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Rick and Morty has not even come close to a sophomore slump. Its second season has come out of the gate just as strong, if not stronger, than the end of the first season with brilliant writing, creative ideas, and a whole lot of shit talking. This Sunday’s fourth episode “Total Rickall” culminates the creativity of multiple story lines, with ingenuity that modern television seems to lack. It’s safe to say that this episode is the best they’ve ever done.
The episode begins with a classic family dinner between Morty, Summer, Jerry, Beth, and Uncle Steve who has lived in the house for quite some time. Uncle Steve has money, he’s charming, and he’s offering to take the whole family on vacation. Or so it appears. Rick abruptly walks into the room, immediately notices there’s someone who doesn’t belong and shoots him in the head – revealing that Uncle Steve is actually a parasite who plants himself in their memories telepathically, and eats their food to multiply.
“Steve wasn’t real?”
“He was a real piece of shit.”
This leaves the question, is anyone real? And it creates an entire narrative of remembering flashbacks that never actually happened.
For those who are familiar with Dan Harmon’s work, Community did a similar episode in its second season with “Paradigms of Human Memory.” The entire idea behind these episodes is to satirically create a “clipshow” genre show, with the joke being that none of what they’re showing, or talking about, happened within the actual series.
“Paradigms of Human Memory,” of course, was highly acclaimed, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
After the initial premise is presented, things escalate quickly. New characters emerge in ludicrous fashion with ridiculous family memories. Just to name a few amazing characters:
– Mr Poopy-Butt-Hole
– Reverse Giraffe
– Frankenstein (“I’ll tell you a secret about Frankenstein. He’s actually Frankenstein’s monster.”)
– Amish Cyborg
– Mrs. Refrigerator
– and a bunch of others.
Every character comes into existence with each flashback, being triggered by a parasite saying the phrase “Remember that time…” However, there is a way to tell who is real. Morty realizes that parasites only reside within pleasant memories. If it’s an actual family member, then they’ll remember having plenty of not-so-great memories. Morty attempts to tell Rick his new-found theory by getting him to a remote and private area – the garage – only to be greeted with “Why don’t you make me, implausibly naive adolescent boy with an old Jewish comedy writer’s name?”
Morty’s discovery from this over-the-top, satirical, science-fiction, animated television show, suddenly connects with the audience.
It personifies how screwed up, every family is. Nothing is perfect.
Looking through hard evidence (in the form of pictures), the family tries to decipher who is actually a member, and Summer realizes she only has pictures of her friends from school.
“What? I’m a teenage girl, I don’t have pictures of my family. We’re not Mormon, or dying!”
The family has to come to terms with who they all are in the grand scheme of things. They all disappoint each other, they all have their flaws, but they remain together. The second season has been full of emotional aspects that most viewers did not think were possible with these misfits, but Harmon has a way with mixing a perfect satire with something that can also deeply connect with its audience.
This episode has absolutely everything. The parody format that these writers follow is exactly what young aspiring comedians and writers should learn from. The way everything in the narrative seamlessly flows together while, at the same time, bringing out characters named “Mr. Poopy-Butt-Hole” without ever feeling that they’re stretching for laughs is really remarkable. It is evident how much effort Harmon and Roiland put into their baby.
It does get dark at certain points, seeing as the family is forced to focus solely on bad memories – including the doosie of a line, “Give a gun to that lady who got pregnant with me too early and constantly makes it our problem.”
“Total Rickall” is full of Easter Eggs, and it is necessary to pay attention to the minor details to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Throughout the 30 minutes, there are non-stop jokes. Most are subtle, but some smack the viewer across the face with brash comments. It is nearly perfect in every way. This is bar-none the greatest episode of Rick and Morty ever.