This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 5 Episode 8
One of my major complaints about newer episodes of Rick and Morty is the lack of focus on characterization. After putting Morty and Summer through the multidimensional wringer and Jerry and Beth through a divorce and back again (and there was also that cloning business for Beth), all the characters seem to have reached peak cynicism, so it’s been understandably difficult to develop them much. Therefore, in lieu of meaningful character stuff, the series has increasingly focused on sci-fi spectacle.
The problem of how next to evolve this multiverse and these characters has been present since at least season four, if not earlier, but it’s become a lot more noticeable in season five, which focuses so much on spectacle (and a hefty helping of brazen stupidity) that it’s not just character development that’s being forgotten, but character in general. This season, the Smith family exist to be bitterly snarky toward one another as they hack down multitudes of clones and mutant turkeys and sperms with no pause to breathe.
Episodes this season feel packed with stuff: crazy plot escalations, violence, and visual insanity thrown at you almost constantly. This is accompanied by what feels like almost wall-to-wall dialogue, most of it jokes, ostensibly. Unfortunately, season five has also been not very funny at all. Perhaps it’s an extension of the absence of characterization, which gave us reason enough to care about these characters to enjoy laughing at or with them. Whatever it is, it appears that simply packing an episode to the gills with gags and violence does not comedy make.
“Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort,” which is concerned exclusively with Rick and Bird Person’s friendship to the point that the rest of the Smith family is removed from the episode less than 30 seconds in, feels designed to shut assholes like me right up. It smartly recognizes that one of the richest character veins left to tap for sweet, sweet pathos is Rick himself. Unlike the rest of the family, the guy hasn’t changed all that much from the cynical God-like prick he was at the beginning. It’s therefore potentially really interesting to explore what makes him continue to risk his life for sci-fi adventures and to put up with this particular iteration of his family when infinite other permutations exist and nothing matters. In fact, something I really liked in this episode is that Rick specifically addresses how he could just hop into a different reality and grab a Bird Person that isn’t in a coma and “suits him best,” but evidently not fighting to save this Bird Person is, in his view, insufficient.
Regardless, unfortunately, valiantly though it tried, “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” has failed to shut an asshole like me right up. Though I really do appreciate it when the series still tries for the more character-driven, lore-y episodes, this one still has that season five stink on it. It’s tons of stuff going on all the time with nary a moment free for anything to have much impact. Furthermore, the premise is about Rick jumping through Bird Person’s memories and, as with any story that takes place in an immaterial setting (a la dreams or the subconscious mind), it’s difficult to string together a series of events without everything coming off entirely random and inconsequential. To the episode’s credit, I’d say it basically pulls it off, but it does so by having Rick explain the rules of what’s happening at any given moment… kind of a lot.
In fact, with all the complex mind stuff going on and being explained constantly, this episode is even a bit less funny than the average season five episode. The only jokes I noted as being any good were Rick’s garage trying to make casual conversation about Marvel movies with a stranger and that Tammy’s full name is Tamantha. And I didn’t actually laugh at these; I just thought “oh, that’s funny.”
Even so, I very much enjoyed the concept of Rick teaming up with a younger version of himself based on Bird Person’s memory of him at the time, who he initially can’t stand but gradually comes to accept. It’s also a sweet and sad reveal that Bird Person is perhaps the only being Rick has ever truly let his guard down for, but Bird Person is just not that into him, and his rejection of Rick is one of Rick’s most painful memories. Also, the Battle of Blood Ridge did look pretty cool.
However, as it was with “Star Mort Rickturn of Jerri” for season four, this is the one episode of season five with lore and characterization after a slew of almost exclusively silly and incidental episodes. So, while I do appreciate these emotional moments, coming off the heels of a bunch of dumb shit about mutant sperm and giant incest space babies, they don’t hit as hard as an “Auto Erotic Assimilation” or even “The Old Man and the Seat.”
If we only get one lore episode per season now, “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort,” is a decent attempt at one. It’s just that the characterization and emotion struggle to shine through under the sheer amount of information—through dialogue and visuals—that the episode throws at you. Plus, true to season five form, it’s not funny. If nothing else, unlike other episodes this season that were complicated despite being aggressively stupid and hollow, this one feels like it’s worth a rewatch to fully glean everything from it.
I mean, did everyone catch that bit about Rick’s dead daughter? What was all that about?
See you in, like, a month, apparently, for the finale!