This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 5 Episode 6
Happy Thanksgiving, for some reason! This is another episode that brings back one of Rick’s recurring frenemies, the President of the United States as played by Keith David, to deal with a world-ending catastrophe the two caused themselves in a display of sci-fi power dick-measuring. Keith David has an awesome voice, so it’s always nice to hear him reprising this role and he gets so much to do here that it’s really more like an episode of Rick and Morty and the President. However, it’d probably be even more of a treat if he hadn’t popped up just two episodes ago.
Furthermore, “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular” feels less novel because, like “Rickdependence Spray” before it, this is an episode about a big, stupid, world (or at least country)-ending spectacle. It’s different in that it was giant sperms threatening humanity in “Rickdependence Spray” and this time it’s turkey super-soldiers, but both episodes still have a very similar progression of taking a really dumb central conceit and ballooning it out into increasingly crazier, violent, action sci-fi set pieces. Both episodes even have a similar reveal of something that was referenced in passing early in the episode showing up to save the day in the third act—the Chuds in “Rickdependence Spray” and in this one it’s some Pilgrim and alien robots, or some such nonsense.
This episode does have an edge over the sperm-driven one in that it’s not quite so stunningly stupid. The sperm episode seemed to awaken in the Rick and Morty team their most base humor instincts, which resulted in a lot of cheap jokes and an overall too-stupid plot that culminated in the creation of a giant incest baby… yeesh. This one’s still very deliberately stupid as hell, but it doesn’t feel quite so braindead. I can’t say I’m in love with the direction the plot takes when it brings in the Pilgrim robots but the jokes are certainly better.
In fact, this might be the funniest Rick and Morty of season five so far. Morty quipping “How’s this for a fireside chat?” as he burns FDR is good. I also like his repeated “Aww, they love each other.” The Turkey President ripping out his own wishbone and wishing to explode is hilariously stupid. I didn’t laugh out loud at it but the premise that the Statue of Liberty is a trojan horse French assassin is clever. And my favorite joke of the episode was the reveal that the release of every new iteration of Playstation has been a milestone in the President’s life.
That said, being the funniest episode isn’t exactly an incredible feat in a season so far full of episodes that only get a few chuckles out of me. I was hardly laughing my ass off with “Thankspolitation Spectacular,” but I’d say it wrenched something like three to four more chuckles than usual out of my cold, unfeeling carcass, so that’s nice. Still, for the most part, the humor is like it’s been for all of season five: jokes crammed into nearly every moment, but the quality of them is somehow lacking and they just become part of the noise of an already noisy episode.
The problem of jokes not landing may be tied, at least in part, to the lack of characterization. Co-creator Dan Harmon once remarked that one of the best scenes in his previous series, Community, was funny because even when the lines weren’t written to be jokes, they were “lines that are incredibly funny because you love the characters.” Last week’s Rick and Morty (while, admittedly, still not that funny) was the best episode of season five yet because it remembered to slow down and make time for some pleasant character moments. “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular,” despite having a basically well-constructed plot (though I still don’t know how I feel about this Pilgrim and alien robot bullshit) and better jokes than season five has been averaging, is still an episode that aggressively avoids character moments. Morty, Rick, and the President exist just to move the sci-fi bombast along and occasionally snark at one another.
Therefore, as with a lot of newer Rick and Morty episodes, I admire the effort, both from the writers and the artists, that went into piecing together a complex storyline this stuffed (like a turkey, get it?) with crazy sci-fi spectacle. And I acknowledge there are a lot of great performances from the actors—Keith David notably gets to shine in two major roles here. However, the characters were almost nonexistent, which unfortunately makes this another overall so-so season five episode.
See you next week for the episode you all already watched! Tsk, tsk!