We're now just hours away from the eagerly-anticipated two-episode, one-hour Season 5 finale ("Forgetting Sarick Mortshall" & "Rickmurai Jack") of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Rick and Morty. Which also means viewers are only hours away from seeing if their predictions were right (we're still hoping for the "Space Beth option) and start looking ahead to the season. But before all of that, we're looking back at our reviews of the previous eight episodes to rank them in preference, with some close calls between some episodes (though in the interest of full disclosure, S05E06 "Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular" had no legit challengers for the basement spot). So here's a look at how the eight stack up, along with excerpts from our reviews making the case for each one.
(1) S05E08 "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort": Previously, we wrote about how Harmon and Roiland's Season 5 Episode 7 "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion" was a game-changer for the series where the series shifted to a much stronger emphasis on storylines and their implications. And though it's been treated like it was that other c-word for most of its run, the Adult Swim series appears to have stopped worrying and learned to love "canon." We wrapped it up by wondering how the series would handle evolving from telling stories to being a storyteller. Well, thanks to director Erica Hayes and writer Albro Lundy's "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort" with a pleasantly surprising episode that not only went all-in canon-building but also presented us with the most romantic episode of the series. Yup. Romantic.
(2) S05E03 "A Rickconvenient Mort": The creative team isn't riding the show's success by shoveling the same old, same old for nine seasons before attempting something groundbreaking. "Groundbreaking" is a dragon this show's been slaying since the first episode… Queen! That's a perfect segue into my thoughts on "A Rickconvenient Mort" (directed by Juan Meza-Léon and written by Rob Schrab), which takes the crown for the top episode this season so far. How can you not be impressed by an episode that can make your heart break for Morty and Planet Earth yet also feel hopeful for the new family dynamic that's been in play since S05E01? But most of all, the episode put viewers in the much-needed position of having to feel for characters we thought we knew and forcing us to stay in those moments. No punchlines. No sight gags. Just the raw emotion of being there for those moments we don't often get to see between planets blowing up and gods being killed.
(3) S05E05 "Amortycan Grickfitti": Directed by Kyounghee Lim and written by Anne Lane, this week's episode of Rick and Morty continues Harmon and 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 even a side of "pain/pleasure conundrum" to address the basic problem with Hellraiser and similar-themed film 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.
(4) S05E02 "Mortyplicity": Directed by Lucas Gray and written by Lundy, "Mortyplicity" not only served as a sequel or a postscript of sorts to the fourth season finale but also served as a brain-bleeding glimpse (in a good way) of where Rick's at is early on in the fifth season. Right off the bat, if thought the episode was a testament to both the importance of establishing an identity and the ultimate futility in that effort, then props because we definitely see that. If you saw the episode as an exercise in the overall artistic process, with the in-space family (with Space Beth in tow) serving as the artist and the battling decoys representing the creative conflict that brings about true art? You won't get an argument here because we see that, too. But the reason we see this as a sequel or postscript of sorts is that it tells us where Rick's mindset is with the one thing in the universe he's been running from- a family.
(5) S05E01 "Mort Dinner Rick Andre": Overall, writer Jeff Loveness and director Jacob Hair crafted an excellent "return" episode that not only reminded the viewers of how things left off but also offered a "slice of life" to give us a better sense of how things have progressed. While still adventuring with Rick, Morty is growing into being his own man just as willing to push back on Rick as he is to willingly join him on the next adventure. With Dr. Wong still a very important factor in the family's life, Beth has gone from needing her dad's approval, and Jerry's gone from just living to despise Rick to being a couple that appears to be interested in working on themselves.
And then there's Rick, not exactly a "change agent" when it comes to things of a more personal nature- but then again, it's hard to learn from the past when you're someone who continues running from it. So Morty wants his own life, and Beth and Jerry are off doing couples stuff? No worries, Rick will just groom Summer to be his new "sidekick"- not because that's what's best for her but because he needs someone and Summer seems to be back to her "impress Grandpa" stage (in fact, both Morty and Summer seem to have warmed back up somewhat to Rick since the season finale). While we know this is going to lead to more family/group adventures this season, it will be interesting to see how the shifting dynamics impact them individually and as a unit (and let's not forget Space Beth).
(6) S05E07 "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion": Up until now, the Adult Swim series has offered us 4-1/2 seasons of theme, meaning, and satire with the loose trappings of canon to keep it all together. But the canon was never the focus; in fact, the idea of canon and a "mythology" has been mocked in the past. But with Harmon and Roiland having inked that sweet long-term deal, the creative team has been working further ahead than it ever has (with Harmon stating recently that there's already been work on the seventh season). So working that far ahead, the series will need to lean on long-term storylines and canon-building more because it's tough to stay thematically current when you're working months or more in advance.
And that brings me to the Hair-directed, John Harris-written "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion" and why I was having an issue processing it. For me, this episode represents crossing over a line in which I now have to give much more weight to the storylines themselves and their implications. Basically, what I'm saying is that Incest Baby matters now. As does the growing divide between Rick and Morty, the escalating tension between Summer and Jerry, Jerry and Beth working on their marriage, and wondering what Space Beth is up to. It will be interesting to see how the series evolves from telling stories to being a storyteller.
(7) S05E04 "Rickdependence Spray": Only three episodes in on the fifth season of Harmon and Roiland's Rick and Morty, and the Adult Swim series has already covered thematic stomping grounds like environment & climate change, one's sense of self & personal identity, and… Beth and Jerry developing a pretty decent sex life? And it was sex that was the focus of this week's episode "Rickdependence Spray," directed by Hayes and written by Nick Rutherford– a ten-ton, in-your-face, twisted "Afterschool Special" tour de force that didn't hide which hills it was planting its "sex flags" on.
(8) S05E06 "Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular": With the Douglas Olsen-directed and James Siciliano-written sixth episode "Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular" kicking off the season's second half, Rick and Morty Season 5 took a step backward with an episode filled with retreaded themes in desperate need of a better storyline.
Here's another look at the extended trailer for this weekend's finale. In the following clip, the season-long tension between the dimension-hopping duo appears to have reached a boiling point. Morty dares Rick to replace him, with Rick apparently more than willing to oblige. Thus, the crows. But what would Rick really be like without Morty, and could the universe survive? Here's a look at "Forgetting Sarick Mortshall" & "Rickmurai Jack":