A ‘Rick and Morty’ season 4 recap: WTF just happened?
The beloved show Rick and Morty returned for a fourth season last fall. With the second half of the season wrapped up, fans are asking . . . what happened?
Rick and Morty took a turn since the end of season 3. The show became more serialized through the middle two seasons. Creator Dan Harmon wanted to move more towards the season 1 format, in which episodes were more episodic. In addition the new season has featured changes in character portrayals, arcs, and universe-building. Here’s what we’ve gathered.
Rick has something of a toxic fanbase. From the Szechuan sauce fight at McDonald’s to some of his fans using his quotes to prop up Nazism & racism, creator Dan Harmon has had enough. Harmon spent time this season of Rick and Morty making it clear to the audience Rick’s not a hero nor someone to be admired.
But Grandpa Rick is the smartest man in the world. Throughout Rick and Morty, he can travel through time and dimensions; his custom gadgets are incredibly cool. Rick Sanchez’s nihilistic philosophy resonates with his audience, mostly disaffected youth. Behind this genius lies a dark side: Rick’s willful lack of empathy.
Rick has a habit throughout Rick and Morty of treating people like puppets – especially his grandson and sidekick Morty. Rick’s disregard for other life – including shooting other characters for personal gain – is psychopathic. This twisted mental defect in season 4 erupts in petty fights over a secret toilet and running roughshod over Morty’s admirable dreams to write a heist script. (We love a good heist.)
Morty develops in season 4 with his screenwriting dream during the heist episode and his proactive stance with the dragons. Rather than being content just to be Rick’s errand boy, Rick and Morty portrays Morty’s growth.
This arc of growth’s primary goal appears to be portraying Rick’s psychopathy in stark terms. In Rick and Morty “Claw and Hoarder” (S4E4), Rick, Morty, and Summer become bonded with dragons. Rick steals Morty’s dragon-bond in a creepy love affair manner. Morty’s justifiable anger at this grotesque proceeding pinpoints his exasperation at Rick’s moral failings.
The big reveal of “Rickturn of the Jedi” (S4E10) is non-clone Beth’s fate. At the end of Rick and Morty season 3, Rick offers Beth a choice: staying in her ordinary life or replacing her with a clone so she could have the adventurous life she always wanted. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, so we don’t know if S4 Beth is the clone or not.
The creator of Rick and Morty smartly decided to keep the answer a mystery. Beth let Rick decide for her – and how did Rick decide? By putting Beth in a machine identical to the clones, shaking them both around so he couldn’t tell who was who like a shell game, and sending one Beth to her ordinary life and the other to have space adventures. He even gave them identical memories!
Neither Beth is having it, though. They team up against Rick for being dishonest about the switcheroo, and Rick admits he’s a terrible father at the end. Rick’s revelation is one of the most intimate admissions this season of Rick and Morty; the writers and creator Dan Harmon are deliberately taking another look at Rick’s backstory.
Loose ends tied up?
The second half of Rick and Morty season 4 manages to tie up some loose ends, and not juse Clone Beth. BirdMan is reintroduced, settling the score between Rick & Tammy. However, Rick and Morty flat-out states that all loose ends may not be tied up. Since we haven’t seen Evil Morty yet, we think the writers are serious about that.
Jerry’s (toxic) masculinity
Rick and Morty‘s Jerry is the cartoon’s version of Clark Griswold from the National Lampoon’s Vacation films. First, in the Christmas episode, Jerry’s obsession with having the perfect Christmas mimics Clark Griswold’s antics, all the way to putting up way too many lights on the house.
In Rick and Morty “Rick vs. God” (S4Ep9) Jerry obsesses over having the perfect family vacation, and ends up being treated like a loser (again) when Rick hijacks the trip and takes the family to a planet with which he copulated. Rick & Beth divide the planet children by job and throw Jerry in with the losers, naturally.
Jerry ends up becoming king of the losers – due to s’mores. His rise to the top of mediocrity is symbolic: Jerry possesses drive & passion like Rick, but wastes his energy on the banal. Rick, and by proxy the audience, are invited to view Jerry’s domestic ambitions as a waste of effort.
Speaking of . . . planets?
Rick has a thing for planets – it’s not the strangest thing we’ve seen. After all, Rick and Morty introduced the now-popular concept of turning into a pickle to escape family counseling. Turns out Rick isn’t planet children’s father after all. The end credits showing the scientist Tinder-scrolling through potential planet hookups shows he may well have been.
That’s not the weirdest thing on Rick and Morty. Apparently, Wrangler jeans can save the universe!