You know, I was a little worried for a while there. I couldn’t think of a more lackluster way to end the season than with another episode about how Rick is right all the time.
As I was starting out “The Wedding Squanchers,” I felt like I could see the beats from a mile away. Rick hates weddings. The family loves weddings. Something goes wrong. Rick is proved right. It’s becoming a little tiresome to have that particular point of view endlessly crammed down my throat. For the past two episodes, the show was barely funny. Hell, at points it was barely watchable. It felt like the worst aspects of Harmon as a writer were shining through—his tendency to be cynical and then yell at his audience for tiring of his cynicism. Really, the only funny part of the first half of the episode was the cute casting gag for Tammy’s parents. We should have known she was a deep cover agent—her parents are Tricia Helfer and James Callis.
Lucky for all of us, that was only half the episode.
The greatest asset that Rick and Morty has as a comedy is its willingness to not only go dark, but to go dark in unexpected ways. It’s a reminder that the show’s darkness has a cumulative effect on its characters. Despite the fact that the show has a very loose continuity, it does remember that Rick, Morty, Summer, Beth and Jerry are a family, they’re people, they have feelings. They don’t always just bounce back from episode to episode. Sometimes they’re not going to be able to. Sometimes they have to learn from their actions.
So, Rick’s on the run from the Intergalactic Federation and let’s his family have their pick of three Earth-like planets. One is incredibly tiny, on another everything’s on a cob which is apparently a deal breaker, and on another the sun screams unendingly and the days last 42 hours. They pick the tiny one. As Rick spends a good half hour walking to the South Pole, and then climbing through an ice cave to the center of the Earth, he overhears his family talking about him.
Jerry, unsurprisingly, wants to turn him in. Summer says they can’t, because they love him, and you don’t love people for a reward, you love them unconditionally, and Morty agrees. Beth can’t bear to hear it—she can’t bear to live a life without her father, after having spent her childhood without him.
What choice does Rick have? He turns himself in. It’s the only way his daughter, her husband, and their children will have a normal life. I almost started laughing when “Hurt,” by Nine Inch Nails started playing, and then was startled when I realized how effective it was. Sometimes Rick and Morty has a sincere heart. That’s another one of its strengths.
Despite spending two episodes getting all self-indulgent about how bad everything is all the time, Roiland and Harmon seem to understand that acting on self-destructive impulses all the time without any remorse does actually make you a bad person. It affects the people around you. It’s your fault.
Whoo-ee, what a way to end a season. How do you think they’re gonna get outta that one? Whoo-ee! And just in time for them to hire any women writers. I almost gave up hope there for a second, but whoo-ee, I do actually think Rick and Morty has a chance to once again become as great as it was earlier this season. See you in a year and a half, or more.
Gita Jackson has dedicated her entire adult life to wading through the marginalia of popular culture and finding gold.