In my reviews of Rick and Morty series five, a common thread has been the general lack of character work. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any, but what has taken place is generally quite limited, largely so the episodes can throw a lot at us. Then, after I’ve said that, we get an episode like ‘Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort’, which dives heavy into the character of Rick and manages to pack in a lot of action too. It’s arguably just a little too busy, but it’s a fun time nonetheless and one of the fifth series’ best episodes so far.
Left on his own in the garage one day, Rick decides to try and revive his old friend Birdperson (Dan Harmon), who had been killed and transformed into a cyborg by the Galactic Federation. He rebuilds his friend’s body, but he needs to reactivate Birdperson’s mind, and the only way to do that is dive into his memories and find it. As he looks for Birdperson, he encounters a number of memories about their adventures together and is forced to confront some elements of his past in order to bring his friend back.
‘Rickternal Friendshine’ is definitely one for the fans
‘Rickternal Friendshine’ is definitely one for the fans – as well as Birdperson, digging into his and Rick’s past throws the door open for a lot of cameos, as well as moments you’ll know and moments we’ve only ever heard about. It’s rare for the show to actually dig into Rick and what makes him tick, and the episodes in which this happens are generally really solid (I’m thinking ‘The Old Man and the Seat’ in particular). I thought that almost entirely excluding the family was a good strategy for focusing on the key relationship – Rick and Birdperson. A creature who matters to the man who knows that nothing matters, and Rick’s main ally here is actually a memory of himself with differing views on life to his real counterpart.
The episode strikes a great balance – it does a lot of digging into backstory, yet it remains ambiguous enough to avoid really committing (the memories are necessarily warped by what Birdperson remembers, a clever plot device). A throwaway comment suggests something really interesting about Rick’s relationship with his family, one that has to come into play later on because of just how significant it is. And, in the middle of all the character stuff, we plough through spectacle that actually feels linked to the main narrative drive of the episode. I’m not going to ruin any details, but we wrap up with a brilliant chase sequence that is character and action driven – the kind of thing that Rick and Morty has always excelled at.
‘Rickternal Friendshine’ is a stellar Rick and Morty episode, whose minor faults do not outweigh the brilliant work it does
There are a few downsides to the episode. As I said, it is a little too busy – the pace never really lets up, and there were a few occasions that I wished it had lingered a little longer on some of the interesting plot moments. We race through a lot of stuff, mostly with Rick just telling us what’s happening at any given moment, and there were a few sequences that I thought would have benefitted from a little more time. It’s also not overly funny – I’m generally willing to forgive this, because I don’t think it particularly hampered the episode, but there is some painful material with his garage before the plot kicks off in earnest.
‘Rickternal Friendshine’ is a stellar Rick and Morty episode, whose minor faults do not outweigh the brilliant work it does. It’s exciting and engaging, and it fleshes out our main character in a way the show isn’t very prone to doing. It’s definitely the best episode of series five thus far, and the kind of thing that only Rick and Morty can deliver.