SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for “Unmortricken”, the fifth episode of “Rick and Morty”Season 7.
Dan Harmon He is, by his own admission, “allergic to canonical and serialized things.” But the “Rick and Morty” co-creator said Variety which resisted that momentum for “Unmortricken,” the episode that brought season 7 of the Adult Swim animated comedy to its midpoint Sunday night. “Unmortricken” not only looks at the overall story of the series for the first time since the Season 6 premiere (which aired over a year ago); It also sees the gruesome death of a character who once became the show’s arch villain, even as he gives another an unprecedented level of power within the “Rick and Morty” universe.
Co-written by Albro Lundy and James Siciliano and directed by Jacob Hair, “Unmortricken” begins with what appears to be a standard “Rick and Morty” adventure, until Morty becomes enraged, puts on an eyepatch, and becomes the figure that fans know. Evil Morty, a super-intelligent version of the 14-year-old protagonist who inverts the typical dynamic of Rick dominating his more docile companion. After previously ruling the Citadel, an interdimensional hub of Ricks and Mortys from across the multiverse, Evil Morty is now ensconced in his personal fortress of solitude, an entire arc compressed into a four-minute cold open.
Meanwhile, Rick C-137, the main Rick from “Rick and Morty,” is on a mission to track down Rick Prime, the Rick who originally invented portal travel and killed C-137’s wife, Diane, and his wife. daughter Beth. (“Rick and Morty” has since revealed that the Beth we know, along with the entire Smith family, are actually related to Rick Prime, who abandoned them before C-137 took his place.) A bored and jaded evil Morty accompanies them as they discover that Rick Prime has rebuilt the Omega Device, a superweapon that kills all versions of his victims, such as Diane. After a brutal and bloody confrontation, Rick C-137 kills Rick Prime with his bare hands, but at the cost of letting Evil Morty escape with a device that could kill any character in an instant.
Lundy and Siciliano started on “Rick and Morty” as assistant writers before moving up to executive producers. Harmon credits the duo for counteracting his impulse to keep the stories as independent as possible, which he says was exacerbated by the show. highly publicized turmoil, which culminated in the firing of co-creator and lead voice actor Justin Roiland earlier this year.
“I think you can say now that there has been so much turbulence behind the scenes that season 6 represented me (unplugging) those wires from my heart and my obsessive brain. I had to look at the program as a job,” Harmon said.
But younger writers could push for more of what they already admired about the show, like its master narrative of Rick’s (now literal) self-destructive streak and the emotional ties that separate him from the nihilistic, amoral Rick Prime. “It was fantastic,” Harmon added. “That invigorating energy that you bring as people who are able to remain fans of what we’re working on — I really needed that in my darkest hours.”
Other updates on the saga of Rick Prime, Evil Morty and the multiverse tend to arrive at traditional television turning points, such as a finale or a premiere. But the writers liked the idea of placing “Unmortricken” in the middle of Season 7, where it’s most likely to come as a surprise.
“That’s something I love about this show,” showrunner Scott Marder said. “That episode would have been a series finale for many shows and I liked that it was just an episode in the middle of one of our seasons. “We are moving forward at a really crazy pace.” Rick Prime’s disappearance has shades of Logan Roy’s sudden death early in the final season of “Succession,” although when that episode aired, “Unmortricken” was already in the works. “When ‘Succession’ did it I thought, ‘Oh, damn! Animation takes so long!’” Marder admitted, laughing.
While Evil Morty and Rick Prime were existing figures in the “Rick and Morty” mythology, they had never played a joint starring role before, instantly raising the episode’s stakes. “I thought it was a great idea to lean on,” Harmon said. “It gave me the feeling of ‘The Wire’: learning throughout the first season that there are different types of bad guys, and then you get the satisfaction of watching your favorite drug dealers take on the guy who had proven himself to be a worthless sociopath. That idea of teams where it’s not as simple, as saccharine as, ‘I’ll wear a white hat, you wear a white hat.’ Let’s go after the guy in the black hat.’”
Evil Morty barely redeems himself by the end of the episode; In fact, he now has the power to vaporize anyone at will. But audiences get a chance to learn more about his psychology just as he’s set to take on an even more prominent role in the series’ canon.
Meanwhile, Rick Prime receives a fitting send-off: death by his own hand, or at least a version of it. For Rick C-137, his family’s killer has always been his white whale: the quintessence of all the things he hates, loves, fears and admires about himself, because Rick is always at the center of the story. his own universe. By letting Evil Morty get away with the Omega device, Rick “basically gave a leash around his neck to someone other than him, because he’s more consciously involved in destroying himself,” Harmon said. . “I think that’s tragic, and besides, writers and drunks like me find that kind of noble and interesting: the commitment to self-destruction.”
For someone as averse to serialized plots as Harmon, firing Rick Prime may seem like an important step. But “I think there’s still a conclusion to the story here,” he argued, “because the narcissist will tell you that destroying yourself doesn’t solve the problem.” The way Rick reacts to the loss of his sense of purpose gives the “Rick and Morty” team a lot to work with for the rest of the season.
“What do you do if you’re Braveheart and you’ve been avenging your dead wife and you succeed and don’t die, and then you live beyond that? Where does your story go when that’s all that defines you? Marder said.
It’s enough new ground to explore that Harmon was no longer worried about shutting down any potential Rick Prime material.
“The least of this program’s worries is the wear and tear on your canonical credit card,” Harmon said. “If the show was going to be destroyed, it would have been destroyed by any of the other Godzilla-sized problems that have happened to it, including pandemics, writers’ strikes, and other things.”
“Unmortricken” ends with Rick shocked and covered (more or less) in his own blood, staring into space as Mazzy Star’s “Look on Down from the Bridge” rolls over the credits. “This is as far as Rick’s journey has come,” Harmon said. “He It is now the one who is existentially isolated. He It is the one who does not feel that he fits into the universe that surrounds him. Which puts him on the same level as a 14-year-old who discovered there are multiple universes 10 years earlier.”
The situation is firmly on the other foot: Evil Morty holds all the cards, while Rick, the self-proclaimed master of the universe, has no idea where he is.