Any Rick and Morty fans who delight in Jerry’s misery are in for a hellish reckoning in Season 5’s “Amortycan Grickfitti" which, as it turns out, has pretty much nothing to do with American Graffiti. Go figure.
Fans of the memorable “Keep Summer safe.” bit from will definitely enjoy the callback this episode as Morty and Summer go for a joyride in Rick’s car with a new kid in school named Bruce Chutback. Meanwhile, Beth crashes Rick and Jerry’s guy’s night to find that Rick cut a deal with some demons who delight in Jerry’s pure cringe.
“Cringe does not exist in a vacuum,” a demon leader later says. “It needs to be observed.”
True. And we’re all here to observe it with this episode.
We all love to watch Jerry flounder, regardless of the circumstances. Morty may inherently be a foil to Rick’s brilliance that counteracts his genius brainwaves with his much dumber brainwaves, but Jerry’s simple ways go one step further. But is he so lame that literal demons would delight in the misery caused by his mere existence?
That’s essentially the premise of the A-plot in “Amortycan Grickfitti" where Rick declares guy’s night to do karaoke with Jerry and a bunch of demons. The genuinely gnarly designs seem inspired by the Cenobites from the Hellraiser movies, offering a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable storyline. Beth crashes and delights in drinking with demons while roasting Jerry. But once he figures out what’s really going on, the demons raise a bit of hell and kidnap him. Despite the grisly ways they murder tons of people before leaving, the stakes here feel nonexistent. The dialogue is occasionally hilarious as the demons say things like “pewling mooncat!” or get vaguely aroused by their own misfortune in a deeply weird sort of kink.
But they have no agenda. I’m not even sure about the terms of the deal they had with Rick. Do they get anything out of Jerry’s cringe? Is it ... arousal? Magical demon power?
Rather than evolve, however, the joke about delighting in cringe just escalates. Before you know it, Rick makes a paradoxical gun that shoots actual pain rather than pain, which would make the demons feel good. I’m sure the logic tracks in the way he explains the gun. It just doesn’t feel that compelling. The storyline doesn’t have any space to say anything novel or do anything interesting with these characters. It takes a glancing hit at Schadenfreude and delighting in another person’s misfortune. We love the hapless Jerry because he’s such a loser that it makes us feel better.
“Amortycan Grickfitti" points at it with a demonic finger. And it does little else.
Part of why this episode struggles is that it shares roughly equal real estate with the B-plot where Morty and Summer both try to shmooze with a supposed “cool” new person in school, a military kid named Bruce Chutback. He constantly seems bored but convinces Summer and Morty to steal Rick’s spaceship. Despite being entirely dormant since “The Ricks Must Be Crazy,” the ship regains her sentience and takes the three teenagers on a wild night. She’s relentlessly homicidal to the extent that it’s grating.
At first, the teens manipulate the ship into a joyride, but then she double-crosses them and uses the opportunity to kill a Galactus-style space being, among many other violent things. She even tries to hook up with a Changeformer. But when all the Changeformers behave like a bunch of frat bros, she just kills them all. She even kills the court-appointed attorney when the kids take the fall, except it doesn’t matter because the car just blows up a wall, gets them out of jail, blows up the space station, and flies home. There are also some sentient mailboxes one a random planet despite there being no use of the portal gun, because why not?
Last week’s “Rickdependence Spray” may have been perhaps the most lowbrow episode of Rick and Morty ever, but at least it had comprehensible stakes that escalated in logical ways. Absurd and offensive, yes. But brilliantly executed nonetheless.
“Amortycan Grickfitti" is fun for the demon designs and little else. Despite all the violence, bloodshed, and death throughout the episode that lead us to hell, nothing ever feels genuine or dire. Because even when Jerry is chained up in hell, he’s still his regular cheery self. We never feel like anybody’s life is in jeopardy, and there aren’t even any emotional stakes to back anything up. When even Bruce Chutback is unimpressed, why should we be impressed?
The most interesting moment comes with the spaceship tries to convince Morty and Summer to let Chutback take the fall. They don’t. But what if they did? The siblings have gone off the rails before, but they’ve never really done anything so terrible that they seem worthy of being Rick’s grandchildren. It could have at least established some stakes.
Either plot, if given a little bit more room for even a modicum of emotional development, would have been vastly improved. But not even bad Jerry karaoke can save “Amortycan Grickfitti" from being a lackluster whirlwind in the breeze — like one of Summer’s farts.
Rick and Morty Season 5 airs Sunday nights on Adult Swim at 11 p.m. Eastern.