Rick and Morty has often reveled in the absurd complexity of its narratives, throwing in more and more until its stories are laughably obtuse by design. However, its latest episode tests the audience’s ability to have enough sense of its narrative thread for them to even recognize when the jokes land.
“Never Ricking Morty” sees its titular duo, both voiced by Justin Roiland, explore a train hurtling through space. Unlike the daytime Cartoon Network show Infinity Train, each car contains a new bizarre scenario for the two to tackle.
To assume they go through each car in a linear fashion, however, would be an understatement of galactic proportions.
After the first few cars, they eventually discover that each car plays with different literary devices, from anthologies to alternate timelines, each one toying with the fabric of Rick and Morty’s storytelling. Even for this show’s standards, things get very meta very fast, and it can often be hard for audiences to keep up with the pace at which new elements get thrown into the story and different narrative structures get derailed — literally.
That’s not to say there isn’t enjoyment to be found, however. With new gags and settings being hurled at the viewer, at least a few are bound to stick. One gag sees Morty trying to open a locked door through improvising a story that passes the feminist Bechdel test, which is animated and acted out in real time to hilarious results. Another, toward the episode’s conclusion, constructs the show’s finale by changing different gauges such as “marketability” and “mass appeal,” in an impressively produced scene for a seemingly throwaway joke.
At multiple points, the episode even points out its own absurdity, perhaps in an attempt to shield critics from making these same points. But whatever the writers’ intentions, a confusing and over complicated plot is still just that, whether intentional or not.
As the episode also mentions, the rapid-paced nature of each scene gives it a vibe similar to previous “Interdimensional Cable” episodes, in which Rick and Morty would watch various bizarre TV shows and ads from myriad alternate universes. These episodes would let the writers run free with their wacky and creative ideas without needing to dedicate an entire episode to it or have it follow any narrative thread and have led to some of the show’s most memorable moments.
“Never Ricking Morty” feels like this season’s version of the “Interdimensional Cable” episode, with some truly intriguing and delightfully absurd premises, but thrown in an overly obtuse narrative that complicates the episode more than it ties it together.
Rick and Morty airs Sundays on Adult Swim at 11:30 p.m.