This Rick and Morty review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 2
To keep its storytelling fresh, one of the best tools a sitcom has is character pairings. All you have to do to shake things up from time to time is pair characters off in different configurations from the norm and, if you’ve got a strong cast, funny stuff should ensue.
In “The Old Man and the Seat,” we get a Summer and Beth plot; a Morty and Jerry plot; and a Rick all by his lonesome plot. Sure, it’s not the first time they’ve done this, but up to this point most Rick and Morty episodes have relied on the show’s solid, default character pairings: the one in the series’ title; Beth and Jerry; and, uh, Summer is kind of on her own, I guess. So, at this point it’s still novel to divide and pair off the Smith family, stick them in sci-fi adventures, and see what happens.
It works out mostly extremely well in “The Old Man and the Seat.” The Rick storyline is one long poop joke that amazingly culminates with a brilliant, melancholy character moment. Morty and Jerry’s plot is more about gags and doesn’t get too deep, but it’s still funny to watch Morty begrudgingly deal with his loser father. Beth and Summer fare the worst. Their story is pretty one-note; Summer just keeps using a dating app called LoveFinderrz to chase soulmate after soulmate, with Beth in hot pursuit.
In actuality, the two don’t interact all that much as Beth is one step behind Summer through much of the episode. However, it still highlights that Summer and Beth are the show’s least-developed characters. Well, maybe that’s not fair to Summer, who has had plenty of great moments over the course of the series, but Beth remains just a bit bland. The series took some big steps forward with her last season, but unfortunately she still often falls into the boring matriarch role that a lot of sitcom moms do.
It’s not that Summer and Beth’s storyline is terrible. It’s just the weakest. However, one good moment I will note is when Summer’s soulmate girlfriend of a few minutes disgusts Summer when they board a plane together and she immediately takes off her shoes and starts picking her feet.
As mentioned, Morty and Jerry’s adventure works better. They have to work together to destroy the LoveFinderrz dating app, which Jerry created with Rick’s alien intern, Glootie. Glootie isn’t in the episode too much, but, voiced by Taika Waititi, his matter-of-fact line delivery is naturally charming and hilarious. Just hearing him repeat “wanna develop an app?” gave me great joy. It’s also a funny concept that Glootie is a member of the Monogatron species who have perfected monogamous relationships, but are also trying to take over Earth because they’re running out of water.
The Morty and Jerry plot has some good one-liners, with Jerry screwing things up as he is wont to do and the duo awkwardly threatening the Monogatrons with punching. It ends with a funny, deliberate subversion of the touchy-feeling character development moment we’ve all been trained to expect from sitcoms when Morty tells Jerry: “Dad, I wanna say something. I started today disgusted and embarrassed to be your son. Later, I thought we were gonna die because you’re a loser.” Then he just leaves it there.
It’s fine that Jerry and Morty don’t reach any emotional development in their father son relationship because this is primarily Rick’s story, and all the pathos is packed in with him. The brilliance of it is that Rick’s conflict begins with one of the most juvenile premises the series has ever done, but gradually, stealthily morphs into a tragic story about Rick losing a new friend.
There’s an argument to be made that Rick and Morty has already pulled the “Surprise! Rick is alone and sad!” ending a few times now and maybe for some of us it feels a little rote. But I believe “The Old Man and the Seat” develops it in a new way. In “Auto Erotic Assimilation,” for example, we learned that Rick is such a unique and powerful individual that he can only be attracted to other extraordinary beings like Unity, who’s a collective hivemind. In this episode, Rick’s character is taken down a peg as we discover he occasionally meets random schlubs who, for whatever reason, he grows some attachment to and can’t bring himself to callously dispatch.
Rick’s sad plot also takes some great comedic turns along the way, like when he casually, singlehandedly ends a war between robots and lizard people. And it’s a nice surprise that Rick’s story ends tragically, but not in a way that feels the need to go uber-dark like other Rick and Morty episodes so often do (e.g., “Auto Erotic Assimilation” ends with Rick attempting suicide). Plus, like I said, the whole plot is one big joke about toilets and pooping, featuring a dream sequence where God declares, “I’m poopin’ too!” What’s not to love about that?