Over the course of its first season, Rick and Morty has had some major dark moments, like in “Meeseeks and Destroy” or “Rick Potion #9.” And its penultimate episode, “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” was both super-dark (e.g., thousands of tortured Morties) and a total mindfudge to boot, completely upending the proceedings with the reveal of an Evil Morty. It was an extremely solid and intense addition to the show’s universe and storyline thus far.
I most love Rick and Morty for being unafraid to go dark and intense, but another of its strengths is its ability to juggle tones and to know when to ease off and just do a bunch of funny-ass, sci-fi bullshit. “Ricksy Business” demonstrates an awareness that you don’t want to go out on a down note so it’s pretty much a gleeful hodgepodge of funny-ass, sci-fi bullshit.
If the title wasn’t already a giveaway (though Weird Science is probably the more apt comparison), “Ricksy Business” goes with that ’80s plot staple of parents going on a trip, leaving their kids alone to throw the most off-the-hook party ever. Jerry and Beth head off to a cheesy, participatory Titanic (as in the movie, not the actual event) recreation, cautioning that if there’s even one thing wrong with the house upon their return, Rick and Morty aren’t allowed to go on any adventures ever again. Summer immediately throws a party to get in good with the popular kids. Rick, being a terrible guardian who cares about almost nothing, makes the party far more insane and destructive by inviting a cavalcade of beings from other dimensions and planets and whatnot.
The plot actually hews pretty close to those eighties movies and ridiculous sitcoms of yore, like Growing Pains or whatever. Morty is the square, constantly worried his parents are going to kill all of them and therefore not enjoying the party but instead policing everyone and cleaning up after their messes. Summer stays wrapped up in her concerns about becoming more popular. And Rick is a partying force of nature, getting wriggedy-wrecked and trying to get Morty to relax and enjoy himself. And just like those sitcoms and movies, everyone even kind of learns some lessons at the end of it all.
What separates it from that stuff is that Rick and Morty is a sci-fi show that embraces its open-ended multiverse concept with relentless gusto, so what makes “Ricksy Business” so great is how much fun the writers and animators had with all of Rick’s guests. There’s Squanchy, a weird little cat sort of guy who talks about squanching all the time. Gear Head has turning gears all over his face and body and loves droning on about the Gear Wars to anyone who will listen. Bird Person (who I’m pretty positive is voiced by co-creator Dan Harmon) talks in a slow monotone, but is consistently hilarious (not to mention full of wisdom). And last but not least, there’s Rick’s creation, Abradolf Lincler, a being created from the spliced DNA of Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler that Rick thought would result in a morally-neutral super-leader, but instead just “adds up to a lame, weird loser.”
Jerry and Beth’s story is the less interesting one, with Jeff pawning Jerry off on a member of the Titanic recreation’s cleaning staff as she finds the whole thing boring. It goes, oddly, in the direction of an attempted rape on Jerry, though it’s far less dark than what befell Morty in “Meeseeks and Destroy” and makes for more dumb, easy humor (e.g., that Cape Fear joke) that the show occasionally doesn’t mind dipping into. But the premise of a recreation of the events of the James Cameron film is in itself a brilliantly ridiculous subversion, producing lines about the ship being “un-unsinkable.” And the fact that Jerry is super into all this while Beth just finds it lame is completely accurate to their characters.
The plot in “Ricksy Business” is almost the total opposite of last week’s episode. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” was a tightly-controlled piece of narrative brilliance. The various narrative pieces here don’t go anywhere that exciting. Summer’s plot isn’t hugely developed. Morty gets to briefly try the moves on his crush, Jessica, but it doesn’t go much of anywhere. Rick just acts drunk and high (though this results in “The Rick Dance” which I enjoyed enough and can already tell I’ll have to appreciate at least somewhat if I want to remain a card-carrying member of the Rick and Morty fan club).
It’s less about the story and more about throwing ridiculous sci-fi thing after thing at us, making for a sort of a quantity over quality episode. But that’s not really accurate because all the sci-fi stuff is pretty quality. The one-off characters are loads of absurd fun and there are a number of fantastic one-liners (“glip-glops” is “like the n-word and the c-word had a baby and it was raised by all the bad words for Jews.”).
There is also a bit of tragic payoff with Rick’s catchphrase, “wubbalubbadubdub” as we learn it actually means (in Bird Person’s language) “I am in great pain. Please help me.” But this isn’t dwelled on as it really isn’t a tragic episode. It’s just a celebration of this crazy sci-fi world and it’s not a bad way to go out, temporarily tidying away the sadness and shouting, “I don’t give a fuuuuuuck!”