Rick and Morty spoilers ahead!
Rick and Morty‘s fourth season featured a Nazi Morty screaming, “I want to have fun, classic Rick and Morty adventures like in the old days!” While not every fan who pines for season one-style episodes is a fascist, the message to some viewers was loud and clear: cut the toxic behavior and accept the series for what it has become. Now the second half of season four began with an impossible-to-miss lesson for the other side of the fandom. It addressed people obsessed with canon, continuity, and how every installment fits into larger narratives. Rick and Morty wants us all to relax and enjoy the ride.
“Never Ricking Morty” might be the show’s most bat*** crazy episode ever. Prior to the revelation that the whole thing took place on a toy train, it was an intentionally confusing story full of non-sequiturs and ever-increasing insanity. It was “a literal literary device quite literally metaphorically” running out of control. The whole episode seemed designed to make it impossible in the moment to know what was happening, why it was happening, or what any of it meant. All that made the metaphor easy to understand, because not understanding was the point.
This was a meta-episode addressing fans and pop culture writers who dissect everything that happens to the pair and what it all means [raises hand]. It wasn’t a subtle message either. The characters kept telling us this was all meta. Morty said, “I don’t like how meta this is getting, Rick.” Rick also said, “If you don’t want to be meta, stop deconstructing s***.”
We don’t need a Meeseeks to tell us what “stop overthinking and deconstructing all this s***” means or who that is meant for. Trying to decipher how each episode ties into the larger narratives—like Rick’s backstory, Evil Morty, and how it will all end—is an obsession for many. And in much the same way some viewers’ demands for “classic” adventures is a problem, clearly the show’s creators think that only focusing on the big picture would be just as bad.
A machine measuring marketability, broad appeal, and “relatability” sucked ideas out of Rick and Morty. A demanding Story Lord wanted the pair to be everything and everything to everyone. As a result potentially amazing moments, ones that could have been canon in future episodes, were sacrificed to save Rick and Morty. Snuffles fought a war with mecha-suit cats. Rick battled Phoenix Person. Summer had a lightsaber battle with Tammy. And the show’s potential ending, an epic showdown with Evil Morty, ended as a Bible story.
It was like Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland said, “This is what you want? Fine, have all of it.” And as a result everything we wanted was rendered meaningless.
It would be easy to say this whole episode was a giant troll job. The website www.story-train.com is not real. (Good luck to the virtual squatters who think the show has any interest in buying it and ruining the joke.) It also made the recent season four trailer, the one they knew people like me would break down as if it was the Zapruder film, one giant F-you. “Enjoy your totally wrong theories, nerds!” But the episode’s message was more nuanced than just a funny troll.
“Never Ricking Morty” was absurd, silly, frenetic, smart, and funny. It’s what the show has always been and hopefully always will be. That’s true whether it tells a classic one-off adventure, returns to the Citadel of Ricks, or is something in-between. What Rick and Morty‘s creators know it can’t be is all things to all people all the time. That would suck the fun out of it. Literally.
This episode “got all that meta-canon shit out of the way.” And the show’s writers told us they now “can just be ourselves.” Going forward they plan to write the show they want, how they want, when they want. They hope the people who watch can relax and enjoy it for what it is, rather than constantly be waiting for the series to be something else. That will be a little easier to do since they told us none of that was canon. We’d have spent way too long trying to figure that out.
Featured Image: Adult Swim
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.