This Rick and Morty review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 3
Rick and Morty has been insane and convoluted with its sci-fi plots for a good while now. Way back in the season two premiere we already had all that nonsense about multiple potential realities. But I’m not sure we’ve had a season like this that, so early on, is shaping up to be defined by breakneck, complex plotting. I mean, I thought the premiere was bonkers, but now here we are, only two episodes later, with the breathlessly insane “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty.”
The episode is good in that it held my attention throughout; it’s so nonstop there’s no opportunity to be bored. The plot being a dressing-down of heist movies, it’s got a good running gag of characters declaring “You son of a bitch, I’m in.” There’s also a hilarious sequence about a guy named Gleer/Glar and a brilliant one-liner from Rick about David Lynch. It also sees the return of fan-favorite Mister Poopybutthole, though I was somewhat underwhelmed by how he’s used here (he’s also the center of the meandering, aimless episode tag, possibly the worst one the series has ever done).
Unfortunately, there’s also a lame shoehorned-in Elon Musk cameo, who is basically just in the episode because he said he liked the show and because he’s Elon Musk. His cameo arrives at something of an awkward moment where the real-life Elon’s company’s stock just dropped massively after he introduced a car that looked like a rejected vehicle design from RoboCop. Further, Elon has been a historically not-great dude in general, so his appearance here leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
However, none of that would matter too much if Elon was well-utilized, but his character’s involvement is literally random—the randomness actually being a component of the storyline—so his cameo never feels like more than what it is: a favor to a billionaire Rick and Morty fan. He also happens to be a terrible actor, something we already knew because The Simpsons did it years ago and he was already a terrible guest star on that show.
But I digress! Elon’s inclusion, though dumb, is not the big problem with “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty.” The big problem is the overwrought complexity of the plot, which is about, well, overwrought, complex plots.
Dan Harmon is such an ambitious show creator, so averse to treading water, that the rules of his series are defined and then subsequently torn apart in their very first seasons (not that I’m discounting the contributions of co-creator Justin Roiland and the other Rick and Morty writers, but this seems to be a Harmon signature move, as it also happened on the incomparable Community). The curse of this approach is, once you’ve split the atom of your setting and characters, the conflicts in your series going forward have to continually outdo everything that came before.
Rick and Morty has a protagonist who can do anything in a multiverse of infinite realities. Such a setup would seem to indicate a never-dry story well, but it also makes it difficult to fashion satisfying new conflicts without them being balls-to-the-wall, sci-fi madness. Imagine if a villain showed up at this point who was more powerful than Rick just because. We wouldn’t buy it because we know Rick is the smartest man alive and that he’s repeatedly demonstrated his unstoppability. Therefore, for a Rick and Morty conflict to have any weight, we need him to turn into a pickle, or fight a whole superhero team, or repeatedly experience death itself, or face a planet-heisting robot who was manufactured by Rick himself (that’s this episode).
This is the issue that will curse Rick and Morty storylines for the foreseeable future and, to the crew’s credit, they’ve continued to deal with it well enough that these episodes remain so engaging, something “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty” definitely is. However, though there are some big laughs here and there, it’s not consistently funny, and character development is all but forgotten as the episode bends over backwards to explain and justify its own convoluted parody plot about how heist movie plots are convoluted.
I certainly wouldn’t call the episode bad. I did love the twist that the final heist was Rick heisting Morty’s dreams of writing a heist movie. And I certainly have to acknowledge how amazingly clever the episode is, but it’s maybe too clever by half, as I spent less time laughing or connecting with the characters, and more time bewildered, watching the gears of these plot machinations turn.
Also, Elon Musk is a douche and a union buster and I think he sucks and would have preferred it if he hadn’t been in the show.
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!