Before Sunday night’s premiere of Rick and Morty’s fourth season, Adult Swim displayed a short message acknowledging the long, 770-day wait since the adult cartoon’s last episode in 2017, but promised the following half hour would be worth the wait. If fans were looking for a dramatic change to Ricky and Morty’s structure or a deeper emphasis on narrative structure, they might feel let down. If, however, they simply want more of what has made the show so celebrated, last night’s episode won’t disappoint.
Following the previous season’s arc exploring the conflict between the pubescent Morty (Justin Roiland)’s seemingly “normal” family and his grandfather Rick (Roiland)’s penchant for bizarre and dangerous adventures, the Sanchez family is attempting to incorporate more rules to balance the two parts of Morty’s life. These themes aren’t explored much beyond some short scenes at the beginning and end of the episode, but it’s clear to see Rick has some objections to the family’s rules that will likely be addressed in future episodes.
The main plot of “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat,” the parody title of 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow, sees the titular duo venture to an alien planet to collect “death crystals,” which can predict how one will die when touching it. Morty touches one crystal and finds a reality where he dies next to his high school crush, Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), becoming transfixed in making this prediction a reality.
He then steals a crystal and accidentally crashes their space cruiser, killing Rick.
In what might be a series-redefining moment for any other show serves as a comedic plot point for Rick and Morty, which has often used its sci-fi setting to cast aside themes such as identity and death aside with an irreverent laugh.
Rick’s hologram appears and informs Morty of his cloning protocol, which he had set up in case of his death. Morty disregards the hologram in a single-minded quest to “die with Jessica.” This escalates from fighting the school bully to taking on the U.S. military, all while acting in complete compliance with whatever the death crystal predicts will allow him to meet that fate.
Without having Morty to clone him within his own dimension, Rick awakens as a clone in a separate dimension, and becomes captured by a fascist version of Morty. Fascist Morty hilariously imitates the obnoxious and entitled side of the show’s fanbase, acting as an unsubtle middle finger to the loud minority of its viewership.
The two diverging plotlines make up the rest of the episode’s runtime, with increasingly bizarre and absurd scenarios typical of Rick and Morty. The episode’s final confrontation is particularly well animated, with grotesque yet oddly beautiful transformation and fight sequences that seem to be a notch above the show’s usual quality.
After over two years, Rick and Morty has returned with the same structure it had before, with perhaps even less emphasis on overarching narrative than prior seasons. “Edge of Tomorty” isn’t particularly remarkable for huge laughs or plot twists (despite the death of one of its title characters), but it remains an entertaining and amusing story throughout.
Rick and Morty use the last minute of the episode to tear down the fourth wall and talk about how this season will have some classic adventures, but some “new stuff” as well. Sunday night’s episode certainly falls into the former camp, so it will be interesting what creators Dan Harmon and Roiland have cooked up for the latter category in the coming weeks.
Rick and Morty airs Sundays at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.