Rick and Morty Recap: “Look Who’s Purging Now”
You know, like that movie?
The Recap: Rick and Morty stop for wiper fluid on a cat-people planet that’s achieved world peace by having one night a year where all crime is legal (you know, like that movie … ?), which is fine until Morty’s attempt at heroism gets them stranded; meanwhile, did we mention that Jerry’s still unemployed?
I’m calling it now: this show has reached a plateau as far as gore’s concerned. Not to say that I expect it to go away entirely, or even think that it should. There’s a kind of baseline grotesquerie that’s just part of the show’s makeup at this point, warts and all. Nor do I think that future moments of emotionally contextual violence will lose their power—the moment when Morty finds Rick wounded is momentarily but genuinely tense because of the dimensional double card up the show’s sleeve. But any shock value the blood and guts spectacle might’ve had is officially gone, its welcome removed as a sole means of paying off the third act. Because nothing can top the sheer absurdity of Rick sliding around in puddles of blood, Risky Business-style, with a cat girl in a mech suit.
And as far as the self-contained content, I cannot lie. “Cat People Purge” delivered exactly what it promised as far as visual absurdity goes, and if you’re on board for the bloodshed it’s a fine enough time. On the other hand, I’m not sure if it can be said to be much more than just fine—the beats are played pretty straight within the subgenre (certainly not started by The Purge—Shirley Jackson, anyone?—but codified by it for now), and a lot of the jokes are firmly in the wheelhouse of Scream’s “point out the thing that will happen but then it proceeds anyway.” The whole thing is so bog standard that one can’t help but laser in on the uncomfortable, not-quite-right dynamic shifts simmering under the surface.
Since this episode deliberately introduces itself as a return to form within the first ten seconds of the episode, I naturally found myself to be immediately suspicious. This is the penultimate episode of the season, after all, and while R&M is quite disinterested in a traditional dramatic structure it’s also spent most of this series with its world-building firmly in the back seat. At the same time, we’ve spent a fair amount of time digging under the surface at each major character in a moment of great despair. It all feels like very careful sidelining with the aim of a final bang. I say this with a bit of a cheat sheet—Roiland’s charming personal assistant has been stepping vaguely but ominously around the finale all season, and I would bet the shiniest of internet dollars that we’ll be seeing a big piece click back into play before the hiatus credits roll.
With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at where we’ve left everyone else before coming round to our tiny ticking time bomb. Beth is drinking more than ever and Jerry is still unemployed, but they seem to have come together as a couple for the moment. Summer is now the third, arguably even second, most capable family member, though she’s gotten yo-yo’d around more than most of the cast to fit the various plots (I do hope this will not lead to a future of her being sidelined because her competency would end a plot too quickly). Rick’s a bit more protective than he was last season and generally more open about being fond of the kids, which might be a side effect of his brief reunion with Unity and subsequent botched suicide attempt.
And then there’s Morty. A lot of his plots this episode have centered around the question of whether he’ll end up like Rick, ranging from getting to show his deductive chops to being emotionally stomped for trying to apply microcosmic heroism to a relentlessly bleak multiverse. Things didn’t exactly reset after those episodes—we’ve seen Morty trying to act and sometimes actually being more nonchalant about some of the horrors he’s seen, though he still gets caught up with his desire for Rick’s approval or a girl’s attention—but this episode offers a new set of dividends. Namely, that Morty is a little ball of rage under all that neurosis.
Which … makes a lot of sense, really. The kid’s PTSD has PTSD at this point, and the fact that Rick means well (and has his own mountain of issues) doesn’t stop his relationship with Morty from frequently carrying tones of emotional abuse. That’s before we even get to the constantly in crisis family that probably fostered feelings of helplessness long before Rick started showing him how little the universe cares about your attempts to affect anything. And then he copes by bottling it all up because he’s also desperate for approval and heavily favors flight over fight as a coping mechanism, and every other person with whom he has anything like a meaningful relationship is too focused on their own issues to notice his. One thing that’s become increasingly clear is that while Summer might freak out in the moment, she’s the one who inherited Rick’s ability to compartmentalize and keep moving forward, while by contrast it’s slowly starting to crush her brother.
So yeah, shockingly that’s bred some anger issues. Which have now started popping up as part of a survival instinct but then refused to go away when the danger was no longer imminent. That … that is a big problem internet. Especially when we also know that he resents Rick almost as much as he idolizes him.
Which brings us all to, all together now, Evil Morty. He’s been an enigma since his big reveal last season, and while I’d lay good odds on at least catching a glimpse of what he’s up to in the finale I want to set that aside for the moment. Instead, let’s all think about what a shock his identity was back then, and not just that but his apparent worldview (as partially spoken through Evil Rick). It’s not so shocking anymore, is it? Our Morty isn’t anywhere near the headspace where he could torture hundreds of clones of himself in perpetuity, but killing Ricks? Kidnapping Mortys?
How hard would it be to imagine another case of Morty convincing himself he’s doing the right thing and letting his selective laser focus lead him down some very, very dark paths? It’s all starting to seem quite plausible, to the point where I’m now wondering if the pair’s eventual meeting will be less a confrontation and more a conversation between potential allies.
Or maybe I’m spinning gold from dust, and next episode will introduce a new component of the multiverse that we’ve never so much as seen before. Only one way to find out, hmm?
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Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they also have good money in the “Birdperson reappearance” pool. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.
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