It’s been just over two years since the last new episode of Rick and Morty, so it’s understandable if you got whiplash from the breathtaking pace of the season-four premiere. Things move at a sprint from a casual breakfast at the Smith table to full-on Akira-esque chaos in less than 20 minutes, and that’s only just one element of “Edge of Tomorty: Rick, Die, Rickpeat,” which (like all of the show’s best episodes) finds a way to get pretty existential.
After seasons of strife, it’s nice to see the show’s core family back together (even if, let’s remember, it’s all a lie and Beth is actually a clone), and the show returning to a thread that’s been a part of the show from the very first episode: Morty’s crush on classmate Jessica. At the breakfast table, Rick is chafing at the new family rule that he can’t just force Morty to accompany him on adventures, though Morty doesn’t fight too hard when Rick wants company to collect some “death crystals.”
Death crystals don’t kill you, it turns out — instead, they show you how you might die, based on your current moment of existence, which means it’s ever-changing, as Rick explains: “Anyone who knows how they’re definitely going to die is either boring as hell or about to get shot.” For Rick, death crystals are tool to fight off folks who are trying to kill him, but when Morty grabs hold of one, he gets a glimpse of essentially two different futures: One where he dies a wide variety of violent early deaths as a result of hanging out with Rick, and another where, as an old man, he passes away peacefully while Jessica tells him that she loves him.
That second one is definitely the death Morty wants (and who can blame him?), so he holds onto a death crystal like his life depends on it (because, well, you know) and starts making every personal decision based on whether the crystal says he’ll end up with Jessica in the end. That’s bad news for Rick, because one of the first things that happens is Morty taking the wheel of Rick’s ship, and thanks to the crystal’s guidance, causing an accident that kills Rick.
Rick, of course, has plenty of failsafes in place should this sort of thing happen, including an onboard cloning machine, but per the death crystal, Morty realizes that maybe, just maybe, a factor in all of his violent early deaths is the grandfather who keeps dragging him into incredibly dangerous situations. So he ignores the holographic Rick who appears with cloning instructions, and instead returns to home and school, still clenching the death crystal and using it to guide him to, eventually and hopefully, the love of Jessica.
While Morty doesn’t try to clone Rick, Rick still has other backup clone vats around in other universes (after shutting down his clone vat in his home universe). Unfortunately, those other universes have a bad habit of being hotbeds of fascism, also with a chance of being evolved not from apes, but from shrimps or wasps. Most of these universes don’t work out well for Rick — the wasp-verse turns out to be the most humane and loving, despite the way in which they consume their food.
But it could be worse, because Rick could be facing off against a dying-with-Jessica-obsessed Morty, whose fixation on avoiding a violent death leads to the violent deaths of many, until Morty stops going full Akira (or, if you’re not fluent in anime, an “unstoppable science-fiction boy”) because the death crystal told him to. This leads to a quickly resolved trial, followed by Morty wandering into the desert to become consumed by feral fluid. (This episode is a real treat for anime lovers.) But, thanks to some help from Wasp Rick, Morty releases his grip on the death crystal, it gets destroyed and things … go back to normal?
“I think you have to think ahead and live in the moment” is the Full House–esque message (literally called out by Rick) of “Edge of Tomorty: Rick, Die, Rickpeat,” which is, of course, no message at all. The final kick in the sack: In the post-credits sequence, Morty overhears Jessica explain her future career path — to be a hospice worker who tells elderly, alone strangers she loves them. Poor, poor Morty.
It’s a bleak beginning to the season, and really, if you’re looking for a sign of how Rick and Morty has changed in the last two years, there is the brutal reality that fascism has become “the default” for most of the multiverse. There are four more episodes left in 2019, and while this has never exactly been a light show, the smart money is on them being just as dark. On the plus side, the show will always be self-aware enough to acknowledge that.
Dispatches From the Multiverse
• In honor of Jenny Jaffe’s previous recaps, I decided to borrow her heading for these bullet points. It’s a pleasure to be here, y’all!
• “I don’t want to see any more anime stuff happening to my son.”
• We learn some horrifying facts about wasps this week! They eat their prey live! Geez! Wasps are dicks!
• A joke that may be in poor taste: As revealed by the lower-third chyrons during the news broadcasts, the judge from Morty’s trial kills herself, after Morty “gives” her a message from her deceased husband. The follow-up headline — “Center for Suicide Prevention Calls Judge’s Death Tragic But ‘Judges Shouldn’t Believe in Ghosts’” — doesn’t exactly make things better.
• “Stop raising your father’s cholesterol so you can take a hot funeral selfie” is a solid throwaway gag.
• Hey, the Meeseeks are back! Look at them!
• Kirkland, for those who might not know, is the in-house “signature” brand of the Costco warehouse chain. There are many fine products sold under the Kirkland brand, but Kirkland-brand Meeseeks do, in fact, seem to suck.
• “As far as continuity goes, the reset button has been hit.” Always fun when this show plays with the audience desire for repeatable stories, which gets touched on more than once in this episode, especially when Fascist Morty demands that he and Rick go on an adventure “like the old days.”
• Producer Mike Mendel receives a tribute at the end of this episode. He won four Emmys before passing away in September, three for The Simpsons and one for Rick and Morty. (Specifically, the episode “Pickle Rick.”)