Before the break, Rick and Morty aired its two darkest episodes so far back-to-back, so I guess it’s fair enough that we return to this universe with probably the most straightforwardly comedic episode yet. Not that it isn’t still totally fucked up. I mean, the inciting incident is that Morty bangs a sex robot that he asked Rick to buy for him and it turns out to be some kind of baby-making machine, so out pops a half-Morty/half-alien baby (which he names Morty Jr, obviously). It’s a pretty nasty concept, especially considering Morty’s only fourteen. Plus, there’s the way his parents handle the situation so nonchalantly. They try to help him out with the baby, but when Morty witnesses their poor parenting skills applied to his own offspring, he rejects their help, after which point Jerry and Beth spend the episode criticizing Morty’s raising of Morty Jr.
This episode might be starting to paint a picture of Morty’s family life that implies his relationship with his parents is much more messed up than all the insane crap Rick gets him involved in. Morty’s parents’ storylines have mostly been to do with each other and we haven’t really seen them do much parenting. We know they’re in a borderline loveless marriage, so it follows that the badness of that would not likely translate to a caring upbringing for their kids. But this is really the first time we’re shown how awful they can be to their children. They largely just don’t seem to care that much about helping their son with the pretty big problem he has of having just fathered a monster-child. Basically, Jerry and Beth don’t even act like parents. They act like snarky, sarcastic roommates.
I only spend so much time talking about this because I’m not yet sure if we’re actually supposed to view Jerry and Beth as being such completely uncaring parents (though with this show, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are) or if it’s just that they’re conforming to the detached tone of this particular episode, which, unlike the last two episodes, feels far less interested in instilling the truth of the desolate hopelessness of existence in the viewer.
One fun thing “Raising Gazorpazorp” does is swap Morty and his sister Summer’s roles. Changing up the usual formula, Morty’s the one who has to stay home and do the, uh, “normal” sitcom story, while Summer goes planet-hopping with Rick. Rick doesn’t want her to come because he doesn’t “do adventures with chicks.” But she accidentally gets sucked into a portal and then he’s stuck with her on the sex robot’s home planet of Gazorpazorp.
It’s a funny development that Gazorpazorp is overrun with all violent, sex-starved male aliens so that Summer being a woman actually does turn out to be the exact reason she shouldn’t be involved. But when it’s revealed that the women of the planet have separated themselves from the violent men who they leave to kill each other on the planet below while they survive in a female utopia in space, things get kind of dumb. It’s just that the whole “society run by women in a feminine way” thing has been done many times before by other shows (like on Futurama, which this show is easily and often compared to).
Since Rick and Morty is wittier than average, the jokes are smarter than average. For example, the fact that females of Gazorpazrop greet each other by saying “I am here if you need to talk” is pretty funny, as is the fact that they built their paradise “during The Great Passive Aggression.” And for all the jokes about women being sensitive and emotional, there’s a hefty sampling of dismissing men as violent idiots. But it’s all basically just high-quality versions of the pretty tired “men are like this, but women are like this” sort of thing that hacky comedians have been trotting out since time immemorial and it makes “Raising Gazorpazorp” feel overall less inventive than this show has proven it can be.
I did like the conclusion of the Summer and Rick plot in which Summer saves Rick’s life by using the cute Marc Jacobs top she’s wearing as a defense, explaining how separation of genders might work for Gazorpazorp, “but on Earth, a certain percentage of our males are born gay, which is why my clothes are better than all of yours.” And I also love how the leader of Gazorpazorp describes Earth as a “weird planet where women are kind of equal, but not really.”
Morty and his newborn alien son’s story ends kind of sloppily with “Marmaduke” creator Brad Anderson showing up randomly to suggest that Morty Jr. channel his violent urges into being a creative. It’s just kind of a draggy, inane ending (plus, this version of Brad Anderson seems pretty light on his feet for a guy who’s like a billion years old in real life). But I do like how much Dan Harmon’s well-documented understanding of creative types as screwed-up villains who don’t know how to interact with humanity except by unleashing their weird impulses in their work comes through strongly here. And I appreciate the overall tragic message that Morty inescapably ends up being a bad parent because he has bad parents.
Overall, “Raising Gazorpazorp” felt like the silliest Rick and Morty there’s been and I might even argue that it’s the worst one yet. But, that said, I laughed out loud a lot so this show’s worst is still a long way away from bad.