[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty, Season 5, Episode 1, “Mort Dinner Rick Andre.”]
There’s a dilemma at the center of the Rick and Morty Season 5 premiere. This many episodes in, how much should the show really change things to keep them fresh? If they stick to their formula, the story will get stale quickly, but if they start changing things up, then the story will inevitably have to end at some point. Like a famous horse actor from a ’90s sitcom once said, “You never get a happy ending, ’cause there’s always more show.” Rick and Morty has tried to change the formula a bit over its previous 4 seasons, while still mostly hitting the reset button each season. But the latest episode proved that the show is ready to leave some things behind, even if things can’t completely change.
This is exemplified in the opening scene. We see Morty (Justin Roiland) save Rick (also Roiland) from certain death, and also manage to score a date with long-time crush, Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), all before the opening credits drop. This feels like a significant step forward for Morty, who spent the entire Season 4 opener transforming into an Akira-like monster in order to chase a future where he grew old with Jessica. And yet, we still find time for a classic Rick and Morty adventure, as Morty crashlands the ship in the ocean, saving his and Rick’s lives, but not before they draw the anger of Rick’s “greatest nemesis,” a very horny Aquaman-like king of the ocean called Nimbus. The rest of the episode deals with Rick trying to convince Nimbus not to use his powers to wage war on the surface, while Morty tries to both woo Jessica and help Rick out.
Of course, things aren’t that simple, as Rick instructs Morty to be in charge of looking over the wine for his dinner with
Andre Nimbus, which he hides in another dimension where time moves more quickly. Morty accepts the help from one of the other dimension’s citizens to carry the wine over to the Smith household, inadvertently making the man miss the birth of his son, his teenage years, and also the death of his wife due to time dilation. This, in turn, causes the son to swear revenge on Morty, turning the young boy who walks through the magic portal to become a sort of boogeyman for this dimension’s civilization.
Everything about this alternate dimension is without a doubt the highlight of the episode, and one of the best things Rick and Morty has done in years, mostly because it doesn’t feel like it belongs in this show as much as it does Roiland’s other creation, Solar Opposites — specifically its fantastic “Wall” storyline. Throughout the episode, Morty has to go back and pick up more wine, each time encountering an increasingly bigger, angrier, and more advanced civilization completely devoted to killing him mercilessly. It works because of the juxtaposition between the laser-focused dedication this alien civilization has for killing a teenage boy, and Morty’s complete disregard for them, until he gets annoyed enough that Morty pulls a Rick and starts slaughtering generations of people. “Sometimes you’ve gotta be an asshole, my grandfather taught me that.”
Meanwhile, Rick is desperately trying to impress Nimbus while failing to get anyone in the family to listen to him. Even if the broader structure of Mort Dinner Rick Andre is familiar — Morty screwing something up while Rick is looking at the bigger picture before finally being dragged into Morty’s problems — the details are increasingly different from previous seasons. Where Season 4 built up the idea that Rick was no longer the alpha male he thought he was and was finally having to sometimes listen to his family’s demands, this season doubles down by having everyone ignore Rick and everything he says. Morty does get the wine for Rick, albeit reluctantly, but he does so in order to get some for himself and Jessica. Meanwhile, Beth (Sarah Chalke) has gone from desperately seeking her father’s attention and neglecting everything else, to barely acknowledging her father’s presence and instead wonder whether her sex-positive marriage with Jerry (Chris Parnell) is ready for the next step: a government-approved threesome with Nimbus, complete with a gift basket.
Then there’s Nimbus himself. Besides having the incredible ability to control the police via a pelvic thrust that really drives you insane, he reveals that the reason we haven’t seen him fight Rick is not that he’s afraid, but because he has lost all respect for the man who used to be his nemesis, and also his friend. Rick and Morty spent its first few seasons building up the image of Rick as an anti-hero, a man you sort of admire even if you know he’s despicable, but not anymore. The past two seasons have seen Rick taken down more than a few pegs, and perhaps Roiland and Dan Harmon are responding to the toxic fandom that grew around their older protagonist, or are simply realizing every anti-hero eventually has to lose something. In the case of Rick, the smartest man in the multiverse who supposedly doesn’t care about anything or anyone, Nimbus says it best when he calls him “a sad, drunk, shell of a man too afraid to see how alone he truly is.” We have actually seen glimpses of Rick realizing this, but to have the show outright say it is a step towards a major change in the status quo.
Of course, the show has walked down this path before only to hit the reset button and pretend things didn’t happen, just as fast as Jessica seems to accept Morty’s advances, she turns him down after having “glimpsed into the mind of eternity” and become a time god. But the fact that the show carried some changes — like Rick’s lack of respect from his family — over from seasons past and even doubled down on them, indicate that Rick and Morty could be interested in more than just following the rules of sitcoms. Take that, Horsin’ Around!
Interdimensional Lost & Found
- There are many alternate dimensions in the show that could get their own spin-off, but the Narnia-inspired one from this episode feels tailor-made for a mini-series about what happened when we weren’t watching, and I would be very much into it.
- As if Nimbus’ takedown of Rick wasn’t hard-hitting enough, the fact that he keeps calling him “Richard” should give you a hint of how little he thinks of Rick.
- This week’s interdimensional TV bit: a TV show called Nintendo69 which is exactly what you think it is.
- When Morty asks if the wine-keeping dimension is like Narnia, Rick responds, “I’m not a Beaver who believes in Jesus Christ, Morty” which is as accurate a description of that weird yet magical franchise as you’d expect from Rick.
Rick and Morty airs Sundays on Adult Swim.
Get schwifty, Mr. Nimbus is coming!
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