Rick and Morty thrives both on recognising sci-fi tropes and in subverting them in amusing and unexpected ways. ‘Mortyplicity’ is one such episode – one that runs with a clever concept and pushes it to its breaking point, leading to hilarity and (frequent) bloodshed. While I don’t think it’s anywhere near as amusing as ‘Mort Dinner Rick Andre’, it boasts an ingenious premise that leaves a lot to unpack, and somehow fits a ludicrous amount into 20 minutes.
The Smith family are having breakfast, and the suggestion that Jerry may be attending a job interview cues Rick into the fact that something isn’t right. Immediately after, a bunch of squid aliens burst into the house and murder the entire family. Fortunately, it transpires that the assassins have only eliminated one of Rick’s decoy families, which are stationed all around the country in order to protect his real family. Rick breaks the family away from Mr Always Wants To Be Hunted and goes to check out some of the decoys. The Ricks soon start to reason that the best way to protect themselves is to eliminate the others, and it soon becomes a battle of the decoys as each family aims to be the last one standing.
It’s chaotic and most of it works, but it can feel a little overdone at points and it doesn’t quite stick the landing
One of the thrills of Rick and Morty is its sheer inventiveness, and ‘Mortyplicity’ delivers there – the summary that I’ve given you encompasses about 20% of the episode, and it only gets more surreal from there. We meet a lot of Ricks and Smiths, from charming wooden puppet variants to a Rick straight out of a serial killer film, and there’s a lot of violent dispatching of all of them. It’s chaotic and most of it works, but it can feel a little overdone at points and it doesn’t quite stick the landing. It feels like we’re building to something, and it never really comes. Complexity and a packed episode isn’t necessarily an issue (think the Story Train episode from last series), but they do run the risk of leaving the viewer on a bum note if they don’t conclude adequately.
This is the first family adventure in a while, and I loved seeing the family dynamics play out. Summer’s apathy towards killing another version of herself, Beth’s frustration with her father (culminating in an emotional moment that lands really well) and Jerry being a pathetic coward (what could be more important than his lemon slices?) – these are all moments that feel really in character, and help grow our understanding of these people even if most of them aren’t actually real. Obviously, little of the development can carry over because most of the epiphanies come courtesy of Ricks and Smiths who are now dead, but I think it works surprisingly well anyway.
‘Mortyplicity’ is an ambitious and somewhat complicated episode, yet it’s also vintage Rick and Morty
I don’t think that ‘Mortyplicity’ is the funniest episode the show has ever done, something highly attributable to the fact it is focusing on its premise first and foremost. That doesn’t mean that it’s bereft of good lines – I enjoyed Rick’s insistence that “I get hard protecting my family” in a very awkward chat with Morty about an artefact he found when making the house of a decoy family identical and his reference to looking like a Starfox boss. It also fits in a perfect Highlander gag, a nice cameo from a returning Keith David as the President of the United States, and one of the funniest post-credits sequences the show has ever delivered.
‘Mortyplicity’ is an ambitious and somewhat complicated episode, yet it’s also vintage Rick and Morty. It nails the sci-fi concept and manages to mix in a nice bit of character work too, in between all the laughs and violence. It’s a nice counterbalance to last week’s instalment, and it’ll be loved by fans who enjoy the show’s sci-fi epics; for others, it’s a good watch that may not be one to revisit in a hurry unless it transpires it has more stakes further down the line.