Rick and Morty
Season 2, Episode 1: “A Rickle in Time”
Air date: July 26, 2015
It’s been over a year since the first season aired, but we finally have some more Rick and Morty in our lives. “A Rickle in Time” picks up directly after the season one finale, “Ricksy Business,” in which Rick throws a party with Morty and Summer, completely trashing the house. Rick freezes time just as Jerry and Beth return home, and he spends the time cleaning and bonding with his grandchildren. In “A Rickle in Time,” it’s revealed that the universe has been frozen for approximately six months, which has caused instability in time. Soon, any uncertainty in the their actions causes the universe to split into two realities (shown simultaneously in split frames), and the three are caught in a timeless purgatory as they attempt to fix the timeline. It’s an ambitious episode that hits on everything the show does best: an absurd sci-fi adventure, creative storytelling in the episode’s multiple split realities, and Rick’s horrible behavior and crazed genius (just barely grounded by his love for his family).
The conceit and scope of the premiere is particularly impressive, as the scenes depicting the split realities are displayed simultaneously on-screen, all with slightly different elements. Initially, Morty and Summer are standing in different positions, with slightly altered dialogue. However, the insanity quickly ramps up as more indecisions causes reality to split further, and eventually Rick finds himself engaging in an inter-dimensional gunfight with the different versions of himself with a time crystal-enhanced pistol. It’s almost overwhelming watching the number of realities doubling and trying to pick out the minute details in each frame, but the episode itself remains well choreographed and surprisingly cohesive.
The emotional core of the episode revolves around Morty and Summer’s insecurity, and the natural uncertainty of their tumultuous formative years. It’s the cause of the splitting realities, and exacerbated by Rick’s outwardly hostile and dismissive attitude towards them. Rick is particularly fed up with his grandchildren–most of the episode’s best lines are Rick’s scathing insults. There shouldn’t be any doubt that Rick is a fundamentally bad person, but ultimately his love for his family is also undoubtable. As they scramble to sync up the various realities to merge time back into a cohesive whole (at this point split into 64 versions), Rick is prepared to sacrifice himself to save Morty. A last-minute deus ex machina allows him to save himself as well, but it’s the thought that counts.
Rick and Morty have always excelled at providing nuanced depictions of its deeply flawed characters (Rick in particular), and not shying away from genuine portrayals of bad people. Villains aside, most depictions of “bad” characters or anti-heroes are quick to overcompensate by providing justifications or counterbalances, out of fear that the audience would dislike the character too much. Rick, however, is undoubtedly a horrible person. We like him because he’s a horrible person, and the singular thread that grounds him is his love for his family, which the show uses sparingly. Rick’s sacrifice is touching as he accepts his fate and appeals to Morty to “be better than [him],” but even then the show downplays his only redeeming character trait. He frantically and desperately prays to God for salvation, and once safe he triumphantly declares: “Yes! I did it! There is no God!” Afterwards, Morty only vaguely recalls that 1/64th of Ricks might have sacrificed himself for him, which Rick is quick to dismiss. The show is careful not to lean too hard on the, employing just enough to blunt the edge off of Rick calling his grandchildren pieces of shit.
The weak point of the episode is Jerry and Beth’s storyline, where they hit a deer with their car after getting ice cream, and Beth feels compelled to try to save it. She has something to prove, especially in the face of Jerry and others who suggest she’s “merely” a horse surgeon. It’s a weaker storyline with a fairly unremarkable conclusion, but the show is well aware of the fact, by having Rick point out that “they’re probably living it up in some pointless grounded story about their loveless marriage.” Despite the mostly forgettable subplot, the episode as a whole is carried by the strength of its bold, reality-splitting primary storyline. Rick is back and better (and worse) than ever!
- “This better not be a bribe. If I find a single thing out of place in this house, my love of ice cream won’t save you.”
- “Man, that guy is the Red Grin Grumble to pretending he knows what’s going on.”
- “Now listen, I know the two of you are very different from each other in a lot of ways, but you have to understand, that as far as grandpa’s concerned, you’re both pieces of shit. Yeah, I can prove it mathematically. Actually, let me grab a whiteboard–this has been a long time coming.”
- “And I honestly can’t tell you apart half the time because I don’t go by height or age, I go by the amount of pain in my ass, which makes you both identical.”
- “That’s the difference between you and me. I’m certain, and you’re a walking burlap sack filled with turds!”