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‘Rick and Morty’ Season 7: Unapologetically Audacious

4 Stars

Rick in "Rick and Morty."
Rick in "Rick and Morty." By Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery
By Eunice S. Chae, Contributing Writer

With an underwhelming premiere episode, season seven of “Rick and Morty” was off to a rocky start. However, the season quickly hit its stride, delivering endearingly classic shenanigans with darkly cynical social commentary peppered throughout. As a welcome bonus, while the show usually paces out canonical episodes to a trickle, this season held nothing back.

Season six’s finale teased the tantalizing prospect of Rick (Ian Cardoni) and Morty (Harry Belden) tracking down Rick Prime (also Cardoni), the version of Rick from an alternate dimension who killed “our” Rick’s wife and daughter and ultimately set him on the path to becoming the man he is today. The previous season ends with one of Rick’s trademark drunken, raving rants, where he declares that he and Morty — revealed to actually be Prime’s grandson — will find Prime together, in “Rick and Morty, season seven, hunting my nemesis!”

However, season seven initially ignores that declaration in favor of a much more important storyline. While the premiere is mediocre, the next episode is a highlight of the season. With one of the funniest cold opens of the show, “The Jerrick Trap” quickly redeems any faults the premiere had. Rick swaps his mind with that of his less intelligent son-in-law, Jerry. Naturally, the stunt backfires and their minds mix, resulting in the characters retaining aspects of both personalities. While their relationship is normally prickly and antagonistic, there are oddly wholesome moments and sweetly touching insights as to what these two really think of each other. In hindsight, it’s a clear signal of what’s to come: The interactions between characters and their psychological intricacies are front-and-center for season seven.

In one notable episode, “That’s Amorte,” a horrified Morty struggles to defend his moral structure when he finds out that the spaghetti that Rick has been feeding them is produced from the bodies of humans that commit suicide. Morty’s fundamental dichotomy of not wanting to end up like his grandfather but simultaneously chasing his approval is spotlighted. In “Air Force Wong,” Rick’s ex, Unity (Christina Hendricks), and his therapist, Dr. Wong (Susan Sarandon), converse. It’s a dull interaction overall and seems strangely keen on painting Rick as wrong for choosing to ignore Unity after their disastrous breakup for the sake of his mental health. Despite its numerous faults, the episode successfully portrays Rick’s slow but visible progress that he has made while trying to better himself through therapy and results in a relatively grounded storyline compared to some of the other chaotic episodes.

Finally, halfway through the season, in episode five, viewers finally see Prime again. The episode, “Unmortricken,” presents viewers with revelation after revelation about Rick and Prime‘s dynamic and the history of the portal gun. The episode culminates in Prime — a victim of his own ego and carefree nature — practically being delivered to Rick on a silver platter by the mysterious Evil Morty, who reappears for the first time since season five for some inexplicable, somewhat contrived reason. Whereupon, only five episodes into the season, Rick beats Prime to death.

There’s a wasted opportunity here, especially in a season that’s so dedicated to fleshing out each and every character. With Evil Morty playing such an incomprehensibly large role in Prime’s downfall, Morty is relegated to the smallest of side characters. The potential interactions between him, Rick (his adoptive grandfather) and Prime (his biological grandfather) evaporate. Prime’s death also limits the chance to fully understand the events that led to his drastic choices: not only to blow up Rick’s family to smithereens but also his decision to go back and erase his wife from every dimension across infinity and then trying to erase every other member of Rick’s family on top of that. Many questions about his motivation and his past with Rick remain unanswered or appear to be brushed off entirely. In order to continue Rick’s development, the past is just as important to explore as the present. Prime’s death makes this exploration difficult but not impossible, and future seasons will hopefully achieve it.

The scene of Prime’s death itself is beautifully done, in a heartbreaking sort of way. There really is no satisfaction for the audience; no sweet sense of karmic retribution or that good old-fashioned schadenfreude. It’s brutal. It’s gory. Even for a show that doesn’t shy away from violence, the scene is almost over-the-top with its vicious punches, Prime’s pained cries, and how drawn-out and intimate they make the entire scene. There is no triumphant fanfare. Rick, a scientist with an arsenal of tech, uses nothing but his bare fists to kill a version of himself that has brought him so much pain and yet simultaneously has given him a reason to live for the past several decades.

The voice acting in this scene is remarkable. Cardoni delivers a laudable performance as both characters; Prime’s screams about how Rick stole his family, his grandson, and his house, ooze bitter rage in stark contrast to Rick’s dark, grim tone. And at the end of it all, Rick is left with an empty, uncertain feeling that mirrors the audience’s – one of nothing at all. Has he won? All the progress he’s made seems to visibly unravel with Prime’s death, and he’s quickly back to guzzling alcohol by the next episode. Rick’s development, which has been so prominent throughout the season, has abruptly halted.

The season concludes with “Fear No Mort,” another psychologically beautiful and conceptually experimental episode. If Prime’s death was a temporary end to Rick’s character arc, the finale was that for Morty. Taking place almost completely in Morty’s mind, the episode ultimately reveals that his deepest fear is being abandoned by Rick. In the end, Morty accepts the idea of being replaceable and gives up trying to be anything more. It’s made all the more upsetting because the audience sees Rick has made significant progress — he’s more affectionate, more vulnerable, less hostile. And yet, Morty isn’t privy to the same knowledge, or just can’t see it. Just like Rick, his development, at least for now, grinds to a stop. The episode is a bittersweet finale to an emotional gut punch of a season.

Despite the weaker episodes and some risky choices regarding Rick’s arc that will influence the show going forward, season seven of “Rick and Morty” nevertheless successfully balances a mixture of humor, action, and emotional complexity. Almost every character is given the screen time, exposure, and development necessary for their individual arcs. The animation is fluid, with character expressions that are fun to watch and are reminiscent of the entertainingly dynamic facial movements from season one. The voice acting is spot-on — the old cast brings their reliable talents, and newcomers Belden and especially Cardoni grow into their roles with fantastic results. Season seven signals very good things to come from season eight. In the meantime, perhaps the upcoming anime will tide one over.

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