This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 6 Episode 3
In a season that premiered by screaming “LORE!” at us, followed up by an episode that chose to ignore canon almost altogether, it’s great to see an episode that hits a good balance between the two. Though I’m a sucker for episodes that expand upon canonical stuff, I check out a bit when they start talking about Central Finite Curves and such. I like my serialized storytelling to be a little less sci-fi and a bit more grounded. That’s right, we’re talking about sitcom lore. We’re talking about character development, baby!
As Rick and Morty always does when it best makes use of its toolbox, “Bethic Twinstinct” uses one of the series’ canonical sci-fi elements to explore a sitcom conflict by making good (and then some) on the promise of exploring the dynamic between Space Beth and Beth Classic. It’s refreshing to see an episode without a big, crazy, violent sci-fi adventure, this one being instead set almost entirely in the family home. It’s also very welcome to get an episode that makes Beth more interesting.
Despite the fact that she’s now two people and one is a cool space heroine, Beth still often falls into the typical sitcom mom pitfall of being either a killjoy or relegated to the background because the writers don’t know what to do with her. A specific problem to Beth’s character is a lot of her overall screentime has been spent arguing with Jerry, which, at times, has made both characters just tiresome and unpleasant to be around.
The previous episode was worrying because Beth seemed to be lapsing into a similarly argumentative relationship with her clone. Luckily, “Bethic Twinstinct” immediately does away with that dynamic in favor of having the two get along, flirt, and fuck in short order. The lead up to Beth and Beth making out is so telegraphed and yet happens so fast you barely have time to get through the stages of wondering if they’re doing what you think they’re doing to being shocked that, yes, they are doing that, to accepting it and being invested in the fucked-up character drama that ensues.
It makes perfect sense that Rick is not terribly weirded out by all this, revealing that, unsurprisingly, sex with himself is something he’s tried before, too. Beth confessing to Rick about what she’s been up to is one of the best scenes in the episode, with some very clever writing in which the two delicately discuss selfcest by way of an extended metaphor about “forgetting the ice cream.” This is coupled with some hilariously grotesque sci-fi imagery as, while he talks, Rick removes lengths of carbon wiring from the guts of a bionic space whale.
The plot stays grounded by keeping the setting mostly confined to the Smith home and focusing on character interactions, but also by being almost exclusively about one thing. Rick and Morty episodes can sometimes juggle too many ideas and get too convoluted for their own good, reaching a point of diminishing returns where all the compounding crazy sci-fi stuff starts to feel mundane and exhausting (season four’s “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty” springs to mind). Other episodes are so oversaturated with one-liners crammed into every moment that the comedy fails to have much impact (both season five’s “Amortycan Grickfitti” and “Rick and Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular” suffer from this). Beth’s sexy clone drama is really the only plot of “Bethic Twinstinct” and it’s better for it as it allows us to absorb the plot and comedy at a more relaxed pace.
Technically there is a B-plot about Morty, Summer, and Rick getting invested in a game console that offers infinite hyper-realistic gaming experiences, but it’s more like a running gag than a real storyline. The episode isn’t super funny, but it’s certainly the funniest of the season so far and some of the best jokes come from the different video game premises, my favorite being the obtuse text adventure Rick plays that ominously declares “YOUR MOTHER WILL BE IN THE SHADOWS SOON.” The gaming plot is also tied back to the A-plot as it’s how Summer and Morty distract themselves to cope with the knowledge that their mom is banging her clone.
It’s also worth noting that, for a series that has a recurring problem of forgetting to have its characters like each other, “Bethic Twinstinct” is ultimately pretty kind to everybody. As it progresses, it seems like this whole Beth x Beth thing is going to fall apart acrimoniously, but it’s resolved quite pleasantly thanks to, in a surprise twist, Jerry showing some backbone (in his way). Jerry gets shit on more than any of the other characters, so it’s nice when something goes his way, in this case in an unexpected but not out-of-character fashion. The post-credits tag is also Jerry-centric and it’s the funniest one they’ve done in a long time.
Though “Bethic Twinstinct” isn’t as funny or as emotionally affecting as some of the best Rick and Morty, it feels not too far removed from greatness, nailing a decent balance of sitcom and sci-fi; comedy and drama; and deadpan and gross-out humor. Yes, Beth has sex with a clone of herself a whole bunch and Jerry turns into a pillbug, but this is, at this point, what grounded looks like for the Smith family and it’s a welcome change of pace.
I recognize that this episode must tick the boxes on several obscure fetishes, but please do not read anything into my giving it the highest score of the season so far.