Directed by Kyounghee Lim and written by Anne Lane, this week's episode of Rick and Morty continues Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Adult Swim series' tradition of twisting the knife in the kidneys of various films genres and well-trodden cliches. This time around, it's a take on some of your favorite (and maybe not so favorite) teen rom-com/coming-of-age films- and because we're being good? The fine folks behind "Amortycan Grickfitti" even offer a side of "pain/pleasure conundrum" to address the basic problem with the "Hellraiser" and similar franchises. But what made this episode work was the way it took two distinctly different storylines and wove them into an overall message about fitting in and how "being cool" is in the eye of the beholder- and a very, very fleeting thing. Now before we do a deep dive into the episode, we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down a spoiler buffer image just to be safe- see you on the other side!
Lim and Lane pulled off something a lot of folks would've never attempted, and not only stuck the landing but also left viewers with an episode that (yes, I'm going to say this) you could actually show to teens to make a point in a way that doesn't come across preachy & finger-wagging-like. I'm not saying the show's going "Afterschool Special" soft but I am saying that "Amortycan Grickfitti" was one of the best examples of the series finding that sweet balance between the absurd and the message. Whether it's Jerry with a group of Cenobite-wannabes trying to impress them and Beth with those same Cenobite-wannabes wanting to be with the "cool kids" at Jerry's expense; or Morty, Summer, Bruce Cutback, or Rick's car and their brutal need to be accepted within the social order, it all comes down to a need and a want t belong. To not feel like the outsider, looking in. An interesting contrast to Rick, who spent most of his life on the run and now appears to be looking to connect just at the time when his family appears to be fine living lives where Rick isn't the focus.
Okay, now it's time for some random quick-cuts I took away from "Amortycan Grickfitti":
It's always a good thing any time "Interdimensional Cable" can be used in an episode, so points there, and major credit to the dual sequences connected by Jerry's karaoke version of the song from Ferris Bueller's Day Off that played out amazingly well.
Watching how easily Summer took a baseball bat to those living, breathing mailboxes has me concerned about the ease at which she's been killing other living things lately (and that's saying a lot considering the body count the family's racked up over 4-1/2 seasons). Also, for a family that wants to move on beyond Rick, they sure do seem to be exhibiting a number of his traits this season. Hmmm…
If you thought the snakes/time travel was a brain-bleeder, we have the pain/pleasure conundrum to rattle around in our heads. And as much as I'm a fan of the "Hellraiser" films, the point can't be denied. The pain/pleasure cycle would pretty much leave everyone in an immobilized state of pain/pleasure euphoria. You could take them over by literally just pushing them over, like tipping cows.
So who knew Rick's car was a sociopathic thrill-killer with serious self-esteem issues? That she would be Rick's car isn't surprising, but the ease at which she went from She's All That to American Horror Stories' Scarlett (trust us, it's definitely worth watching) and then proceeded to engage in some major bloody carnage even gave us pause. And yet, it still felt like a teen movie- except instead of running through the high school hallways to avoid the Vice-Principal so they can get back to their detention classroom, it's destroying civilizations wholesale in order to make it back before "Mom, Dad, and Grandpa" get home and catch them (of course, they have their own stories to tell).
Thinking about Rick and his car, I can't help but think of the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife", with Matt Smith's Doctor and Suranne Jones as the living embodiment of the TARDIS (though I don't remember the TARDIS taking out a Transformers-like ski resort), almost like a counterpoint to that episode (and extra points for the random Alyson Hannigan name-drop).
This episode was also a first in that I actually felt bad for Jerry and thought Beth's move was a step back for them. Even more surprising was Rick vibing like he really wasn't comfortable using Jerry like that and actually appeared to have learned something for in. At least for now.
And if there was any doubt that Summer and Morty are Rick's grandkids, the final scene where Bruce falls from school social life grace and the two offer a Chinatown-like ender shows you everything you need to know about Summer and Morty being survivors. Whether it's the jungles of an alien world or the even more dangerous jungles of being a teenager.
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