I’m not sure that Rick and Morty is cynical, despite how much it appears that way. At the end of the day I don’t think it’s saying that the world is inherently bad—just that sometimes it operates on a complex system of morality that we don’t have all the pieces to.
In “Mortyight Run,” Morty tries really, really hard to the right thing. Rick’s sold a gun to an extremely charming and upfront assassin, voiced with all the enthusiastic politeness you’d expect from Review’s Andy Daly (“Oh boy! Here I go killing again!”). Rick plans on taking the earnings to Blips and Chitz, an intergalactic Dave and Busters. Understandably, Morty’s disturbed by Rick’s blasé attitude. He decides to save the assassin’s next target—a sentient, psychic cloud that dubs itself Fart, voiced here by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords.
It’s not like the ending to this episode isn’t telegraphed in the second Fart breaks out into a Bowie-esque song about unity and oneness and having no pain. This is Rick and Morty, we know there’s no singular “right thing” to do. But it’s amazing to watch here how Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon set up and validate one system of morality before exposing one that makes no sense on a human scale. I’m sure the readers of this review all believe that killing is wrong. Morty believed that too, and Fart believes that killing all carbon based lifeforms is the most humane choice, as they inevitably cause destruction to their universes.
The moral message isn’t that life is inherently pain, but that we understand so little about the world that we live in. This is really hammered with what Jerry’s doing in this episode—being stashed away at a Jerry themed daycare for all the Jerrys in every variant universe. He feels like it’s infantilizing—and it super is, there’s a ball bit and a mascot of his wife—but it’s revealed he isn’t trapped there. Even the Jerrys that were never picked up decide, in the end, not to leave. He can leave the daycare of his own free will, and he does, only to be horrified by a world he doesn’t understand.
In the midst of all this blowhard theorizing, I should mention: this episode is really fucking funny. While the premiere wasn’t a snoozefest, this episode is still markedly funnier. Fart in particular is a delight, often mixing up words when reading people’s minds (“I communicate using what you call ‘Jessica’s Feet.’ No, wait, ‘Telepathy.’”). The animated sequences for his bursts of song are also simply gorgeous to look at, so deftly animated they look like the images are dripping off the screen. The scenes at Blips and Chitz are chock full of jokes in every frame, and I found myself wishing they spent a little more time on the game Roy, where you just play a guy named Roy. Why aren’t real videogames like Roy? Why can’t we just have simulations of emotionally fulfilling worlds where we die knowing we’ve left something good behind?
It seems like there are two kinds of people in the universe of Rick and Morty. There are people like Jerry, who will stay blissfully ignorant in the face of all the things they don’t know, and can’t know. And there are people like Morty, who, even in the face of insurmountable pain, learn to roll with the punches. In the end Morty shoots Fart with the very same gun Rick sold to that assassin. It was, in that moment, the right thing to do.
Gita Jackson has dedicated her entire adult life to wading through the marginalia of popular culture and finding gold.