Rick and Morty Recap: “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”
Giant telepathic spiders, eleven 9/11s, and the best ice cream in the Multiverse.
The Recap: Rick’s spaceship stalls out, requiring a trip into the microverse battery that powers it. Once inside, Rick and Morty discover that another scientist has had the same great siphoning-energy-from-a-tiny-universe idea, and turtles all the way down; meanwhile, Summer is left to watch the ship and is increasingly horrified by its understanding of the directive “keep Summer safe.”
This week is the episode last week should’ve been: completely within the wheelhouse of what the show’s established – mundane problem with a sci-fi solution, guest antagonist with a famous voice, b-plot with considerable emotional trauma – executed so expertly that it’s nigh impossible to care that we’ve only learned the smallest of new things.
That new thing, of course, is Zeep Xanflorp, the first mental match for Rick (are they just two of a kind, or is everyone that smart destined to put ethics away in an unsorted sock drawer somewhere – Zeep and Ford Pines would certainly lean us toward the latter) we’ve seen and the latest vessel for Stephen Colbert mellifluous voice. He’s great, by the way (but then, I have a history of getting pretty sappy about Daily Show alum, so I could be biased), playing to his ham register with an almost Harvey Birdman-esque echo in places but never losing credibility as a threat or a victim of Rick’s callousness…even if he was prepared to turn around and do the same thing to a yet smaller universe.
I’m not surprised to find that Roiland named this as his favorite episode of the season. Various interviews with the creator duo have outlined, in broad strokes, Roiland as the outlandish idea man and Harmon as the one who pours that creativity into a workable mechanical structure. And this episode feels like madness barely, breathlessly controlled. The pace snaps from beat to beat and joke to joke with minimal interest in the existential woes earlier episodes might have spotlighted, and damned if it doesn’t work. If nothing else, it’s a clever counterpoint to the slow, dawning horror of Summer’s B-Plot, waiting on hooks as the ship calculates new exacting horrors that technically fit her demands. It’s an excellent way to keep what are wholly disconnected narrative threads working as a cohesive unit, and the overall effect is applause-worthy.
That last shot of Zeep on the balcony is a woosh of breath for the episode as a whole and a simultaneous gasp of anticipation – while I imagine we won’t be seeing this character again for a while, given that Colbert will no doubt be deeply enmeshed in Late Night scheduling by the time season 3 production is properly in swing, I would bet it’ll be worth waiting for. Zeep’s bitter, seething state and genius intellect currently leaves him just behind (if not equal to) the elusive Evil Morty in potential to make life hell for our protagonists down the line.
On a thematic note, the idea of iterations is all over this episode. On the surface we have the seemingly endless cycle of micro-mini-teenyverse, all of them destined to repeat an identical cycle when given enough time. And at the same time, we’re shown repeating patterns that simultaneously have a cumulative effect (whether positive or negative): our third scientist kills himself, Zeep becomes a bitter survivalist, and Rick gets his battery back seemingly having learned nothing. And it spirals out further than that: Rick and Zeep’s arms race falls to Morty blending in with the local culture gives way again to collaborative science; Summer’s efforts to cause minimal damage becomes maiming becomes emotional trauma becomes inter-species peace (and wow do I love the cold, understated horror of the ship segments – they top even Colbert as my highlight of the episode).
The very foundation of what we know of Rick’s relationships even falls into this pattern: he leaves Beth behind entirely as a child, creating her obsession with exceptionalism; he takes Morty with him everywhere, leaving his grandson teetering on the edge of one day becoming Rick; Summer is surviving somewhere in the middle, in a controlled descent of horrors that’s never fully in control nor excluded; Beth pleads, Morty shuts himself down, and Summer engages through argument (and given that our third options so far have all been the arguable solutions, I love forward to Summer being the future lynchpin of some serious day saving).
Along this line of thinking it does bear mentioning that this is the second universe we’ve spent a significant amount of time in (which means this is the second microverse and the second Zeep and aghhhhhhhh), so things might be looking worse before….well, with this show if they get better. While the through-lines I’ve picked out here might’ve been a happy accident, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of pattern to be found: Harmon’s a meticulous writer on that level, and Rick’s whole existence seems to exist on patterns of running, brief clarity, and surviving in spite of himself.
Not that I think we’re in immediate danger of Heady Revelation. There’s a brief two week hiatus coming up (or as those of us watching certain Disney cartoons call it, Tuesday), after which we’re doing a high school shenanigans episode. I fully expect it to be just as horrifying as “Rick Potion #9” in its own unique way. Also if this keeps up, we’re going to need a bingo card of Fandom AUs while waiting for new episode previews. Happy waiting, readers. Speculate away, and hopefully I’ll see you back here for our last four episodes and yet another interminable season wait. You take care out there.
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Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they’re currently a quivering pile of decimated emotions from a new episode quadruple whammy. 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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