This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 5 Episode 4
There are some episodes of Rick and Morty that I’ve started calling sci-fi puzzle boxes, in which the episode introduces a “what if…?” sci-fi concept and then follows it up by asking “and then what? and then what? and then what?” as it spirals outward, escalating in insane complexity. There are plenty of great episodes that do this, like “Edge of Tomorty: Rick, Die, Rickpeat,” which introduces death crystals that allow one to see potential ways they might die, resulting in Morty so doggedly pursuing an ideal end to his life that he eventually turns himself into an Akira. Half of the classic episode “Meeseeks and Destroy” is one of these too, with the Meeseeks themselves being an interesting sci-fi invention that’s developed until it reaches its violent, bonkers conclusion.
However, some of these puzzle box episodes are too clever for their own good. The very ambitious but not very fun to watch season two premiere “A Rickle in Time,” with its complicated timeline-splitting premise, is perhaps the quintessential one of these. But season five also started out with two such episodes, both of which had undeniably clever premises (a vengeful Narnia world and clones who don’t know that they’re clones, respectively), but they were so focused on building out these premises that, in the process, they kind of forgot to be funny or to do anything interesting with the characters.
Now we have this week’s episode, which posits the sci-fi conundrum: what if Morty fucked a horse fertilization machine and then Rick accidentally took Morty’s jizz from the machine and mutated it into giant, sentient, flying sperms?
No, the premise isn’t much of a puzzle this time. In fact, “Rickdependence Spray” feels as though it’s been made directly in response to fans like me who have been yawning through the recent, too-clever, sci-fi puzzle box episodes. Not so dissimilar from “Pickle Rick,” it quickly dispenses with its setup so that it can launch right into ridiculousness, which here takes the form of giant sperms killing people and being killed in increasingly flashy ways.
That imagery and lots of gross-out jokes about sex and spermatozoa make up a lot of the comedy in this episode, which, unfortunately, is coming (lol!) directly off the heels of last week’s “A Rickconvenient Mort,” which also relied on sex jokes a helluva lot. However, what this episode has over that one is that more of the jokes are funny and it doesn’t make a lame attempt at eking out an emotional payoff from its storyline. No, this is just a dumb episode about giant death sperms and, oh yeah, cannibalistic horse-people. That’s all it is and it’s admirable that it stays true to itself up until the end.
The question then is: is this episode too stupid? I mean, yeah, probably; I struggle to recall a stupider one. The funniest stuff comes from Morty having to hide his shameful secret that he banged a horse sex machine, but the plot can only ride on that lie for so long. Eventually the sperm has to come out of the bag and then the rest of the episode relies on increasingly bombastic sperm (and horse)-related spectacles, some of which is fun (Beth and Summer’s sperm-riding escapade being the best and most filmic-looking), but it’s a problem of diminishing returns, meaning the laughs taper off as the zaniness amps up. For example, one of the final gags is just Rick French-kissing an anthropomorphic horse, which I guess is meant to be intrinsically funny. It’s not, though. (However, I’ll concede the president refusing to destroy the, ahem, giant incest baby because it’s an election year is funny.)
You could maybe call “Rickdependence Spray” a breath of fresh air, in that it’s neither one of those episodes where the comedy and characters get lost inside an over-complicated sci-fi premise, a la the first two episodes of the season, nor is it a simple, stupid episode playing at being something more than that, like last week’s was. No, this is just a bunch of shameless jokes about sperm and horse-people sex. “Rickdependence Spray” lives and dies almost entirely on the quality of those jokes. All told, about half of it is funny. The rest is not.