03rd Aug2015

‘Rick And Morty 2×02: Mortynight Run’

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Oh hi Morty! I’m Krombopulos Michael, I’m an assassin. I buy guns from your grandpa.”

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Part of Rick And Morty‘s strength as a show is its willingness to grow without changing, to texture what’s already there rather than shake up its characters’ motivations and personalities. Case in point, Rick gives Morty the time-honored experience of learning to drive without ever for an instant deviating from his own selfishness, shortsightedness, and amorality. It gives the show a sense of place and logic even as it freewheels through a world where in ten minutes a virtual reality game can take you through fifty-five years in the life of a man named Roy, from waking up from a nightmare as a child to dying spent and alone in a shabby carpet store. That human element is vital, the diseased heart at the center of all of Rick and Morty’s adventures through a world as meaninglessly, hilariously hostile as it is disgusting.

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‘Mortynight Run’ latches onto a long-developing thread, Morty’s impatience with Rick’s uncaring attitude toward life, to ground its action. When Rick, after dropping Jerry off at an interdimensional daycare for Jerries from all times and realities, has Morty drive him to a parking garage so that he can sell an antimatter gun to the single most forthcoming assassin of all time to finance a day at a space arcade, Morty decides he’s had enough of his grandfather’s crap. The assassin, Krombopulos Michael, delivers a brisk and breezy spiel about his willingness to kill anyone and anything because he lacks any pretense toward ethics and by his own admission, “just love[s] killin’.” Morty’s unease with selling guns leads him to track down Krombopulos Michael (at the tail end of a gloriously horrific infiltration of a groflamite base, beginning with a cheerful shout of “Here I go killin’ again!” and with time taken to establish that Krombopulos Michael is religious and that he has loved ones he cherishes) and splatter him with Rick’s space ship before he can kill his target, a gaseous cloud containing several winking lights.

Rick grudgingly helps Morty bust the cloud, a sedate telepathic life-form who names itself Fart after looking into Morty’s mind, out of prison and the three embark on a quest to get Fart back to his people. The episode’s psychedelic song sequences, courtesy of Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement, are as gorgeous as they are ass-achingly vapid (in the best way possible). Fart’s high-flying ideas of intergalactic love and peace mesh…interestingly with Morty’s pubescent fixation on butts. The episode’s strongest choice, though, is taking a tried and true moral question like “is the life of the individual sacred no matter what” and not even bothering to express a position on it. It’s like showing up to a debate and vomiting up a bunch of wasps: you may not change the world, but your joke is definitely stronger than your waspless opponent’s.

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The scene in which Fart destroys the psyches of the gear people chasing him, Rick, and Morty and touches off a chain reaction of crashes and misfires that destroys an entire flotilla of aircraft is mesmerizing animation married to incredible chaos. Morty’s horror at having caused so much death in his attempt to preserve life drives his white-knuckle sunk cost decision to just keep going deeper, too scarred now to turn back and admit he’s out of his depth. Watching explosions light the saucer’s interior like fireworks is just the right mix of faux-sobering and blackly humorous.

The whole shaggy dog disaster of ‘Mortynight Run’ ends with Morty discovering that Fart intends to return with the rest of his people to euthanize all carbon-based life. Aghast at having caused so much death only to doom the universe, Morty asks Fart to sing for him again and then blasts the alien full of antimatter, killing him. He returns to Rick’s taunts and stares blankly into space as they depart the world where Fart died by his hand. Jerry’s sojourn in the Jerry daycare is the logical endgame of all Jerry plots, a tour through the comprehensive banality of life as Jerry and a chance to see how terrifying galactic society is to someone moving through it without any skills or spine at all. The exploding monosyllabic aliens in particular present a reality at once incomprehensible and insistent that it be comprehended, driving Jerry back into the safety of his other selves’ arms until Rick and Morty return to (maybe) reclaim him.

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‘Mortynight Run’ is a typically gonzo episode that weaves together a long succession of strong bits (K. Michael, Blips & Chitz, Gearhead, the dogfight, etc) into a seamlessly cohesive whole. The Blips & Chitz material in particular, though, is part of a longer game investigating Rick’s deep desire to be held accountable for nothing and to find escape from depression and self-loathing through substances and other trivial diversions. Rick And Morty is a show as at home cheerfully positing that fate is uncontrollable and savage chaos the only constant as it is plumbing the wreckage of a heedless genius’s psyche. No big moments, no big messages, just wall to wall weirdness and the so-awful-you-have-to-laugh certainty that the people killing psychic, murderous gas clouds and running in terror down streets full of aliens fucking in public are totally, fallibly human.

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