Episode: Mortynight Run
Original Airdate: August 2nd, 2015
Written by: David Phillips
Directed by: Dominic Polcino
Note: SPOILERS to follow. Do not read unless you are comfortable with being spoiled.
Watching Mortynight Run, I was reminded of a short story I read a while ago, called ‘Black Sheep’ by Italo Calvino. In it, we are put into a town whose residents steal everything from another person’s house every single night. Every house is robbed, so in effect, nothing actually changes. By the time morning comes, everyone has something to eat. That flow is one day disturbed when an Honest Man comes to live in the town, and does not participate in this custom. Because of this one man, everything spirals out of control. Some of the locals get really lucky – they find their house untouched and fill it with their night’s winnings. Others lose everything, as the house they plan to hit has nothing in it, and return to an emptied home. Even though the intentions of the Honest Man were always pure, he ruined a functioning society that he didn’t understand.
Now, the story goes on, but at this juncture, the parallels to this episode are clear. In Mortynight Run – to a point – Morty is our Honest Man (though in a much funnier and more interesting way) as he discovers some of Rick’s shady business involves the selling of guns to an assassin (Krombopulos Michael) with no ethical boundaries. He is outraged once he discovers that the money earned off of this deal is being spent on Blips and Chitz, a crazy arcade including a game called Roy: A Life Well Lived, where you play as Roy and guide him through his life until his very dying days (Morty scored 55 years, which Rick assures us isn’t too bad). In the name of making things right, Morty uses the card he was given to find Krombopulos Michael and–presumably–talk him out of what he’s about to do. However, as he’s only just started to learn how to drive the spaceship, he crashes through the wall of the complex and kills him. In order to stick to his principles, he decides to liberate the target (a gas-based life form given the name Fart) and guide him back to his home world. Unfortunately, the releasing of Fart causes problems with the feds (as the alien can change the atomic structure of anything) and so he effectively forces Rick to come along and help. Through being chased, they cause countless civilian deaths (the funniest example of this being Rube Goldberg Machine-esque sequence where buildings crash and topple into each other, killing hundreds). Despite this, Morty remains resolute; as long as he can save Fart, he has done ‘the right thing’.
Morty get cruelly close to (a very twisted form of) success, getting to the very edge of the portal that would send Fart home, before Fart reveals–offhand–that he’s going to get all of his gas-based friends to return and ‘cleanse’ the population of carbon-based life forms. Completely dismayed, Morty inevitably uses the antimatter gun he stole from Krombopulos Michael’s corpse to kill him, making all of those deaths for nothing.
This may just be the best story in Rick and Morty‘s history. It is the prime example of examining something in a way that no other TV show is. The writers have repeatedly shown us that you don’t screw around with the knowledge that Rick has. When he tells you that you have a “very ‘planetary mindset'” and that the ethics surrounding death are more complicated in the space-travelling community, you should believe him, yet a part of us will always be rooted in that very ‘planetary mindset’ that Morty has. We will support a part of his rebelliousness. However, instead of enabling the idea that Morty is 100% right because death is always 100% wrong, the writers instantly make Morty’s actions questionable, until they get more and more ridiculous. By the end, he’s fighting to save the life of one person, with the blood of hundreds basically on his hands. Further still, instead of leaving us to actually ponder the question “was it worth it?”, the show tells us–no, it most definitely was not worth it. Fart has to die, otherwise there will be a genocide on Morty’s hands, too.
In essence, the episode instantly avoids endorsing a simplistic “death is wrong, Morty is right!” message by delving into a grey area, where most shows in this ‘golden age’ would leave us – but then takes it a step further. The writers tell us that there is no ambiguity at all – Morty was in the wrong. The writers challenged ethical boundaries by making it so that the ‘white’ would’ve been letting an assassin go off and kill someone, and the ‘black’ would’ve been to save them, and we really can’t argue against that.
The writers don’t do this for the sake of being edgy, however. It’s just another unique avenue through which to examine the many pitfalls of naivety, defiance, and pride, all of which drive Morty to be so completely blind to the dark side of his actions.
And it’s hysterical!
The B-story, happily, is an improvement on the last. Jerry hitched a ride in the back of the spaceship, much to the annoyance of Rick. Once discovered, he is left in a Jerry daycare, set up by one of the many Ricks. Concept alone, I was sold. With an abundance of Jerrys comes an abundance of his bland charm. Initially resisting the idea because he felt patronised, Jerry was confused that all of the alternate versions of himself were so completely unfazed. However, it doesn’t take long for him to get swept up by the distractions on offer, such as the freedom to change the display settings on the TV. I would’ve been okay with the episode leaving it here, but the story was firing on all cylinders. Upon discovering that some Jerrys got dumped and never picked up, Jerry is filled with a new sense of passion. He wants to get out and damn the system – which, apparently, was totally allowed the whole time and he was under no obligation to stay there.
So he leaves.
And comes back minutes later.
While the way Rick treats Jerry often comes across as mean-spirited bullying (and it often is), there is actually a good reason why the two don’t go on adventures together. The simple truth is that Jerry doesn’t belong in that science-fiction world. He’s stuck in his Earthly ways, and that’s fine, so long as he understands that. Jerry learns that simple lesson the hard way, wandering out into the world and seeing (really disturbing) things that he’s just unable to deal with, quickly becoming overwhelmed. By the time Rick and Morty return to pick him up, all he wants to do is go home.
Now, it has become totally possible that we have a new Jerry in the regular household. Morty lost his ticket, and so, in order to make things simple, our Rick swapped Jerrys with another Rick who also lost his ticket. They did it like it was no big deal.
It probably isn’t.
Two episodes into the new season, Rick and Morty delivers a a top-tier half hour of television. The story inverts ethical expectations in order to challenge Morty’s biggest pitfalls as a character, as well as illustrating exactly why Jerry isn’t made for the universe-traversing life.
Highlights and Other Thoughts
- Rick: You can park in a handicapped spot, Morty. Anything with less than eight limbs is considered disabled here.
- There are four ‘reasons for drop off’ at the Jerry daycare centre. Of all of them, my favourite is “threatened to tell Beth”.
- This week in, ‘only in Rick and Morty reviews’: “Unfortunately, the releasing of Fart causes problems with the feds.”
- Morty: You sold weapons to a murderer so you could play video games?
Rick: I mean, sure, if you spend all day shuffling words around, you can make anything sound bad, Morty.
- Rick: 55 years. Not bad Morty. You kind of wasted your 30s with that whole bird-watching phase.
- Did you spot the Mr. Meseeks cameo at Blips and Chitz?
- Krombopulos Michael: Oh boy, here I go killin’ again!
- Hey, so… Rick’s portals can kill.
- Morty: Rick, we’re taking him back!
Rick: Oh yeah? Where’s that? Are you going to find he who smelt it?
- That musical number was pretty great.
- Ball Fondlers!
- Gearhead: Do you even know my real name? It’s Revolio Clockberg Junior. I belong to an entire species of gear people. Calling me “Gearhead” is like calling a Chinese person “Asia Face”!
- Jerry: I can’t believe Rick did this. This is the eighth to the last straw!
- Jerry: I’m leaving!
Daycare Worker: Okay then, that was always allowed!
- Rick’s fart-riffing segment was nothing short of exceptional.
- Roy II: Dave