14th Sep2015

‘Rick And Morty 2×07: Big Trouble in Little Sanchez’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Grandpa’s back, baby!” 

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The monster in ‘Big Trouble Little Sanchez’ isn’t Coach Feratu. the vampire gym coach who dies off-screen about five minutes in, but the specter of Rick’s looming mortality. Oh, and also Jerry’s inferiority-driven projection of Beth as a cackling xenomorph queen.

When Rick decides to switch his mind into the body of a younger clone (I’m tiny Rick, bitch!), he squashes down the unhappiness that informs his every waking moment and lets his hormonal, death-flouting id take the reins. The only expression his misery can find is through teen angst ranging from guitar songs about his real body rotting in a vat to frantic art begging Summer and Morty to help him. Summer (the life and death of her new top is such a preposterously low-stakes joke in an episode with an alien army of squirming, whining penis-Jerries and Rick butchering his own clones that I couldn’t stop laughing) sees what’s going on right away, but Morty is so relieved by his sudden freedom from Rick’s constant abuse that he avoids trying to reach their 21 Jump Street-ed grandfather for as long as he can.

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Summer is often sort of whatever a given episode needs her to be, but increasingly she’s become the moral heart of the show’s emotionally diseased cast. Granted, she joined a cult and tried to kill her parents like two weeks ago, tops, but she’s still come a long way from someone willing to sell her friend out to fit in with the popular crowd. It’s her earnest concern for Rick, along with her clutch deployment of Elliott Smith’s ‘Between the Bars,’ that turns the old shitbird around and gets him back into his aging body where, as he puts it, “I can feel my bones rubbing together.” As a sidekick she’s proactive to Morty’s strictly reactionary MO, going out on a limb and allowing herself to empathize with an old man’s anxiety about dying, about shriveling away into uselessness, about living his life depressed and afraid.

The episode takes its painful, honest treatment of death and aging and hacks it gleefully apart in a badly-lit basement lair, blood splattering on the walls. It’s an anthem of agnostic disregard for the lesson learned, a rejection of life’s sanctity and an embrace for its terminal ugliness and limitless, restless potential. Given that Jerry managed to create a goddess using his own insecurities, maybe that’s not such a wild idea. Jim Rash’s frantic alien marriage counselor gives Rash a chance to shriek and howl with typically excellent affect as xenomorph Beth rampages through his ill-conceived marriage salvation station, killing and gloating in concert with her squirming, whimpering Jerry dick-worm. Both Rick’s struggle with his impending death and Beth and Jerry’s struggle with their self-images and with their images of one another touch on ideas of seeing the self and of fearing how the self is seen, and both conclude that taking security from how other people see us is a deeply, deeply complicated thing to pursue.

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“Old Rick ruining everything!” Rick crows as he tramples over Jerry’s attempt to relate to him. Rick survives by ebbing and surging, by embracing that which is worst about himself and using it to snap from self-loathing into heedless self-adulation. The truth is that these states are two sides of the same coin, that at all times Rick both loves and hates himself.

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