Last night’s episode of Rick and Morty brought us back to more familiar territory, with the titular drunk maniac and his titular vacuous grandson trapped on an alien planet in which face-sucking parasites alter their minds into thinking Summer is a queen. Yeah, that’s a whole lot to absorb, but when compared to last week’s episode, which was literally about series co-creator Dan Harmon’s writing process, this was a breath of egg-farting fresh air. I promise that analogy will make sense once you’ve watched the episode. In case that wasn’t a tip-off, SPOILERS are ahead.
Rick and Morty is a show that frequently blurs the line between literal narrative and metaphorical circle-jerk, and “Promortyus” tapdances along that line like Fred Astaire being threatened by intergalactic mutiny. It opens with Rick and Morty detaching villainous alien parasites from their faces while strolling through some interstellar hive towards some unknown purpose, and from that point on the episode, like so many others, dips into meta-narratives about the show and its creators while throwing its characters into a sci-fi plotline that plays with genre conventions and familiar tropes. It’s a throw-away “monster of the week” episode – an installment that has the characters face a threat that is immediately conquered and never encountered again – that also comments on the series’ need for filler episodes.
After dislodging the parasites from their faces, Rick and Morty realize that the entire society of aliens is based around rapid reproduction, which is another way of saying that each alien gives violent, anus-destroying birth to an egg shortly after being impregnated. It’s a twist on the Alien films, if chestbursters popped out of your asshole instead of your ribcage. They commit war crimes at the Star Wars level (complete with Morty descending into a bubble turret), steering clear of the alien’s Twin Towers in favor of demolishing their Pearl Harbor before rocketing back to Earth in highly questionable glory. After a brief dinner with Beth and the endlessly pathetic Jerry (who has taken up beekeeping), Rick and Morty realize that the parasite made them forget about Summer, who has become the de-facto queen of the aliens. They return to rescue Summer, which results in them massacring the entire alien planet with a bunch of harmonica music. Genuinely not sure if that’s a Mars Attacks! reference, or if Harmon and Justin Roiland just got tired of writing that week.
“Promortyus” is, in many ways, a return to form for Rick and Morty. It’s a more-or-less traditional science fiction adventure story, with a clever narrative device that drops us in midway through the action with a pair of bewildered protagonists who have to piece together what happened after being mind-controlled for several weeks/days/months/years. (It’s not clear how long they’ve been living on the parasite planet, but we do know that they’ve at least been there long enough for Rick to launch his own Alex Jones-style truther YouTube channel.) But the episode takes a few quick seconds to take shots at the creators themselves – Rick protests the idea of returning to the parasite planet by pointing out that he never does sequels and calling out all the adventures they could’ve had on Purge World and Gear World, references to episodes from the past two seasons. And once Summer is rescued and the trio are back on their version of Earth, Morty remarks that he and Rick don’t need to try so hard, and should instead rely on another episode of Interdimensional Cable. (That marks the second reference to Interdimensional Cable this season, which makes me wonder if a threepeat of that episode isn’t far off.) And Rick takes a big interdimensional shit on podcasting midway through when he instructs Morty and Summer to “pretend podcasting isn’t boring” – co-creator Dan Harmon hosted the podcast Harmontown for several years, which also resulted in a documentary film. The only thing Rick and Morty hates more than societal idiosyncrasies is Rick and Morty itself.
After an all-time ending in which Rick and Morty take shrieking, world-ending shits on the living room floor in front of Beth, we’re treated to an after-credits sequence with Summer and her perpetual rival Tricia Lange watching Jerry tend to his bees from Summer’s bedroom. Similar to other Rick and Morty post-credits stingers, this seems like nothing more than an effort to send us to bed with one last joke, as Tricia slowly convinces herself that she wants to smash hipbones with Jerry. Tricia originally appeared in the Season 3 episode “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”, in which Tricia saw colossal, inside-out versions of Beth and Summer have a reconciliation, so to be honest there’s no telling what the hell is going on inside her mind. Maybe she’s just really into apiaries.
“Promortyus” isn’t a classic, but it has fun with a familiar sci-fi horror concept. Rick and Morty essentially invade a world of parasitic aliens, convince them to value life, and then kill them all because fuck them, they’re parasites. It’s a familiar subversion for the show (remember Unity from Season 2?), but its familiarity doesn’t make it any less welcome. Hopefully Rick’s next off-the-wall invention will make these seasons last longer.