This Rick and Morty review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 5
It seems like there’s been some unrest over season four of Rick and Morty within the fan base. I’ve seen numerous comments and have had conversations with fans who have found the episodes so far to have been boring, stupid, or boring and stupid. Critical killjoy that I am, I’ve found myself in the rare position of feeling like I’ve perhaps been more forgiving to the series than the average fan.
So, just to clear this up: I don’t think this season has been Rick and Morty at its best. Further, I’m in full agreement that the plotting has at times gotten so convoluted that it’s been just plain boring. And, yeah, for whatever reason, season four has thus far aggressively pursued dumb, goof-off storylines almost exclusively in lieu of major character developments or the dark, dramatic story turns we’ve come to expect them to sporadically pull.
However, I’ve been generous in scoring these episodes because the fact remains that, even when the plot gets stuck up its own ass, it’s a marvel of storytelling that everything still fits together and makes sense. It’d be easier to write Rick and Morty off if there were tons of series out there so fully packed with such consistently ambitious writing, but there really aren’t. Dan Harmon remains the most overachieving writer in sitcom land and, even when episodes don’t completely land, it’s still a wonder to witness the turnings of the intricate gearwork of a Harmon-helmed writer’s room production.
As for the really stupid episodes, well, I laughed a lot at them and it’s hard to complain when you’re laughing.
“Rattlestar Ricklactica” is the best episode of season four yet. That said, it’s not particularly a deviation from the previous four episodes. The ever-escalating plot is insane, going in fifty different directions you never see coming, and it’s all ultimately incidental as there’s no meaningful character growth or change. Rick is, as usual, cynical and well past being done with everything. Morty is, once again, an incurable bleeding heart, which is, once again, the catalyst to the entire conflict. And Jerry is a stubborn moron.
In fact, the way the episode is split between a Rick and Morty plot and a Jerry plot immediately feels not unlike the dynamic of last week’s episode. I guess you can’t blame the writer’s room for falling back on this. After all, Rick and Morty doing some sci-fi stuff while Jerry bumbles around haphazardly on his own is undoubtedly the series’ most reliably strong storytelling template.
What makes “Rattlestar Ricklactica” better than anything else this season is how it doesn’t get bogged down by one concept. The worst episode so far, “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty” was so obsessed with criticizing heist movies that it quickly became one-note. Much of “Rattlestar Ricklactica” is a sendup of time travel and how sloppy and unfulfilling it can be as a plot device, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with that message.
The time travel gimmick doesn’t even show up until halfway into the episode, by which point there’s been a lengthy, dialogue-less digression about a snake astronaut and enough time spent on Jerry that I briefly thought the episode pulled a bait-and-switch and that Jerry was going to be the actual focus. In other words, the plot zigs and zags so strangely and unexpectedly (and yet, as always, still holds together) that the storytelling feels breezy and effortless, rather than labored like it has with other episodes this season.
It’s also consistently funny. There’s a number of fantastic one-liners in both Jerry and Rick and Morty’s plotlines (“Can you recognize the sound of a man’s pants filling up with rain?” “I… hope to one day?”). And the episode takes its time focusing on long, sci-fi joke asides, like the aforementioned snake astronaut bit, and an inspired sequence where Rick quickly manufactures (and subsequently murders) a grotesque abomination of Jerry’s head just to have it pose as Jerry in a phone call to Beth. Also, I’ve seen every Terminator movie, so I appreciate Rick and Mortycalling out the franchise for no longer making any damn sense.
If you haven’t been on board with what season four is selling, “Battlestar Ricklactica” is probably not going to sway you to feel differently. Like the episodes before it, it’s still got a convoluted, goofy sci-plot of no major consequence. However, unlike some of those episodes, the plot doesn’t struggle under its own weight nor does it detract from the comedy. “Battlestar Ricklactica” might not obviously stand out as an exceptional episode for this particular season, but it’s a solid Rick and Morty that stacks up well against some of the overall series’ less dramatic outings.
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!