This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 5 Finale
It’s been a while, so let’s first recap the consistent problems with season five of Rick and Morty. Problem one is that characterization feels like it’s either pushed aside in favor of crazy, silly sci-fi nonsense or lost in a muddle of convoluted sci-fi nonsense. Problem two is that episodes are so overloaded with plot and dialogue delivered at such breakneck speed that there’s either no time for jokes or, packed in with everything else going on in these overstuffed episodes, they just don’t land. The missing characterization issue isn’t exclusive to season five, but the lack of laughs is; this has easily been the least-funny season yet.
Now, finally, after a month’s wait, we get the two-part season finale! Does it manage to avoid the problems that have haunted this season until now?
Not really! But some of it certainly looked cool.
“Forgetting Sarick Mortshall”
Though they’re both about testing the strength of Rick and Morty’s relationship and the first does directly lead into the next by virtue of… crows… these really are two separate episodes with two different focuses and tones. This first one is closer to a “normal” season five episode. Sure, it’s got Rick pissing Morty off so much that he goes off on his own anti-Rick adventure (with a dude fittingly named Nick), but, for the majority of the runtime, it’s not handled like it’s all that big of a deal.
Regardless, the inciting incident here of Morty accidentally getting portal juice on his hand, thus creating a portal in his hand that connects to Nick’s thigh is a really clever one. It’s unfortunate that an odd side effect of a series with a premise that allows for infinite sci-fi possibilities is that many concepts, no matter how much creative effort is put behind them, feel like retreads that fall into a similar category (e.g., the season premiere with its Narnia world that evolved at hyper-speed felt not entirely dissimilar from the sequence of Morty living an entire life in “The Vat of Acid Episode” which, in turn, felt not so dissimilar from that time he played Roy: A Life Well Lived). However, this portal in the hand thing feels totally new and fresh.
They get some good mileage out of it too, with some cool action sequences (like Jackie Chan!) and inspired moments like Morty making a dude eat shit, literally, by transferring the contents of a chamber pot by way of the hand/thigh portal system or when Nick takes control of the car Morty’s driving by sticking his hand through Morty’s portal hand. It’s also used smartly in the most effective dramatic moment in “Forgetting Sarick Mortshall” when Morty chooses to destroy his portal connection to Rick by placing his hand on a train track so that it’s severed off, and then drops the hand-portal into Nick’s thigh-portal to kill him. It’s all very clever, well-executed stuff, though, typing it out, it sure sounds weird.
How Morty comes to the decision to sever his hand and connection to Nick is less well-executed. It unfortunately brought to mind the episode with Planetina, perhaps the worst of season five, as in both episodes Morty realizes the person he’s spending time with ain’t so great because—shock horror—they’re cool with killing innocent people! Yes, Morty has a moral core, so it’s not like it doesn’t make some sense, but it’s just that, with the amount of people he and Rick murder out of petty anger or just by happenstance all the time, it feels like they need to sell his change of heart a little more.
The other half of this episode is about Rick replacing Morty with two crows, at first as a joke, but then he gradually comes to realize crows are actually cool and can teach him about empathy. The idea of it is that this “two crows” thing is engineered to be a silly, one-off inanity, but then the joke becomes so much more as the writers sincerely explore the concept. However, it never really successfully elevates itself above its initial inane premise. I still just found myself thinking “What is this crow bullshit? Why crows?”
It’s also becoming a bit of a predictable Rick and Morty staple that characters that appear incidental at first actually have a whole society and way of life we get to learn all about (the face-huggers, the Narnia people, the Chuds). It’s an obvious plot device to return to seeing as this is a sci-fi series about visiting new universes and alien worlds all the time, so it would be irrational to suggest they stop doing it altogether, but did this particular plot really need to go in that direction? The introduction of the crow society comes out of nowhere and it isn’t convincing that Rick decides to follow a path of empathy with his two crows right after he just killed a whole bunch of other crows. Anyway, the only thing that makes the crow plot “interesting” is that the writers commit to it so hard it carries into the next episode.
Season five style, “Forgetting Sarick Mortshall,” is not funny. I chuckled at the very last moment in the tag when Garbage Goober said “Mmm, trash, I love trash” and I smiled at Rick’s (possibly improv’d) rant about watching sitcoms on your shoes, but that was about it. Still, at least there were the aforementioned clever moments and it got a tiny bit emotional when Morty told Rick “I miss you, man” and when Rick admitted their relationship was abusive.
Lore, lore, lore! How do you like it? Hopefully you like it lots because “Rickmurai Jack” is chock full of the stuff!
The Rick and Morty team, however, absolutely hate it! Well, they can’t totally hate it, or they wouldn’t have bothered to make this episode, but they definitely have an acrimonious relationship with continuity and canon. Dan Harmon has stated before that giving Rick a tragic backstory would ruin the character and Rick himself reaffirms that opinion in the episode. In fact, the writers can’t help themselves in breaking the fourth wall throughout to remind us how much Rick hates canon and how it’s better to “keep it episodic.”
It’s understandable why they resent canon. It’s got to be much easier to write one-off, funny sci-fi adventures than to sustain serialized plots told over multiple episodes. Unfortunately for them, way the hell back in season one Rick and Morty destroyed their universe, killed alternate universe versions of themselves, and took their places. The series kept this plot point intact, referencing it later, and also gradually made Morty’s character more jaded in response to this, as well as the many other horrors he witnessed. In other words, they made this canon bed and now they have to have adventures in it (I know how this sounds and I’m fine with it).
Before it gets to all that serious canon, however, “Rickmurai Jack” has to honor the continuity of the previous episode by tidying away the stupid crow plot. The continuity is certainly sound: the crows weren’t funny in the last episode and they’re not funny in this one either! There’s an anime intro. There are villains whose names flash on the screen in big letters. There’s an arch-villain named CrowScare who has sex with Rick’s crows. Yeah. Fine. At least this part is done away with relatively quickly.
After this, the episode maintains the season five status quo by continuing to be unfunny. I don’t believe I laughed at this one at all, although I liked Evil Morty’s line, “I lied. That second seat’s a toilet.” The lack of comedy is a bit more forgivable, however, as “Rickmurai Jack” isn’t trying as hard to be funny. This really is the loreiest lorepisode they’ve ever done and so the focus is on backstory and continuity to do with Evil Morty’s long-gestating plan.
As one of the annoying nerds constantly complaining that this show doesn’t do enough character development anymore, I know I’m supposed to be thankful for this episode (Rick angrily says as much) and I am, somewhat. It’s cool to see Evil Morty again and to hear his awesome theme music. Personally, I was never asking for Rick backstory and I’m a bit surprised his origins more or less are just the easy answer of “dead wife” after all, but sure, that’s fine. More profound and fucked up is the origin of all the Mortys in the multiverse, engineered by Ricks to be the perfect sidekick.
I just wish all this development hadn’t been given to me, season five style, in such volume at such speed. The fact of the matter is I was straight-up confused about what the hell was going on sometimes. I understood Evil Morty’s plan enough to get that he’s extricating himself from the cycle of Ricks and Mortys (and maybe ending the cycle forever?), but where did he fly to? Did he kill every Rick and Morty ever except our protagonists and whoever they escaped with or just everyone in the Citadel for some reason? Did he remove all portal fluid from the multiverse? I also lost the plot of Rick’s backstory, not understanding why he was going around killing all these other Ricks until I watched it back and realized he was going after the Rick who had killed his wife and kid Beth; I still feel it could’ve been more clearly presented though. Also confusing was the sequence in Rick uses some of his blood to create Big Boy(?) who… transfers power to Rick when he’s attacked… or something?
Look, I know how this goes. I’m a stupid moron and the nerds in the comments will be more than ready to let me know that everything that was confusing to me was, in fact, completely obvious, duh-doy, and here’s why and I should stop watching the series, and so on, and so forth. However, something I’ve always marveled at (as I did only two episodes ago) with Rick and Morty is, despite how crazy and layered its ambitious plotting gets, I never lose track of what’s happening. So, either my very high IQ is dropping points or this shit was kind of confusing.
Regardless, it’s appreciated the creators of this show finally gave in and threw a bunch of continuity and canon in my whining face. It just would’ve been nicer if it had been delivered in a clearer way that was easier to process and to feel something about. Like, every time Evil Morty has appeared in the series, he’s been an intimidating and chilling presence. I did get chills when his theme song kicked in this time, but that was more of a Pavlovian response earned from his previous appearances. Otherwise, I was just bewildered by all the information being chucked at me. Still, if nothing else, it was certainly a cool-looking spectacle.
What’s best about this episode is what it sets up for the next season. Who knows how long they’ll stick with this, but it’s implied that Rick is out of portal juice, which makes him that much less god-like and which could maybe, finally, reintroduce some actual stakes into Rick and Morty instead of every episode being about a sarcastic unstoppable murderous sci-fi family. I truly do look forward to that.
The other best thing is Mr. Poopybutthole’s profound advice that we should be brave enough to love the people who love us back. Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Poopybutthole.