In tonight’s episode, Rick and Morty head off to Atlantis. But, this is Rick and Morty we’re speaking about, so nothing can ever be that simple – in a prime display of playing with your audience, we follow a different story entirely. Gone (for a week, at least) is the psychological introspection of our version of Rick – instead, this week, we are treated to one of the series’ most ambitious and dark episodes yet in ‘The Ricklantis Mixup,’ and one that could offer an interesting antagonist for the future.
So, as our Rick and Morty are getting ready for their adventure, another Rick and Morty crop up, asking for funds to contribute to the rebuilding of the Citadel of Ricks. Our Rick, having destroyed it and murdered tons of Ricks in the series opening, is not keen on donating. He and Morty head off to an underwater world, and we return to the Citadel.
This episode follows a number of plot threads that, although not directly linked, all deal with the same theme – people struggling in a society that doesn’t really have a place for them, or a place for them that they do not want. We’ve a clear idea of who the Citadel benefits and who it oppresses, and these stories show us Ricks and Morty fighting against, and being beaten by, the system.
These multi-Rick stories must be very complex to do, and they make it look easy
An idealistic (or as idealistic as a Rick can be) Officer Rick teams up with a grizzled and corrupt Officer Morty, investigating crimes in Mortytown (in a brilliantly funny move, ‘Aw jeez’ is Morty street slang, and the Creepy Morty nightclub will haunt your dreams). A worker Rick at a snack factory grows fed up with being a cog in the machine after missing out on a promotion, and rebels. Four Mortys at Morty training school go on an adventure to find the fabled wishing portal. And in the story that is liable to have longer-term implications, Candidate Morty runs for the Presidency of the Citadel against a bunch of Ricks.
The kicker – Candidate Morty is the one who succeeds. And then, it transpires that Candidate Morty (and now President Morty) is Evil Morty, from season 1’s ‘Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind,’ sweeping in and offering hope to a dejected society. The ending implies that he has plans for the future, and this is a good move – there’s only so long that the show can rely on Rick’s temperament to provide villainy, and the introduction of a longer-term antagonist can only be a good move, especially with the craftsmanship and innovation the writers can imbue him with.
I must take a moment to praise Justin Roiland here. With the exception of Jeff B. Davis providing a bit of narration for the Simple Rick snack bar video, Roiland is the sole vocal performer here and, despite the fact that every character is some variation of Rick or Morty, he manages to tweak his vocals enough that they feel like individual characters. The same kudos must go to the animators, who have created a city full of different characters with only two character models – these multi-Rick stories must be very complex to do, and they make it look easy.
To pick one fault with this episode, we yet again have no appearance from Jerry, Beth or Summer. Jerry is consistently the best character in the show and, although this episode was fantastically constructed without any other members of the Smith family, I wish this season wasn’t missing them so much.
Even so, ‘The Ricklantis Mixup’ is a high in a series full of highs. It is funny, clever and complex, with wider implications for the show. Maybe we missed a cracker of a story in Atlantis, but I doubt it could have been as brilliant as the story we got instead.
‘Morty, he’s not going to donate – you’re pitching the Policemen’s Ball to a black teenager’ – The social satire starts before we even hit the Citadel.
‘I wish incest porn had a more mainstream appeal’ – Glasses Morty has big dreams at the wishing portal.
A very bit part, but one of the candidates in the presidential race (including Private Sector Rick, Retired General Rick and Rick Guilt Rick) is Juggling Rick, whose shtick is that he juggles whilst answering the questions. Over here, you’d be guaranteed party leadership as a minimum with that skillset.
Our own Rick and Morty return to the garage via a portal, on a high after their adventure in Atlantis. Rick is overjoyed with all the ‘mermaid puss,’ and Morty hopes that it won’t be a one-off thing. He asks Rick whether he has any curiosity about what happened at the Citadel, but Rick tells him not to worry – the Citadel will never have any bearing on their lives again. Something tells me that that may not be the case.