Last night around 11:15ish I was feeling a bit “blegh” and despondent after watching the New York Football Giants embarrass themselves in a prime time matchup with the Cowboys. I arrived home and wanted to go to sleep and forget about the game but saw that it was more or less Rick and Morty time and decided to use last night’s episode, “The Ricklantis Mixup”, as a pallet cleanser to a crappy night of football. What happened instead was Rick and Morty didn’t just help me forget about the offensive line woes of the Giants, but scene after scene after scene Rick and Morty provided not only a genius twenty-two minutes of television, perhaps this season’s best, but proved just why it’s such an important voice in the sea of pop culture.
On the surface level, last night’s episode was supposed to be an Atlantis adventure between our Rick and Morty filled with mermaid hijinks, laughs, and apparently “mermaid puss”. In other words, a standard episode of Rick and Morty. Instead, we got something else entirely. Not only did we get an episode that had nothing to do with the under water kingdom of Atlantis or our Rick and Morty, but an episode that focused on some deep social commentary while exploring and expanding the show’s mythology through the use of popular movie tropes. Movies like Stand By Me, Training Day, Harry Potter, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are just a couple of films that this episode parodies whilst expanding its stellar narrative. At no point do these movie tropes or parodies overshadow the episode, yes, they’re story methods we’ve all seen before but it doesn’t make them any less impactful. When Rick and Morty uses Training Day as a way to discuss the discord between police and something like the Black Lives Matter movement, you don’t think about how you’ve seen the jaded cop meets wide eye rookie cop story before, no, you think “holy crap, they’re really going for it here.” Rick and Morty has never really shied away from any subject matter and seeing the show use its voice last night to discuss police perceptions, the working class, and political climate not only seemed relevant but important. Especially in today’s day and age.
Between all the social commentary there was an episode to behold and that also felt important to the overall structure of Rick and Morty. I could tell within the opening five minutes and the bypass of the show’s intro that we were in for something special here, but I wasn’t nearly ready for how epic this episode was going to be. Right before Rick and Morty head to Atlantis they are greeted by a Rick and Morty looking to take donations towards the rebuilding of the Citadel of Ricks, which was destroyed by our Rick in the season three premiere. Clearly, our Rick and Morty don’t donate considering it was our Rick who destroyed the Citadel in the first place, and from there we transition away from the garage and a possible Atlantis adventure to the aftermath of the destroyed Citadel. One of the things I loved the most about this episode was we’re able to see the aftermath that our Rick leaves behind. Something that we don’t always behold outside of the Cronenberg Universe and the general state of the Smith family during season three. While Rick and Morty were out having a fun little escapade under water, we were reminded that our Rick is sort of a monster.
Don’t get me wrong though, the Citadel of Ricks doesn’t seem like an ideal place to begin with even before it was destroyed. It was a place where tons of Ricks and Mortys could come together and be like minded but essentially leads to the loss of identity. By pooling together in one location I think the Ricks and Mortys lose what makes them Ricks and Mortys which is something that this episode explored, especially with the cookie factory Rick. We have Ricks who conform to everyday jobs and listen to a higher archy of other Ricks telling them what to do. What we know about Ricks is that they don’t take orders from anyone, so seeing the construct of the Citadel is interesting, to say the least. We saw as cookie factory Rick’s fifteen years of employment is ignored when it comes time for a new boss, enter Cool Rick, which leads to him going a bit Falling Down and snapping. It’s almost like cookie factory Rick becomes self-aware and decides to be a Rick again which eventually leads to him becoming a part of the cycle. On the Citadel of Ricks it’s hard for a Rick to keep his personality or individualism.
Why is that though? The Council of Ricks are no more, thanks to our Rick, and things are spiraling out of control. A new election hopes to bring some stability but within those poltics is a Morty looking to bring about peace and change which is something that is openly mocked by just about all the Ricks on the Citadel. It’s through these politics and glimpses of life on the Citadel that we may catch our best interpretation on how Ricks truly view Mortys. Spoiler alert, it’s bleak.
With the destruction of the Citadel there are a number of Mortys without Ricks and there are very few options for them. For most, they are put in Hogwart like schools where they are told that Ricks are the higher power and they’re the side kicks or expendable servant. We meet a number of Mortys who have cycled through a number of Ricks proving that Mortys are just a tool and usually responsible for the deaths of their Ricks. A Rick could never get themselves killed, they’re too smart for that. For those who don’t go to school to be re-paired with a Rick, there’s the street and apparent life of crime and drugs… or dancing at the Creepy Morty if that fails. That was uncomfortable. These Mortys search for their own identities, however good or bad, and are hunted and prosecuted by a police force that views them as insects. Just another construct of how identity isn’t welcomed on the Citadel, especially if you’re a Morty.
Which leads us to the episodes biggest plot line, the election. We see a Morty running for President in a world that views him as a joke. His political ambitions are viewed as cute and silly and not a real threat to the overall structure to the Citadel. Except, there’s something to this Morty that seems different. There’s a calm/cool undercurrent to him that allows him to promise a world where Ricks and Mortys unite to fight back the Ricks and Mortys who would oppress their unity. It all sounds promising and hopeful, something that has been sort of missing from season three, and leads to his victory and the episodes biggest reveal.
If at any point during this episode you thought that this Morty seemed familiar then you weren’t alone. At the half way point I had a feeling where things were going and was sooooooo incredibly happy to see the show deliver the return of Evil Morty. That’s right, after his disappearance in season one, Evil Morty has returned to take control of the Citadel of Ricks and change the dynamic of the show. We learn that all the promises that were made during the election were empty and said with the intent of grasping power away from the Ricks. With the Galactic Federation all but destroyed, outside of Tammy and Phoenix Person, the show has now provided us with a new villain who is not only a step ahead of all Ricks, but who is a Morty who also has it out for our Rick on a personal level. Why else would he choose to frame him way back in season one?
The return of Evil Morty does open the door for some interesting story telling. This season we have watched as our Morty has fallen further and further into the dark side. Yes, he’s made a lot of progress and self-development but it seems he’s becoming more and more like Rick which is problematic. There are serious repressed issues within our Morty that he doesn’t confront because Rick has taught him that empathy is toxic. With the re-introduction of Evil Morty will we see our Morty confront these issues in the hope of preventing a similar outcome or will this become an Anakin Skywalker/Emperor type deal. A Morty that becomes the padawan of Evil Morty in the hopes of destroying Ricks everywhere. Yeah, it gets heavy.
There you have it Geeklings, last night Rick and Morty delivered arguably one of its best episodes ever and it didn’t involve our Rick and Morty at all. What did you think? Were you happy to see the return of Evil Morty? Is the Citadel a healthy environment for either Ricks or Mortys? What does the return of Evil Morty mean for our Rick and Morty? Sound off in the comments below. As always if you’d like to talk more Rick and Morty you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. In the mean time, I’m going to watch this episode like five more times and try and wrap my mind around the genius. I suggest you do the same.
Aaaaaaand that’s the way the news goes!
Images from Adult Swim