You have to hand it to this show: they really commit to a premise. Sure, the introduction of infinite dimensions for Rick and Morty to explore conveniently makes for endless narrative possibilities. But there’s also been the acknowledgement that all those dimensions would also mean an endless number of Ricks and Mortys (Morties?) and, ever since this was revealed all the way back in “Rick Potion #9,” they haven’t just let this revelation fall by the wayside. Quite the contrary, in fact, as “Rixty Minutes” brought the concept back to the forefront, and now “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” positively revels in it.
The episode jumps right into it: there’s an evil Rick hopping around dimensions murdering other Ricks and kidnapping their Morties. Also, a number of Ricks have banded together to form the Council of Ricks, and they think Rick (as in the one we’ve been watching for ten episodes) is the killer. So our Rick and Morty set off to find the real killer.
It’s a really solid episode, both narratively and comically. Rick and Morty does some of its best comedic work when it gleefully indulges in the absurd possibilities that a sci-fi universe of limitless possibilities allows for. One of the consistently best ways Rick and Morty showcases its creativity is through chase scenes in which the characters go through all manners of sci-fi rigmarole, letting the writers and animators assault you with a barrage of blink-and-you-missed-it sight gags.
The chase scene in “Close Rick-counters,” in which Rick and Morty go portal-ing around the universe with the Council of Ricks in hot pursuit, is in a class of its own. In addition to the visual nonsense treats like a world of giant butts and another of greasy grandmas, there’s also a gag about inanimate objects ordering delivery food that builds and builds until Rick and Morty end up in a world populated by talking chairs that sit on people, eat phones, and use pizzas as phones. I recognize that trying to synopsize this gag sapped nearly all sense from it, but the writing and animation of this works brilliantly and, again, Rick and Morty commits to its absurdity, so the joke isn’t immediately dismissed. Rick and Morty actually end up spending some time in the chair-people-who-eat-phones-and-sit-on-people-and-use-pizza-as-phones world.
The chase scene stands as a great example of the awesome imagery and sharp writing in “Close Rick-counters,” which stays really funny throughout. The visual gags continue with the Morties from other dimensions, one of whom is shaped like a giant hammer. There’s also a hilarious moment where a cult of religious Morties give our Morty a pamphlet about their beliefs, which starts off with a cautionary tale about the evils of the Internet. Rick is also just in top form here and at his most street, shouting such classics as “oh shit, dawg!”and “I found the real killer, biiiitch!” The moment with the guard-lobster thing (seemingly) laughing at Rick’s one-liners is also great, especially because it takes a jab at Mumford & Sons (who suck, if you haven’t been informed).
The story is awesome because it introduces some huge new developments into Rick and Morty’s relationship. We learn that, in all universes, Rick keeps Morty around because their brainwaves cancel each other out, thus keeping Rick camouflaged from his enemies. This reduces Morty to little more than a tool to keep Rick alive, something which makes Morty more pissed at Rick than he’s ever been. Also, because more Morties with more active brainwaves means better camouflage, we get a new entry on the list of horrifically traumatic things Morty has had to witness: in this case, an Epcot-esque dome covered in Morties being rhythmically stabbed in their sides.
It’s also dramatically important and good that we see how our Rick actually cares about his Morty and even sheds tears remembering their times together. But, of course, bastard that he is, he won’t openly address these feelings in Morty’s presence. It’s cold, but consistent with the character.
The other bit of drama going on is that Jerry finds a friend in Doofus Rick, the dumber Rick none of the other Ricks like. It feels like a less important plot development and not a lot of time is devoted to it, but it manages to be effectively sweet and sad with the amount of screen time it’s given.
The only thing I found a bit narratively weak was the way all the Morties break out of prison just because a guard comes in to tell them to keep it down, but it’s a minor complaint. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” is one of the show’s best, doling out rapid-fire jokes and ingenious high-concept, sci-fi revelations. It even ends with a twist that works exceptionally well. And it introduces an incredible villain for the series’ future—one who, if you think back on the evils committed by him over the course of this episode, is so much more heartless any version of Rick has been thus far. And the ramifications of that are kind of incredible.