And away we go! The highly anticipated Rick and Morty Season 5 has now premiered on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is Rickier and more Mortyful than ever.
Episode 1, ‘Mort Dinner Rick Andre’ (written by Jeff Loveness) continues to follow the Sanchez/Smith family on their genre-heavy escapades; the title is a riff on the 1981 film My Dinner With Andre, to which series creator Dan Harmon paid homage in an episode of his sitcom Community, although unlike in its namesake, the dinner itself is more of a side dish. Even Summer’s subaquatic rampage, and Beth and Jerry’s threesome bureaucracy, take a backseat to the main course: Morty inadvertently creates religion in a Narnia dimension by trying to serve wine to long-time crush Jessica.
The typical Rick and Morty trope of alternate dimensions is set up in the cold open, as giant time crystals rain from the sky. They tease with glimpses of what we can only hope will be future episodes, including Blade and what looks like LEGO Rick and Morty. Some of the crystals, meanwhile, reveal scenes from existing episodes, perhaps implying that some of those episodes took place in alternate timelines. There is even one that displays a scene from the animated short The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, which was created by series voice actor Justin Roiland, and aided his development of the characters Rick and Morty.
The cold open further promises a Morty and Jessica episode. Interestingly, the Season 4 premiere, ‘Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat’ included a Jessica-centric storyline, and featured crystals prominently (granted, those were death crystals). Already in Season 5, Morty has gotten as close as he ever has to fulfilling his heart’s desire—he and Jessica kiss, and perhaps would have taken things further, had Jessica not been kidnapped by the enraged inhabitants of the Hoovy world (aforementioned Narnia dimension) and been paralysed in a time crystals for decades. As a character, Jessica’s function is to be a love-interest and motivation for Morty; of this she becomes horribly aware, as she apparently uses her paralysis as an opportunity to dwell on her helpless and arbitrary nature. She, of all characters, has the most radical arc this episode, beginning as her ordinary self and ending as a…time god?…maybe.
“You just had to touch the ocean”
– Rick Sanchez
A highlight of the episode, and surely the start of an ongoing storyline, is the introduction of Rick’s very dramatic (and overtly sexual) nemesis, Mr Nimbus, who calls him “Richard”, and comes complete with a skimpy red swimsuit. Apparently the writers had been sitting on this character for some time, and their enthusiasm for Nimbus’ aquatic eccentricity is clear. His name reflects that he is a parody of the Marvel character Namor—the two share a connection to the city of Atlantis, and some visual similarities, such as blue-ish hair and gill slits (see: Marvel’s Namor 2003-2004). Nimbus’ power to control the police (which he demonstrates in thematically appropriate style: “fight”, “f*ck”, “flee”) only makes sense as a convenient device, moving the plot along to who-knows-what by having Rick arrested at the end of the episode. Several characters voice their confusion at the sudden random appearance of Nimbus—indeed it may leave some viewers rolling their eyes, given that it has taken until Season 5 for Rick’s supposed “nemesis” to even be mentioned. However, the nature of the show is such that fans must be willing to roll with the punches, and to an extent, it makes sense, as Nimbus seems to be part of Rick’s clandestine backstory. On this front, the show continues to be frugal.
“Don’t establish canonical backstory with me!”
– Rick Sanchez
There must be something in the water, because the humour in this episode is pervasively erotic. From sex-positive Beth and Jerry, to the Nintendo 69 gag—even the future-cyborg-Hoovy character who built himself genitals for some reason. This confusing fixation is arguably a fitting (and overtop and somewhat uncomfortable) backdrop to the Morty/Jessica storyline. Moreover, in a weird way it shows how much more comfortable Nimbus is with himself than Rick is—after all, there are not many characters who could make Rick ‘Had Sex With A Planet’ Sanchez look chaste by comparison.
“I haven’t been to a full week of school in years”
– Morty Smith
Now to the greatest matter at hand: how Morty Smith became “the boy from the magic door”. It all began with some wine bottles, a portal to a pocket-world, and a comedically ingenious use for time dilation that ultimately ends in a Psycho reference shortly followed by disaster. Rick and Morty has done the ‘fantasy thing’ before (e.g. in ‘Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty’) but the slick employment of time dilation in this episode means it can make exciting broad thematic sweeps in only a few moments of animation. ‘Mort Dinner Rick Andre’ gives us a whistlestop exploration of the role of mythology and religion in the evolution of a civilisation, complete with a Game of Thrones-esque betrayal that reveals the inevitable fragility of a society built upon a contingent truth…all while the show maintains its tongue-in-cheek veneer. It even touches on the pressures of parent-child relationships—a trope that was instrumental to Beth’s development in the Season 4 finale, but appears to have taken a backseat for now—when the Hoovy world crosses into science fiction, and Hoovy’s descendant Adam trains to assassinate Morty, instructed by his domineering mother.
One criticism that could be levelled against it is that the show is re-hashing plot material from Season 2’s ‘The Ricks Must Be Crazy’, in which Rick becomes a deity to a civilisation that he engineers inside a car battery. The episodes also share absurdist undertones and moments of devastating anagnorisis for the inhabitants of the civilisations. However, rather than seeing this as a flaw, this could be a welcome continuation of an overarching philosophy of Rick’s, that even the smallest and most benevolent actions (e.g. sharing a casket of wine) can lead to chaos and destruction.
“Sometimes you gotta be an asshole, my grandpa taught me that”
– Morty Smith
All in all, the Season 5 premiere promises a colourful and intensely weird run of episodes. Much awaits, including, perhaps, the return of Dr Wong, and the confusing next stage of Beth and Jerry’s relationship, including whatever ramifications there may be for the post-credit threesome. And this same scene heavily implied that Rick has slept with Nimbus in the past—what’s that all about? Will we ever hear more? Why is Beth getting it on with the King of the Ocean when she should be bailing Rick out of jail? When are they going to stop teasing us with interdimensional cable? Who is/was Kyle? Adventure awaits…