“This is out there, even for us,” Morty said to Rick — breaking the fourth wall in honest commentary as giant semen monsters threatened to take over the world.
And that clip from episode four just about sums up the misadventure that is “Rick and Morty” season five.
So much of the art of this adult animated series is the haphazard balance between typical Adult Swim-brand absurdity and compelling plots with complex characters. Unlike several other popular mature cartoons, Rick and Morty’s actions have real and lasting consequences — there’s no watching Peter Griffin die in episode three only to be inexplicably revived in episode four (even if that means having to move to a new reality where Rick hasn’t turned everyone into monsters).
And that very use of continuous storylines is what’s kept many fans returning for every new season. Otherwise, you don’t get answers to questions like: How will Rick escape the Galactic Federation prison? Will Evil Morty overthrow the Citadel of Ricks? Is Beth a clone? What’s going on with Mr. Poopy Butthole?
But season five is such a grab bag of crude and unrelated ideas that the whole thing just feels like an “Interdimensional Cable” episode that is several hours too long.
One of the few through lines, alongside Morty’s perpetual crush on Jessica, is the ongoing feud between Rick and the president of the United States in an oddly timed Thanksgiving-themed episode. But not even villainous out-of-season turkeys were enough to save this plot from being one of the least memorable yet. The Smiths will probably never again reference this low-stakes-yet-chaotic adventure.
Still, there are fun moments — like watching Morty screw up a simple task so badly that he manages to become a sort of evil deity to an entire race of people. And of course, any episode that rolls credits with some sad indie-rock jam playing instead of the usual theme song indicates that the characters are feeling those aforementioned “consequences” — this time as Morty cries about his murderous ex-girlfriend to “I Am the Antichrist to You” by Kishi Bashi.
Seeing them exhibit something other than sheer crassness is often what makes the show worth watching. It’s also why “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” is hands-down the most entertaining episode of the season.
Rick reunites with Birdperson, his lifelong best friend from season one, and takes a stroll through his emotional memories, answering a few questions for the viewer while creating several new ones — questions fans undoubtedly will have no answers to until season six premieres. What Rick refers to as “canon-y bullsh*t” during the episode is really just the background and context the audience needs to remember why they’re so invested in these characters in the first place.
But the rest of season five didn’t quite deliver that kind of storytelling.
Even writer Nick Rutherford jokingly referred to “Rickdependence Spray,” the episode all about Morty’s mutant sperm, as “disgusting and tasteless” during an interview on “Inside the Episode.”
Without that added shock value, the rest of the episodes were just plain forgettable — which is arguably preferable. Thankfully, with the 70-episode renewal the show received back in 2018, there’s still time for redemption.
One can only hope that, ahead of the season finale airing on September 5, it’ll manage to do what most of season five hasn’t and give fans a reason to watch the next one.