30th Sep2015

‘Rick And Morty 2×09: Look Who’s Purging Now’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Oh, I do some pretty bad stuff.”

Rick and Morty has ugly bones. It’s a show predicated on the idea that watching a drunk abuse his grandson across space and time is inherently amusing. This is, unless you’re particularly squeamish about the aforementioned abuse(or gratuitous drool), right on the money. We love to watch the titular duo butt heads and squabble over petty shit while the universe around them suffers for it. Still, even in the midst of inhumanity Rick and Morty is committed to keeping some kind of heart beating at its rotten core. Plenty of people have responded to that, forming attachments to the show’s deeply flawed leads, pumping out football fields of fanfiction, and photoshopping umpteen flower crowns onto poor, battered Morty and tormented Rick.

The show knows all this. The show also doesn’t give a fuck. It’s more interested in delivering phantasmagoria laced with banal human failings than in preserving the idea of its characters that its fans have come to value. Morty’s rampage might, at first blush, read as a derailment of the character. Since his introduction Morty has been our audience surrogate and a channel for traditional Judeo-Christian Earthling morality, but along the way we’ve seen his ugliest urges(drugging Jessica, losing his empathy for strangers) come to the forefront as protracted exposure to Rick’s fucked-up life has, predictably, fucked him up. “It’s been a long time comin’,” he screams at Rick, threatening to tear his grandfather’s guts out and mash them into his face with his cyborg hands. Now that it’s here, it’s easy to see that it has.

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‘Look Who’s Purging Now’ posits a world, one of many, where a scenario like the one that drives the action in 2013′s The Purge forms the basis of society. Peace on rustic cat person planet is preserved through one awful night of orgiastic bloodshed, and that night just happens to be the same one Rick and Morty pick to descend from the heavens in search of wiper fluid(That they wind up drenched in blood after attempting to avoid having to look at a smashed bug is a clever piece of writing). The planet’s folksy, laid-back attitude gives the episode an easy in to blandly forthright discussions of the details of the Purge(Does everyone wear masks? Did it take a while to find acceptance in popular culture? Does the old dude at the engine shop stay inside or does he get into some shit?) along with repeated casual uses of the verb “purge” and the infinitive verb “purging.”

There’s no sentimentality to ‘Look Who’s Purging Now.’ It’s a cruel, bloody episode at once deeply immured in and highly derisive toward the kind of slaughter porn The Purge exemplifies. “Oh my God, this is (bleep)ing awesome,” Rick crows after killing his first rampaging purger. “Morty, this is really cool. You wanna help me out here and kill some people? It’s fun. We’re totally justified because we’re saving a little girl. I mean, we’re both free and clear to murder these people.” Movies like The Purge are a collective excuse to fantasize about what it would be like to commit murder with total moral clarity and rectitude, a neo-con wet dream Rick and Morty tosses out the window long before Morty shoves a passive-aggressive lighthouse keeper down a spiral stair to his death.

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The sub-plot featuring Jerry working his way up to asking Summer for money is brisk and bleak, another jab to the Smith Family’s collective throat. Summer’s deft deconstruction of Jerry’s pitiful attempts at conversation, Jerry’s obliviousness about Rick’s space phone call(and its eventual incredible payoff with the pay-per-friend service), and Summer’s inattention to Rick’s instruction to bring the armament pod outside give the cutaways to Earth a really lived-in feel. Making the thoughtless Summer complicit in the slaughter Rick and Morty wreak is a callous laugh, as is the sequence in which Rick and the cat girl who tricks him and Morty out of their space ship slaughter the planet’s leadership and do a dance in a lake of blood.

‘Look Who’s Purging Now’ is endgame-level bloodsport, flirting with Rick’s repulsion at the slaughter the cat people indulge in before plunging in headfirst and implicating the audience in the whole sick spectacle for good measure.

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