Rick and Morty is a regularly absurd show, though that absurdity is typically brought back to earth with some dark and sobering pathos. But there are those occasional episodes that never bother to dial down the wackiness. Sometimes this show just likes to goof off and “Get Schwifty” (as if the dumb title isn’t signposting it enough) is one of those goof-off episodes.
This isn’t a terrible thing, really. The season one finale, “Ricksy Business,” was just about a crazy house party and didn’t develop too heavily beyond that, but it was still pure, silly fun and worked as a breather after the fairly somber episode that had come before it. “Get Schwifty” isn’t much like “Ricksy Business” because, rickdiculous though it is, it’s a lot more complicated. Rather than sticking with one major idea and having fun with it, this episode is packed to the gills with shit!
I do love the way Rick and Morty operates. Creator Justin Roiland has said the goal is to relentlessly chuck fresh nonsense at the audience. One easily could easily fill 23 minutes with just the premise of a giant head coming to earth demanding to hear an awesome pop song, but on this show it’s only the first act. The head is quickly appeased by an off-the-cuff number performed by Rick and Morty about shitting on the floor and then we’re off to all other manner of foolishness: a fate-of the-planet, intergalactic music reality show; the formation of a cult that worships the giant, pop-loving heads; and Ice-T revealing he’s an alien from a planet where everyone is both an element and a letter.
It doesn’t all quite hold together, however. The madcap nature of this episode is what’s fun about it; it’s what allows for Ice-T to suddenly exposit his alien origin story in the middle of everything. Still, it’s also what makes very little of it stick. Ice-T’s backstory is essentially just a gag, but the stuff we’re supposed to care about, like Summer’s undying allegiance to the giant head cult, is introduced just as randomly so it’s also hard to take too seriously. I mean, even though the fate of the world is at stake, it doesn’t feel like much of a problem because we learn in the first act that the giant heads are very easily appeased by not-great songsmanship. In fact, the ending doubles down on this as Rick and Morty and President Keith David just slap together another crappy song at the last minute and save the world (frankly, their first hit is far more memorable).
I guess the big problem here is the episode wants to have it both ways. It presents everything as completely inane and disposable, but then still tries to shoehorn in emotional stuff about Jerry and Beth finally getting the respect from their daughter that they’ve always wanted and Morty learning that, in the clutch, he just needs to put his faith in Rick. It’s hard to care much about this stuff when it’s all thrown out as fast, furiously, and jokingly as everything else in an episode packed with nutty junk. Also, it feels like Morty’s learned that Rick’s (almost) always right quite a few times now, so it’s hard to see this as a huge moment of enlightenment or something.
Ultimately, the best thing about “Get Schwifty” is some of the jokes. The president declaring “’Get Schwifty’ was a jam” is good, as is Principal Vagina asking the giant head to forgive him for the AMBER Alerts he keeps ignoring on his phone. I also couldn’t help but laugh at the lyrics to “Get Schwifty.” I did not anticipate it being about shitting on floors. And just the giant head thundering “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT” made me all a-giggle.
But “Get Schwifty” is let down by a plot that’s overly complex and too goofball to take seriously. One could argue that there’s nothing different between this and any other episode of Rick and Morty, but I think the best episodes of this show know how flip from funny to somber or, alternatively, they pick one and stick to it more resolutely. They just do a better job of developing and building to whatever tone they want to convey. “Get Schwifty” sort of flip-flops and the result is that a number of the gags work, but it doesn’t do the footwork to make you care about the emotional stuff or, well, the plot.
I mean, it’s just occurred to me that the story actually only has the illusion of developing beyond the first act’s premise. The original conflict was that the earth was in peril if Rick and Morty couldn’t perform a pop song for a giant head. Then the conflict becomes that the earth is in peril if Rick and Morty can’t perform a pop song for… um… more giant heads.
See? Kinda lazy.