Adult Swim released this episode four days early on Instagram in obnoxious 15 second chunks! I had no intention of watching it until it aired for realsies, but I should’ve had more faith in the internet, which is full of proficient techies with no lives who saw fit to painstakingly download every clip and piece it together into the full shebang! Wubalubadubdubs! Thanks, nerds!
The premise is that Rick rigs the family’s cable box so that the family can watch programming from every conceivable reality, giving them infinite TV channels broadcasting weird shit. However, flipping around, they quickly discover that, in the realities where Jerry didn’t marry Beth, he became a huge movie star/writer/director. Rick and Morty just want to watch weird TV from other dimensions, but Jerry, Beth, and Summer get obsessed with finding out what the alternative versions of themselves are up to. So Rick tosses them goggles that let them see into parallel timelines to keep them occupied, while he and Morty spend the rest of the episode watching television.
I can see “Rixty Minutes” being a divisive episode because it isn’t structured like a proper piece of a narrative television. Justin Roiland always improvises his characters’ dialogue to some extent, but some belching and stumbling over words might not prepare you for an episode with roughly only three core narrative turns and the rest “filler.” I put that in quotes because I imagine some will see the bulk of “Rixty Minutes” as little more than that, while others will really enjoy the absurdity and may even admire the show’s readiness to crap all over conventional narrative structure.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I respect the willingness to bend and break the rules of TV storytelling, which is why I like adventurous shows like Louie and Girls, but I also recognize the value of a familiar structure. Most shows (and fiction in general) go with it because, quite simply, it works. It’s solid and, as much as I like shows that buck the trend, I also feel most of their weaknesses come from doing so.
It’s a particularly jarring for Rick and Morty because Dan Harmon is famously married to structure and plots out everything he writes with a story circle based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s my guess he’s the major factor in keeping the plotting in this show on track, stabilizing Justin Roiland’s makeshift madness. But it seems like Roiland needed an episode just for puking random, consecutive bull hockey into, so “Rixty Minutes” spends a lot of time just showing you what Rick and Morty are watching on TV. This includes an extended ad for fake doors (as in doors that lead nowhere and can’t be opened), a movie about a guy who loves eating shit (until he gets a court order telling him, oh no!, he can’t eat shit anymore), and a version of SNL mostly starring inanimate objects (including “a hole in the wall where the men can see it all”).
Rick notes that TV from other dimensions has got “an almost improvisational tone” (wink, wink) and I can appreciate some Roiland uncut. I’ve been watching his nonsense since he was making sketches on Channel101.com and much of the content in “Rixty Minutes” is effectively the same kind of stuff, turning a lot of the episode into a weird sketch show. But, as with all sketch shows (especially improvised ones), the output is hit or miss. A number of these drag and just aren’t that funny or memorable. But then there’s stuff like the ad for “Ants in My Eyes Johnson Electronics,” run by a guy with ants in his eyes who can’t see: “Our prices, I hope, aren’t too low!” And the Lucky Charms parody is likely to stick with you (but not because it’s funny…).
But what I love about this episode is that it pulls what’s becoming a Rick and Morty signature move by surprisingly introducing pertinence in the third act and somehow making it work. If there’s any consistency in this episode, it’s with Jerry, Beth, and Summer who are going through pretty dramatic stuff as Summer learns her parents originally considered aborting her while Jerry and Beth’s peeks into their lives in other timelines confirm for them how much happier they would’ve been without each other. It’s a masterstroke that these two dissimilar plots—one focused on bullshit TV parodies and one about the family falling apart—actually come together at the end.
We’re given a reminder, after all this TV parody silliness, that Rick and Morty isn’t actually just throwing random crap at you without any thought behind it as there’s continuity here. Morty, we learn, hasn’t forgotten and, in fact, regularly thinks about how he had to bury his own corpse only a few episodes ago. And the lesson he imparts to Summer that would be the sickly-sweet moral in a crappy sitcom is, in this show, about as bleak as you can get while still technically counting as “cheering someone up.”
But if Morty’s lesson to Summer is essentially that nothing matters and nobody belongs anywhere in the universe, so screw it, Jerry and Beth reach a truly unexpected revelation about their marriage that basically says, miserable or not, they’re meant to be together. I was beginning to wonder how this show could keep sustaining the idea of Jerry and Beth’s marriage constantly being on the brink of collapse, but I think this plot development will help keep things more plausible in the future. Were this another show, I would assume this happened just to wrap up the conflict in this one episode, but this show has demonstrated that it’s big on continuity, so everything has the potential to matter quite a lot.
All in all, “Rixty Minutes” surprised me by once again getting dark and deep and I really love it for that. But I also can’t deny that much of the inane TV stuff that made up the majority of the episode was draggy and not that funny. Still, after a disappointing outing with “Raising Gazorpazorp,” this episode did enough to reestablish what I love about this series.