“You wanna put up a shelf? Put up a shelf!”
As you know by now, Rick and Morty is a show about pushing sci-fi tropes to the limit. It crosses lines on a daily basis and tosses out anything resembling a predictable formula. It goes at length to tell a tale, how both audience and protagonists relish the trip, anticipating the next one. And for three seasons running, it doesn’t take a break from this ride of emotion and excitement.
Until we get to that bugbear of a clip show. Or in this case, a selection of clips that the viewer hasn’t seen, so do we call it an outtake clip show? My point is that a lot of shows will eventually burden themselves with taking the characters to a standstill, while we all reminisce on what has happened along the way. Star Trek The Next Generation did one before the second season ended, with Riker enduring painful memories. It had something to do with invoking more primal memories to quell a virus’s advances within his body.
Apart from the first few mins showing a bored infected Riker about to be beamed up, the entirety of the episode revolves around his past experiences. Some of them are rather racy (it’s Will Riker, what do you expect?) while others are rather nightmarish. The episode doesn’t discover anything new; there’s a lethal problem to solve and we sit and wait it out via clips.
After a bizarre encounter with a creature known as the ‘Truth Tortoise’ our heroes pull another near-death escape. However, along the way, Morty dares to stare into its multicoloured eyes and suddenly knows all too much. Fortunately, it isn’t like the ending sequence of one of the Indiana Jones films as Morty wishes for his memory of the event to be erased. Something that Rick predicted his grandson would admit and thus we’re taken into Rick’s lab under the garage. Into a room filled with memories that Morty had begged Rick to remove from his mind ‘lest he goes insane. Roll the titles.
Being eager to demonstrate the various bottled memories, he starts with ‘Moonspiracy’ beginning with Morty taking in the lunar sites at night outside his house with a telescope. Upon viewing the moon’s surface, there appears to be a man walking on the moon and grinning back at Morty. Naturally, he’s immediately ridiculed by his family, including Rick himself and makes no progress in convincing anyone of his apparent lunacy (HAR! Get it? Ok that’ll be strike one)
The next day at school his class is introduced to a new guidance counsellor that resembles the moon man. Aptly called Mr Lunis, he even makes a jocular pun about shooting for the moon! With evidence of him apparently stealing the American flag from the lunar surface, Morty presents various photos to the school’s principle. Naturally, the kid holds nothing back in damning the seemingly unusual counsellor and yet the principal listens. But he isn’t calling for someone to strap Morty into a straitjacket. Instead, he heads outside to confront the man and after a vicious argument the counsellor drives off. Upon asking what the principal said to enrage the other man, the principal explains how Mr Lunis was in denial about being a paedophile and expected the man to deny it as per usual.
Completely missing the point of what Morty was trying to express in the first place! The moon talk was mistaken for a code, yet he’s defiant of the conviction, made certain in his mind by the strong denial. After school is over, Morty passes the residence of Mr Lunis, which is now a crime scene. We then immediately switch to the man’s funeral. Morty, hiding in the bushes discovers that the man took his own life. One of the men presiding over the casket gives a rather bizarre eulogy; how Mr Lunis, from a certain angle, could often be mistaken for a smudge.
Horrified Morty runs home and examines his telescope to discover that the front lens did indeed have a human figure-like smudge. And there endeth the memory. At this point, Rick blatantly takes a verbal sledgehammer to the forth wall and admits this will be a clip show. But not like a Simpsons special, more like a clip show made up of clips you never saw, as he eloquently puts it.
After seven and a half minutes of revisiting unpleasant memories, Morty loses it and attacks Rick. Is it just me or are we seeing more of Morty questioning the very nature of adventuring with his grandfather? But before the fight gets started, Rick tries a memory wipe on Morty and ends up zapping himself too. They deduce, by sheer luck or bullshit that they’re in a lab filled with memories. And thus goes Morty’s quest to unlock more memories until he can’t take it anymore and puts a gun to his head. He exclaims he can’t take the idea of having lost memories shut away, going back to how he wanted to learn from his mistakes.
Rick, oddly enough, agrees with his logic and declares a suicide pact. Before the count of three, they’re interrupted by Summer who catches them in their amnesia act. She simply cracks open an instruction card from the cabinet, tranqs the guys and puts in their backup memories. Lugging them back to the couch from where this all started, she wakes them up and they both immediately complain about how she let them fall asleep while watching intergalactic cable.
It’s a clip show with Rick and Morty daring to be different, disgusting and dangerous. It even feels a lot of these clips were left on the cutting room floor. We see a crazy amount of “what if?” ideas float around without any familiarity. Ideas that ultimately go nowhere and are left as such, as the guys continue their adventure unabated. The final credit scene involves a short story that is essentially ripping off E.T but ending on a downer. It’s frank, hopeful for a moment before falling flat. The entire episode is a tease that adds nothing to any established storylines, unlike the last episode which saw a Morty conquering the council of Ricks.
The ideas for the memories are chucklesome, but it becomes a little tiresome and repetitive too quickly. It’s another example of Morty demanding Rick to answer for his immoral experiments. While kudos to the guy for standing up for himself, we see yet again how dangerous a rattled Morty is. Yet on the other side of the coin, both have seen things no human has any right to see. Rick’s room of Morty’s memories is a technological safety net for the adolescent dude. And sometimes isn’t that the ultimate wish of a parent or guardian, to shield their child from the horrors of reality? While there’s certainly value in learning a lesson, again they’re going places that no human could ever imagine to discover. Imagine how much Morty would change if these experiences stayed with him. You and I both know it’d break anyone of us if we were him.
So essentially this entire episode never happened. We see a disturbing facet to their adventures which doesn’t change or evolve. We just know it’s there, even if the little rascal doesn’t remember anymore. If anything, you could also tie this episode into something akin to a dream trope. The end basically hits a huge reset button and we’re back at home. It’s different that’s for sure but it’s a rather low point next to recent episodes. On a plus though, my favourite moment had to be Rick’s evolution of the spirit level. His entire rant about the inadequacy of modern tools to Morty reaching a state of euphoric nirvarna from Rick’s levelling device made me laugh aloud. Unfortunately, it was one of only a few laughs through the entirety of the episode.
3 out of 5