Traditional animation takes a really long time. While computer-animated shows like South Park can jump on something topical in a week, every episode of Rick and Morty was written many months ago, if not even longer. A lot has changed in the past year, so watching an episode of a TV show that deals with the office of the president feels … anachronistic? At best? It’s not Rick and Morty’s fault, of course. But in order for “The Rickchurian Mortydate” to make any kind of sense, we must assume that the show takes place in a universe in which we still have a president instead of a petulant, narcissistic child with Oval Office access.
Onto the episode. An alien has infested the Kennedy Sex Tunnels beneath the White House, and it’s up to Rick and Morty to stop it. But this doesn’t actually prove to be an exciting adventure: Rick and Morty have done this kind of thing too often, and they’re bored of being “treated like Ghostbusters.” They leave, unaware (or perhaps aware, I’ve gotta imagine Rick knows) that they’re being surveilled by the government once they’re back at home. The President isn’t thrilled that they’ve insulted him or that they’d rather play Minecraft than help save America, and he rings them up to call them out. He says they’re lucky that they haven’t been arrested, and they remind him that if someone ever tried to arrest them, it wouldn’t go well. They hang up, and then the President decides that they don’t need Rick and Morty to save the world anymore.
Meanwhile, Beth and Summer are out shopping, and Beth readily agrees to let Summer buy a revealing outfit. Summer asks when she “got rad,” and Beth says that she’s just adjusted to the divorce. Of course, the reality is that she is (probably) a clone of Beth, while the real Beth is off fulfilling her genius potential.
In Brazil, a team of men in hazmat suits come across a tiny, nuclear-capable species. Rick and Morty decide to go make first contact. Unfortunately, they’re beaten there by the Brazilian army. And the U.S. military. And the President. He tries to dismiss them, but Rick and Morty give him a verbal dressing-down, and they get arrested, then expatriated. They’re no longer allowed in the U.S.
The President shrinks down to a tiny size to try to reason with the new alien species. He meets the Presidentress of the ironically named Mega-Gargantuans, who tells him that Rick and Morty already visited and negotiated a cease-fire (and found ways to insult the President by proxy). Rick and Morty also went ahead and negotiated a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Palestine. This infuriates the President, even though he’s getting all the credit for it.
Back at home, Beth calls Rick and asks if she’s the replacement Beth. Rick says no, and tells her that when smart people get happy they sometimes stop recognizing themselves. That said, he does not deny that she’s the replacement Beth. When they hang up, Beth freaks out.
Rick and Morty show up in the Oval Office. Rick tells the President that they’re even and they’ll get out of his hair, provided he takes a selfie with Morty. The President tries to have Rick arrested, but the second a member of the Secret Service tries to touch Rick, he dies. Rick sits back down, still refusing to leave without a selfie. The Secret Service shoots at Rick, who’s got a force field around Morty and himself. No one’s leaving the Oval Office, and there are going to be a lot of non-Rick casualties. Rick and the President end up in a battle of gadgets, skill, and two very intense, mind-controlled child gymnasts.
Meanwhile, Beth visits Jerry as he attempts to learn how to flip signs. She needs Jerry to figure out if she is the “real” Beth or not. Jerry helps her visualize their first date and then kisses her. He tells her that she is the real thing. Beth tells him how lucky she feels to be loved by such a “simple, honest, simple man.” She knows she’s not the real Beth because she actually loves Jerry. They have sex.
The President uses drones to try to shoot down Rick, but eventually Rick gets him in a headlock. The President agrees to take a selfie, but it’s too late — Morty has stolen Rick’s portal gun, and now the whole family is holed up in some kind of secret bunker. Jerry and Beth are getting back together. They’re hiding from Rick and don’t want him to find them. The President declares Rick a terrorist, and says he can’t exist alongside a “living god who won’t submit to him” (besides Poseidon, anyway). Rick makes a deal with the President: He’ll make himself scarce forever, if he can just use the President’s “deficit-tripling” portal technology.
An armed Rick finds the family at their cabin hideout. Beth is paranoid that Rick is about to kill her, but Rick tells Beth that she is, in fact, the real Beth. Rick brought the gun to kill Jerry because he just can’t seem to get rid of him. Morty tells Rick the family is happy now, so he can stay and deal with that or go to another timeline. Rick reluctantly agrees to stay in this timeline. The Smiths are happy. They eat Panda Express.
Overall, it’s a solid episode that left me feeling a little cold. The rest of this season has been, at times, transcendent. “The Rickchurian Mortydate” felt more like a recap of themes than an exploration of anything new. Even if I was underwhelmed by the episode, this would probably be a good place to end the series. I don’t know if we’ll be getting a fourth season, but I suspect that it’d have to spin its wheels a bit with future episodes. This is a show that’s gone out of its way to explore its characters and their relationships. It’s looked at them from every angle. It’s found consistently surprising story lines and ideas. I’m just not sure it could sustain that excellence over another season, not after putting these characters under the microscope so carefully.
Besides, this would be a satisfying ending, emotionally. Morty, Summer, Jerry, and Beth being a cohesive unit with Rick as the difficult outsider is pretty much where the show started. They’ve come full circle, and they are better people for it. I’m grateful for the show we’ve gotten, and honestly, I would be just fine with it being well enough left alone.
Dispatches From the Multiverse
• “So you’re mining stuff to craft with and crafting stuff to mine with?” Rick’s understanding of Minecraft is about as solid as mine.
• The national embarrassments the President lists off: Kennedy Sex Tunnels, the Truman Cocaine Lounge, the McKinley Hooker Dump, and the Lincoln Slave Colosseum.
• “South Park did it four years ago, Morty.” “They’re fast.” “Or we’re slow.”
• “It’s a threat and a pun. Nobody gets me.”
• “I’m Doctor Who in this motherfucker!”
• In the post-credits sequence, we catch up with Mr. Poopybutthole, who has a family and seems to be really happy. He teases a potential fourth season, but says it’ll be “a real long time” until it happens, if it does happen at all.