This article contains spoilers for Rick and Morty season 5 episode 1.
After its season 5 premiere, Rick and Morty is now 11 episodes into its impressive 70-episode order at Adult Swim. Even back in 2018, when the deal was announced and the show was at its creative apex, 70 episodes sure seemed like an ambitious undertaking.
Rick and Morty is set in a world of infinite universes, but do infinite universes really mean infinite compelling storytelling opportunities? Many of Rick and Morty’s animated peers have enjoyed (or in some cases endured) lengthy episodic runs. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that 100+ total episodes is creatively viable, particularly for a show that tends to flirt with serialization and continuity.
Rick and Morty season 5 episode 1 “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” goes a long way in assuaging those fears of the show losing storytelling steam. One plot arc, in which Morty encounters a Narnia-like world filled with behooved cow and/or goat creatures, is a prime example of why this show still has some gas left in the tank. Simply put, Rick and Morty understands that good science fiction has real consequences.
In what could be described as the “B plot” of this episode that chiefly features Rick treating his nemesis, Mr. Nimbus (voiced by Dan Harmon) to a cozy dinner, Morty is charged with retrieving bottles of wine from a dimension where time runs quicker so that the drink is aged to Nimbus’s liking.
“Time moves faster in there? It’s like a Narnia thing?” Morty asks his grandfather after he opens up a portal and tosses some wine jugs in.
“I’m not a beaver who believes in Jesus Christ but yeah it’s pretty much a Narnia thing,” Rick concedes.
The first time Morty enters into the other unnamed world (let’s just call it Narnia for simplicity’s sake), he meets a very nice couple named Hoovy and Bova. Hoovy (who is voiced by guest star Jim Gaffigan) helps Morty carry the wine back into his world, where he gives the lad some sage advice on wooing his crush Jessica. It’s a legitimately sweet moment, immediately undercut by Hoovy stepping back through the portal to discover that decades have passed and his wife is dead. Their previously unborn son, Japheth, confronts his father and stabs him to death for abandoning the family for all these years.
Morty’s innocent interference in the cow people’s lives (or they could be goats, it’s a little unclear. Rest assured, they have hooves) sets off a century-spanning saga of rapid technological growth, societal upheaval, and unimaginable pain. As Morty continually returns to Narnia to fetch more wine, this episode, written by Jeff Loveness, tracks the evolution and in some cases devolution of the community. Japheth’s killing of his father leads to an intense paranoia of “The Dark Child’s return.” Castles are built, necromancers are introduced, fathers are killed by their sons yet again, and a futuristic cow/cyborg named Adam brimming with the blood of three other cow men is set into Morty’s dimension to settle the score once and for all.
He fails, of course, but in the process Morty’s crush Jessica is brought back into Narnia where she remains in suspended, conscious, animation for centuries.
“I have glimpsed into the mind of eternity and have seen nothing but silence. I think we should just be friends,” the godlike Jessica tells Morty upon returning home.
All of this: countless deaths, trauma, and girlfriends lost, arose simply from Hoovy trying to help Morty carry some wine bottles home. It’s the butterfly effect writ large, all happening in the background while Beth and Jerry angle for a threesome with Rick’s flamboyant aquatic nemesis. Those are the consequences of science fiction. No simple action goes unpunished. In infinite universes, simple actions lead to infinite and opposite reactions.
Consequential stories like this are something that Rick and Morty has covered before. Recall last season’s fifth episode, “Rattlestar Ricklactica” in which Morty’s intervention in a Snake Planet led to rapid acceleration of their snake society, nearly culminating in a snake apocalypse.
Science fiction had consequences then and it continues to do so now. What’s different this time, however, is Morty’s reaction. Morty seems to have learned from his time on the snake planet as he took a more active role in screwing everything up then. This time the consequences were unintended thanks to Narnia’s tricky timeline. As such, Morty is a bit more jaded by Hoovy’s society’s violent reaction to him.
Because of his previous experience (and because a kiss with Jessica is on the line), Morty equips himself with all manner of sci-fi weaponry before returning to Narnia. He casually cuts a violent swath through Medieval cow people on his way to retrieve the wine on his fourth visit. And then on his fifth visit, he cuts off a cow clone’s monologue by kicking him in his cloned balls.
“Sometimes you gotta be an asshole. My grandpa taught me that!” Morty yells before grabbing Jessica and attempting to return to his world.
Rick and Morty has a tricky relationship with its canon and the idea of serializing its story in favor of episodic ventures.
“Don’t you establish canonical backstory with me, you son of a bitch,” Rick yells at Mr. Nimbus as he mentions his wife Diane when the two scuffle.
Fans clearly prefer canon, while the show’s writers seem to prefer self-contained stories. In this episode, however, we see how the show can pull off episodic storytelling with canonical consequences. Morty’s previous experience with the snake people clearly mattered to him because it informs how he reacts to the Narnia world. And in the process, he is becoming more jaded just like dear old grandpa.
In that way, the season premiere of Rick and Morty season 5 really is all about the long-term consequences of science fiction. Not only did technology destroy Hoovy’s society, it continues to turn Morty Smith into a real dickhead.
The Rick and Morty season 5 premiere is available to watch on YouTube now.