This Rick and Morty review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 5
I certainly didn’t expect two truly brilliant Rick and Morty episodes in succession and, furthermore, that “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” might even be better than “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender,” but here we are.
Both episodes have razor-sharp, laugh-out-loud jokes throughout. Where “Whirly Dirly” has an edge over “Worldender” is that it takes the characters in completely new directions. With Community, Dan Harmon made a point of having a cast of characters who would be successfully entertaining, no matter how they were paired off, each configuration resulting in a fun and interesting dynamic. He and the other writers have now managed the same feat with Rick and Morty.
There’s no reason to imagine a Jerry and Rick episode would work, but work it does, like gangbusters even! Jerry and Rick have an obvious beef to hash out—both feel that the other stole Beth away—so the episode explores this beef. It does so through a truly ingenious high-concept setting, a resort surrounded by an immortality field in which you can engage in any sort of reckless behavior your heart desires without fear of dying.
The concept makes for numerous awesome, bloody sight gags and an intense action sequence on the titular Whirly Dirly ride (it’s like the ending of Speed except the heads grow back!). Season three has really ramped up the action sequences and the uber-violence and this was maybe the coolest example of that yet. Also, the moment the force field turns off and that alien kid accidentally murders his kid sister permanently—holy shit, was that dark! I was absolutely stunned they put that in and then just moved on like it was a throwaway moment.
As is Rick and Morty’s M.O., the plot speeds through the immortality section to introduce a totally new concept. Rick and Jerry take public transit through a wormhole and Rick, being the most dangerous individual in the multiverse, is neutralized with a shot of synaptic dampener that blocks violent tendencies and controversial thoughts (“I mean, let everybody buy a ticket, right? Otherwise, the terrorists win”). It’s brief but it’s a treat to see Rick as a simpleton.
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We get another uncommon pairing with a Morty/Beth B-plot as they try to figure out how to revert Summer to her normal form after she accidentally turns herself giant with a sci-fi ray in Rick’s garage. It’s interesting to see how Morty interacts with his mom (much like he interacts with Rick, which makes some sense) and there are a lot of amazing jokes. The cleverest of the episode is when Beth calls the enlarging ray’s customer service number and the tech support guys turn out to be little men who live inside the machine who subsequently trick her into freeing them.
More than anything else, season three has impressed me with its tight, logical plotting, so when I say this is where “Whirly Dirly” drops the ball, please note it’s a pretty short drop. I’m glad Beth becomes a better parent by the end (because she’s mostly awful up until that point), but, as a B-plot, not quite enough time is devoted to her owning up to her wrongs and figuring out how to help her daughter. It’s basically fine, but the resolution still feels a bit like Beth just suddenly knows how to be a good mom; we don’t quite get to see her full path there. (I love Morty getting tough with Ethan though.)
My other tiny issue is that, unless I missed something, there’s no prior indication that entering a wormhole results in a psychedelic mind-melding experience, so it feels sort of random. However, this sequence is really just there to get over the plot hump of Rick needing enough time for the synaptic dampener to wear off. It was more about the passage of time than anything else so the wormhole could have been depicted in any fashion, really, and the sequence was trippy and fun to watch. It was just unexpected.
Again, this is nitpicking. “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” is an episode full of great jokes and super-clever concepts. It’s further elevated by its exploration of novel character dynamics and character evolutions. Jerry and Rick understand each more, Beth is a slightly better mother, and Jerry is going to stop being so pathetic all the time. Well, he’s going to try. Maybe.