A season finale ought to do two things: wrap up the themes and plot lines of the season, while leaving enough open to tease the audience about seasons still to come. Rick and Morty S5E10 returns to a story line that has been left hanging since Season 3’s fantastic ‘Tales From the Citadel’, turning the Citadel into a physical representation of Rick and Morty’s relationship. Themes from the season so far—of autonomy, responsibility, and familial love—return in an exciting conclusion that reveals more about Rick’s backstory than fans ever hoped to dream of (or the creators ever hoped to write).
The cold open finds Rick on “Chapter 13” of his anime-esque crow-related quest, and while some of the kills are admittedly very cool (see: Rick fills his enemy’s stomach with birds until they explode) the episode spends way too long on this section of the story. Are viewers really invested enough in Rick’s crows to enjoy sitting through the Crowscare scene? Nonetheless, the ‘live, laugh, love’ sign in Crowscare’s bathroom is a very funny detail (and the proposed metaphoric link between adventuring and romantic connection ought not to be explored…there has been enough incest this season).
Seeing 40-year-old Morty is a surprise, if a short lived one. Morty tries to guilt-trip Rick into abandoning the anime anti-hero life by inventing a future in which Jerry dies of cancer (“you would’ve loved it”) and Summer marries a junkie, which goes to show that even after ‘Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion’, Morty doesn’t think much of his family. Morty pleading for Rick to come back, despite everything, is evidence of the claim later in the episode that Mortys are “bred for forgiveness”.
When Rick does return to the house, he uses his catchphrase “wubba-lubba dub dub”, which is a cool moment for fans, only for the millisecond before they remember that this translates to “I am in great pain”. The struggle between feeling sorry for Rick and resenting him for all the terrible things he has done is writ large across this episode.
It is then (finally) revealed that this is a “Citadel episode”. The Citadel is a key part of Rick and Morty mythology that is epic enough for a season finale. It represents the scope of Rick’s influence over the many universes, and it is a place where Ricks and Mortys work together…or at least they’re supposed to. This episode also reveals that the citadel was created, not just by any Rick, but by our Rick (C-137) in order to keep other Ricks pacified with civilisation and bureaucracy. He will never run out of Mortys to go home to, as the citadel doubles as a Smith family factory. In so many ways, C-137 has engineered the Rick and Morty multiverse to suit himself.
The Citadel mascot, Andy, is a clever little joke, since it is really emphasising that the ‘and’ in ‘Rick and Morty’ is important. They ought to be equals, true partners, like Rick and his crows. However, the truth that Morty is shown is that Rick has been cloning Mortys—in other words, Mortys are being created for the sole purpose of being Rick’s sidekick. This is the dark side of a joke made all the way back in the Season 1 finale, when a Citadel Rick offered C-137 a ‘replacement Morty’. Well, this explains that.
“The second he reveals he’s evil, we’re gone”
Fans have been waiting years for confirmation that the origin story revealed in S3E1 is true—and now they know it is (“now everyone can shut up about it”). Morty takes a look inside Rick’s mind at a whole host of memories surrounding the death of Rick’s wife (at the hands of another Rick) and the quest to find her murderer. The animation and editing in this sequence is simply wonderful, not to mention the Highlander-esque soundtrack.
Is the intended result of the origin story sequence to garner sympathy for Rick? The truth about the Citadel sort of throws that into question. While it’s true that Evil Morty putting Ricks and Mortys into a blender to use as fuel is no less twisted, Evil Morty does make a good point when he says: “if you’ve ever been sick of (Rick) you’ve been evil too”. The concept of evil here is relative to Rick—Evil Morty is ‘Evil’ because he’s not conforming to what Rick wants. Who decided that C-137 isn’t Evil Rick? Only himself.
“He’s an infinite smear of one sh*tty old man”
– Evil Morty
It’s about to get super canonical, because Evil Morty reveals the ‘central finite curve’, a controlled collection of universes in which Rick is the smartest man. But this means that he is not the smartest man in every universe. One merely has to look outside the central finite curve—this is exactly what Evil Morty does, destroying the Citadel in the process.
We leave Rick and Morty fleeing the Citadel with a ship full of refugees, to orchestral music and a mournful piano melody that is both epic and humbling. S5E2 began with a joke about killing God, and now the show has ‘killed’ Rick’s god status. Evil Morty has gone to a place where Rick is not supreme—it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in Season 6, in a dimension where it is Morty who is the smartest man in the universe. In a visually stunning final sequence, Evil Morty travels through layered dimensions that are reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey and His Dark Materials. Then there is the reveal of the gold portal fluid (what a twist!) which presumably represents the ability to travel outside of the central finite curve. It seems like a deliberate choice that the green portal fluid was so central to the last episode. The show’s conventions have just been blown wide open!
Two main criticisms of S5E10 spring to mind: the overuse of the crows, and the underuse of Summer. It has been a Summer-heavy season that seemed to forget about her in the finale. True, ‘Rickmurai Jack’ is about the titular duo, but after the events of ‘Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion’, among others, arguably she earned a spot in this week’s episode.
At the beginning of the episode, Morty makes a poignant observation: if a battle is neverending, it’s pointless. Perhaps this is a reference to the end of Rick and Morty’s partnership in the last episode, or the end of the citadel and the showdown with Evil Morty, or it could be a meta comment on the nature of television (as Harmon is apt to do). It is literally a criticism of Rick’s “will they kill they” anime quest, but could be construed as a criticism of Myth Arc storytelling.
In the dialogue of S5E10, there are several comments about preferring to be episodic rather than serialised (“No drama. Keep it episodic”) which is certainly true of the show’s creators. Rick and Morty’s ability to tell entertaining and creative one-off stories every week is perhaps its biggest strength as a show, however this has not necessarily been showcased in Season 5. With the exception of ‘Mortyplicity’, the adventure-of-the-week episodes have been weaker than ‘Rickternal Friendshine’ and ‘Rickmurai Jack’, both of which delve into the show’s established canon. Fans who may have been disappointed by the mediocrity of some episodes can only hope that this cataclysmic finale will be the revitalising kick the show needs.
Thus concludes Season 5 of Rick and Morty. Not the show’s best season, but on the whole it was worth the watch, if only to get to this finale. The fact that it is more concerned with continuity than ever shouldn’t be surprising, with the way that television has evolved. The hope is that Season 6 will pull off great episodic storytelling with more hits like ‘Mortyplicity’, while also giving the show some canonical emotional weight, as S5E10 has proven that it can. When the show does come back, it will undoubtedly be as ridiculous, funny, and inventive as it always has been. Until then, stay schwifty.