Synopsis for 2×02: Disturbed after seeing Rick sell weapons to an assassin, Morty ventures to save the target. Jerry gets left at a daycare center for Jerrys from various dimensions.
When I think of my favorite episodes of Rick and Morty, I generally find myself gravitating towards those with the most unique and all-encompassing premises – Mr. Meeseeks, infinite television, councils of inter-dimensional Ricks, you know, the like. Unlike most shows, Rick and Morty can ride out a single joke for an entire episode without it becoming repetitive or wearisome. But between these high concept premises come the real meat of the show – the episodes that do a lot with a little instead of a lot with a lot, that focus on character development and thematic depth, that still manage to burst with creativity.
“Mortynight Run” may be the best the show has done in that vein yet, skillfully juggling deeply original science fiction concepts, visually stunning animation sequences, powerful character evolution, and absolutely hilarious jokes throughout. It’s a brilliant episode, if somewhat more quietly brilliant than others.
It begins with Rick teaching Morty to drive the spaceship, until he realizes that Jerry snuck along to watch his son grow. Rick drops him off at a daycare entirely for Jerrys of various dimensions while Ricks and Mortys of various dimensions went on their adventures. While last week’s B plot lost a lot of impact for having such lower stakes than the main story, this time the discrepancy doesn’t feel as profound, perhaps if only because the visual aesthetic remains the same throughout this time.
The daycare center built specifically to entertain Jerrys has some great touches that poke fun at the character’s bland dad personality, such as a mascot-esque version of Beth that offers to watch Midnight Run with them. And in the end, Jerry’s attempt to escape has a subtly sweet and honest message – Jerry just isn’t cut out for intergalactic adventuring, and he can feel satisfied living a life of trying to make the audio come out of the stereo instead of the TV.
Meanwhile, Rick sells some weapons to assassin Krombopulos Michael (voiced by Andy Daly, star of Review, which is the best show on TV that you’ve never heard of). Morty resents his grandfather for this, so he decides to go solo in the spaceship to save the target, which turns out to be a nearly omnipotent gaseous cloud, choosing the name “Fart” for itself after Rick calls it such (performed by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame; killin’ it with the guest stars this week). The escape becomes increasingly elaborate when the local police catch on, and the incident destroys a huge chunk of the city. But once they finally reach the wormhole to return Fart to its home planet, it reveals to Morty that its species systematically murders all carbon-based life forms to protect themselves. So Morty kills him.
While the show maintains its comic spirit, it also never plays down the intense darkness of all of this. Rick doesn’t hesitate to remind him that he became responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent bystanders, and Morty’s in tears as he finally has to murder his own friend, ultimately becoming directly responsible for the very act that he tried to stop. On a thematic level, the episode almost acts as a bizarre but practical execution of the trolley problem, adding additional complexity such that the “right” thing for Morty to do becomes very cloudy. Morty’s had to grow up fast on these adventures, but in “Mortynight Run,” everything is his responsibility, his fault – and ultimately, his job to fix at all costs.
And throughout all this, the episode never compromises the surprises that come at every moment. There’s the video game Roy, in which the player lives out the entirety of a human life and high scores are life spans. There’s Fart’s intensely trippy songscape, the most beautifully animated sequence in the series so far. And through all this gravity, the show delivers top-tier humor: Krombopulos Michael’s joyful attitude towards killing is a delight, and Rick’s old-man-asshole banter is at an all-time best. Favorite line this week: “You ever hear about Wall Street, Morty? You know what those guys do in their fancy boardrooms? They take their balls and they dip them in cocaine and wipe them all over each other.”
God, I love this show. See you next week.