Warning: this review contains full spoilers for Rick and Morty: Season 5, Episode 2! If you need a refresher on where we left off, here’s our review for the Season 5 premiere.
Now that we’re five seasons into Rick and Morty, and with at least several more guaranteed, it’s inevitable the series is going to start repeating itself. Just look at how many times The Simpsons has had to update the origin story of Homer and Marge’s relationship to fit the show’s sliding timeline. The best fans can hope for is that Rick and Morty continues to find fresh ways to approach familiar sci-fi tropes. If “Mortyplicity” is any indication, there’s little reason to be concerned.
It’s actually surprising this episode works as well as it does considering the close conceptual similarities to the Space beth subplot introduced back in Season 3’s “The ABC’s of Beth.” Once again we have a storyline built around doppelgangers and the question of whether the Smith/Sanchez family can ever be certain they’re real. By all rights the end result should feel like a bland retread. But in execution, “Mortyplicity” proves to be a silly and extremely violent addition to the new season.
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“Mortyplicity” excels at keeping the viewer off-guard with its premise. It gradually evolves from a story about mysterious, squid-like aliens hunting Rick to a Battle Royale among countless decoy families. No sooner do we touch base with one family than they’re taken off the board and the focus shifts to the next family. That chaotic, fast-paced approach works well. The episode also builds on its little gags in amusing ways, whether through clever nods to films like Blade Runner and Highlander or the various ways each family differs slightly from the next.
Sidebar – this episode’s nod to the Interdimensional Cable format is a welcome treat. The “When-Wolf” clip is among the more memorable faux-shows introduced so far, to the point where it really deserves its own spinoff. The fact that both Season 5 episodes have delivered quick Interdimensional Cable references is probably a sign we won’t be getting a dedicated clip show installment this time around. Probably for the best.
While “Mortyplicity” is mainly Rick-focused, it’s worth pointing out this is another of those episodes where Jerry manages to steal the show whenever he does take center stage. Jerry’s unique brand of self-serving cowardice never fails to entertain. That’s to say nothing of Ventriloquist Dummy Jerry, who quickly comes to rival Cronenberg-verse Jerry as the show’s most entertaining Jerry offshoot. The post-credits scene is just sublime, especially with that Queen needle drop heightening the absurdity of this Jerry’s existential plight.
Unfortunately, “Mortyplicity” does suffer from a pretty common problem for the series. The premise really needs one last big swerve in the climax, but that final twist never comes. The various families wind up killing each other off and… that’s it. There really needed to be something more to help the episode stick the landing. Granted, there is the lingering uncertainty over whether the last surviving family is the real deal or simply the one decoy family lucky enough to be off-world, but that’s not quite enough to build a proper conclusion. Rick has crossed dimensions and been killed and remade so many times that the question of whether he’s “real” is pretty much irrelevant now.
The fact that Space Beth makes a quick cameo at the end highlights that problem. While this episode manages to avoid rehashing the old Space Beth storyline, it does seem strange not to more directly reference the events of those episodes or make the two Beths a bigger part of the plot. Beth is the one character who almost always seems underused by the writers, and this episode could have gone a long way toward changing things. Maybe during the next Asimov Cascade.