Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Rick and Morty was clearly ready to move on from last week's midseason uber-meta, fifth wall-shattering return. Written by Jeff Loveness and directed Bryan Newton, "Promortyus" had a double-layered message that was simple, direct, and powerful. If last week was about exposing viewers to the storytelling difficulties that come with creatively crafting the dimension-hopping duo's adventures, this week reminded us that Rick and Morty (with assists from Summer, Beth, and Jerry) could possibly be the most destructive force in all of multidimensional existence. A little something to pause and think about as you're folding your "wubba lubba dub dub" shirt, and at no extra cost? We also get an episode that can be seen as an allegory to the U.S's foreign policy over past decades, and how we treated those who don't fit the "Murica" mold (so start your eye-rolling now).
The first thing I appreciated about the way Loveness and Newton presented their tale was by not having the Glorzo be the "good guys". While it's great to get to know them as a species and witness their evolution into an existence in which birth does not necessarily have to equal death, they're still mind-controlling parasites that suck away their hosts' free will for the sake of their own well-being. I'm not convinced that removing "exploding birth-shits" from the life cycle is enough of a trade-off. That said? They never came looking for this fight. It was Rick's inability to resist the temptations of wet eggs that lead brought their worlds together. And then it all went to hell for the Glorzo.
Not just once, but twice. Because for Rick and Morty, it's about going from "Point A" to "Point B" and Karma help anyone or anything that gets in their way. Making it even worse, the pair felt their lives were in danger, so you know what that means? Mass destruction on a scale so epic that it has us (and our heroes) no longer concerned about what the initial mission was that kicked this all off. It's not like we haven't seen them go down this road before. I mean, we did take a trip with them to a "purge planet".
But there was something about this episode that felt much more brutal and "unnecessary", and I think that's what Loveness and Newton wanted. We can still root for them and laugh at the "wacky" things they do, but we should also take a minute to consider the bigger picture of what's going on. There are going to be those who will have an issue with the Glorzo attached to Rick and Morty expressing their love for one another and write it off as "shock humor". If they do, they're missing what was the essential point: Glorzo don't see themselves as the enemy or the "big bad" any more than Rick and Morty do. Biggest difference? A parasitic collective shows more potential for growth than our heroes do.
But let's not dump just on the show's title characters. We almost bought into the idea of Summer being the "better angel" by helping the Glorzo evolve, at least until we saw how quickly she was ready to pull the ripcord once her brother and grandfather returned. With the aid of toothpick, Summer elevated to the position of Glorzo goddess so it puts her in a much better position of being understanding (especially when you're being treated like a goddess). Her altruistic move to help them have less "death" births was done more out of a sense of self-preservation and consolidating power than it was about her giving a rat's butt about them as a species. Essentially, Summer becoming the parasite feeding off the parasites. That is until Rick and Morty return (after forgetting her), and we see how easily Summer's ready to push their civilization off a cliff just to make it back in time for dinner.
Does anyone feel bad? Nope, it doesn't look like it. Even after the dying Glorzo literally point at them and accuse them of genocide. Rick and Morty's concerns and any possible guilt lasted only as long as the living room shit they took, while Summer moved on to something on her phone. Beth was concerned about the family's well-being but it didn't really extend beyond that. And the obliviousness that is Jerry? He's got his own life to lead and it involves bees (and a possible upcoming statutory rape charge based on the end credits scene, which went a bit American Beauty). So our episode ends with the family reunited and back to their lives, just as we want them to be. Because Loveness and Newton know that viewers don't want to see our favs going through guilt trips and long stretches of depression, not when there's the next adventure ahead! But for us, the viewers? A reminder to about what it is we cheer, who we label "good guys" and "bad guys", and how it's very rare to find anyone or anything that fits easily into either of those.
Taking our brain's camera a few thousand feet above the episode, and we could have a field day looking at how this episode represents the U.S. foreign policy over numerous decades. While it would be easy to jump into a political fight (and most will), the message being sent out could be used against Bush's invasion of Iraq to Obama's drone strikes to Trump's white nationalist policy towards our borders. Rick and Morty create a mess and look to solve it through the most destructive means possible because, well, they're Rick and Morty and they're always right.
Two of the biggest weapons against the Glorzo was a toothpick and a harmonica: two items that fit into a certain stereotype about Americans, along with baseball, apple pie, and lots and lots of guns (which are clearly on display). Summer is the U.S. presence that looks to make serious, substantial, long-term change in the country they occupy, at least until administrations change. Then, we leave them high-n-dry after vowing to help them transition into more "American-friendly" countries. The result? The country implodes and devolves into chaos, or a less-friendly, more volatile regime sweeps in. But that's okay because our duo chose a "Pearl Harbor" over a "9/11" so that lets them be the "good guys", right? At least Morty's got his PornHub account game down.