Has Rick and Morty Finally Ditched the Show’s Most Predictable Formula?
This goes all the way back to Season 1.
You could divide almost every Rick and Morty episode into two general types: stories where Morty’s teenage lust almost destroys the world and stories where Morty’s foolish and self-righteous eagerness to take the moral high ground over his grandpa causes some kind of cosmic catastrophe. But if Season 7 Episode 4 actually follows through on a major promise, then the show may finally be done with one of these tired premises.
Spoilers ahead for Rick and Morty Season 7 Episode 4, “That’s Amorte.”
In “That’s Amorte,” the entire Smith family has become obsessed with Spaghetti Thursdays after starts serving up a secret recipe for bolognese. Morty soon learns, however, that Rick is harvesting the spaghetti from the guts of suicidal human-like aliens. For whatever reason, the “suicidal amount” of cortisol they get increases the starch content in their bloodstream, transforming the intestines into spaghetti and the surrounding tissues “into a spicy-sweet hematoma that we would call a bolognese.” And it’s-a molto bene! Even though Morty keeps eating it, he can’t let the ethical dilemma go. (Yeah, this episode is weird, even by Rick and Morty standards, but wait, it gets weirder.)
Morty’s naive guilt compels him to confess at one such alien’s funeral, but once the president of the planet learns of this, she sees an economic opportunity to sell the gutsy pasta across the universe. The president creates a horrific new world order in which suicide is encouraged by any means necessary, transforming the alien planet into a terrifying dystopia overnight.
We’re treated to a scene where we see Rick’s therapy really working: “I lied to protect you,” Rick says. “You told the truth to hurt me! I can’t travel the galaxy with you if ever time we come near a [messed]-up system, you leap into its wires and electrocute yourself.” Then Morty promises to “never look under the curtain at a Rick thing to figure out what’s bad about it ever again” as long as Rick fixes the horrible state of the planet. After several failed attempts, Rick’s ultimate fix makes even the hangriest aliens nauseous at the thought of cannibalism, but the biggest takeaway from “That’s Amorte” is Morty’s promise.
Can he really stick to it? The hapless Morty has caused countless deaths and disasters over the years for moral reasons, dramatizing Rick’s nihilistic philosophy that the multiverse is inherently meaningless. Trying to do the right thing always causes more problems, which is why Rick pretty much exclusively seeks pleasure.
Perhaps the earliest instance of a well-meaning Morty bungling a situation happened in Season 1’s “Meeseeks and Destroy” when villagers in a poor medieval fantasy world convinced him to try stealing a giant’s treasure. The panicked giant, however, accidentally trips and bleeds out, which gets Rick and Morty put on trial for murder. Later, the town’s leader, King Jellybean, attempts to sexually assault Morty in the bathroom of a tavern. It’s a deeply problematic instance of Morty getting his comeuppance that hasn’t aged well, but it certainly established a trend: something sinister lurks behind every desperate person asking for help.
The most prominent and best example of this phenomenon popped up in Season 2’s “Mortynight Run.” After Rick sells an antimatter gun to the cheerful assassin Krombopulos Michael, Morty goes out of his way to rescue the Gromflomite’s target, which is a sentient gas that Rick names Fart. Not only does Morty accidentally murder K-Michael, but his actions directly lead to the death of countless civilians only to find out that Fart intends to destroy all carbon-based life. A tearful Morty has to murder his new friend with the very weapon he chastised his grandfather for selling. Yet somehow, he didn’t really learn much from the experience.
Morty only ever sees the surface-level ethics of a situation without examining the bigger picture, and this becomes a motif the show relies on for comedic drama. He’s always quick to pass judgment on Rick, like when he learns Rick’s car is powered by a Microverse Battery with an entire civilization generating energy and dubs it “slavery.” Of course, Morty’s morale crusade winds up backfiring in that adventure as well.
So often, when Morty gets caught up in a situation trying to do the right thing, he’ll wind up resorting to all-out violence. That penchant more or less began in Season 2’s “Look Who’s Purging Now” on the Purge Planet. Morty gave honest feedback about a lighthouse keeper’s terrible screenplay, and when he got defensive, Morty wound up pushing him down the stairs. Then he purged countless aliens in a fit of rage — the same rage we see in “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” when the denizens of a Narnia-like dimension see him as the harbinger of doom, forcing Morty to attack them all with Rick’s tech and again in “A Rickconvenient Mort” during his relationship with the Captain Planet parody Planetina when he murders the ringbearers taking advantage of her for personal gain.
That last time things got as bad as “That’s Amorte,” however, was definitely in “Rattlestar Ricklactica.” After Morty stubbornly exits the ship in space when Rick tells him not to, he’s bit by the very first astronaut from a planet full of space snakes in self-defense. He’s the reason “19 billion snakes lost all hope!” His solution? Replace the snake with an Earth snake lookalike. Naturally, this creates a Terminator-esque time war that claims the lives of 17 billion snakes. The only way to fix it is to make it worse with more time travel so that it draws the attention of the fourth-dimension time cops.
Shockingly enough, this doesn’t even cover every time that Morty’s naivete costs countless lives. So it’s high time that he seems to have finally learned this lesson for good. Does this mean he’ll finally start listening to his grandpa in earnest? Or is he doomed to make the same mistakes forever? In any case, Morty promising to never do this again is a positive move for the character and the show’s writers in equal measure.