
LEAVING THE CORNER
Like I said, this is one of the best bait-and-switches, one of the best twist endings, and one of the best interwoven narratives I’ve ever seen. This episode’s a masterpiece.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
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