One of our (infinite) national nightmares has finally come to an end: After five long months, Rick and Morty returned to Adult Swim for the second half of its fourth season on Sunday. And it was pure chaos.
The episode, “Never Ricking Morty,” began with an intergalactic train full of colorful characters reminiscing about their encounters with good ol’ Rick Sanchez. One particularly Wolverine-looking fella recalled the time he nearly killed “the Man in the White Coat,” while more kid-friendly characters swapped stories of the time Rick saved Space Christmas — even when he didn’t. (Please tell me we haven’t seen the last of Goomby!) And a third car contained a group of Rick’s disgruntled ex-girlfriends, ranging from an ice queen to… Lady Yoda?
If this train seemed a little off to you, then you probably weren’t surprised to learn that it was, in fact, merely a story device that seemed to be linking unrelated narrative fields. Or as Rick described the train to Morty, it was “a literal literary device quite literally metaphorically containing us.” (And here we thought the writers were going to go easy on us in the second half of the season.)
After establishing the over-written nature of their anthological surroundings, Rick and Morty battled the “Tickets, please!” guy — whose ludicrous physique likely had some viewers Googling the definition of “c–m gutters” — to the death, ultimately expelling him from the train and slicing him in half. We then watched as that same man emerged from playing an arcade simulator, only to mysteriously split in half the way he did on the train. Don’t feel too bad for him, though, as the top half of his body became known as Floaty Bloody Man and was worshipped as a deity. (As Rick explained, the guy was “literally suspended in disbelief, slowly dying while living out an alternative, non-diegetic reality.” Fun!)
Anyway… Rick and Morty determined that they needed to reach the train’s engine by imparting their own style on the structural guide laid out before them. Morty wasn’t thrilled with how meta the adventure was getting, but as Rick reminded him, “You’re 14. You watch videos of people on YouTube reacting to f–ing YouTube! I’ll be the judge of when we get too meta.” (On an unrelated note, I might also be guilty of that.)
Upon reaching the engine, Rick and Morty encountered the real enemy: Story Lord, whom Rick accurately described as a “Matrix space Frasier.” Tired of Rick constantly defying traditional rules of narrative structure, Story Lord used his ultra-ripped physique (“He’s 90-percent c–m gutter!”) to beat the duo into submission. During the fight, both Rick and Morty were briefly expelled from the train and slipped into alternate realities, including one in which Rick worked as a mustachio’d college professor, but as he reminded his grandson, “Nothing out there is canon!”
Story Lord then revealed his master plan to use Rick and Morty’s “limitless potential” for storytelling to go beyond the fifth wall, despite Rick’s insistence that their ideas would almost certainly burn out first. With the pair strapped to Story Lord’s contraption, we saw flashes of potential future adventures, including Summer moving away, Abradolf Lincler returning for Rick’s help, and an absolutely brutal war between puppy and kitten-kind. “Is any of this canon?!” Morty asked, to which Rick shrugged, “It could have been!”
Rick and Morty were then taken to where their story apparently ends, with Evil Morty and a diabolical-looking Mr. Poopybutthole leading an army of Meeseeks and Ricks to storm the Citadel. And just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Rick turned to… Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. Rick spoke to his grandson about his “best friend and personal savior,” then instructed Morty to join him in prayer. It’s something Rick and Morty would never do, causing Story Lord’s machine to malfunction. When Story Lord confronted Rick about his uncharacteristic behavior, Rick simply explained that Jesus’ tale is “the greatest story ever told.” And when Story Lord disagreed, Jesus showed up — rockin’ body and all! — to show him the error of his ways.
It was a confusing journey, to be sure, but Rick was just relieved that they “got all that meta canon s–t out of the way.” Or so he thought! It turned out that the entire episode was a story happening within a toy train that Morty bought at the Citadel’s gift shop. Outside the train, Rick thanked his grandson for the gift, delivering this bizarre rant about consumerism: “You did the most important thing! You bought something! With money! God, I love money so much, Morty! Merchandise, Morty! Your only purpose in life is to buy and consume merchandise!”
We then returned to the train for a chat between Story Lord and Jesus, the latter of whom was having a difficult time grappling with the concept of living inside a toy train. But when he resorted to his usual tactics (“I’m going to get the f–k out of here!”), he sort of… exploded, causing Story Lord’s machine to malfunction and Morty’s toy train to literally go off the rails.
Morty offered to return the broken train for a new one, which sent Rick into a fit of blind rage. “Buy another one, Morty!” he yelled. “Consume, Morty! Nobody’s out there consuming with this f–ing virus!” That’s right, the premiere ended with a coronavirus reference. Talk about timely.
Time to weigh in: Was Rick and Morty‘s insanely meta midseason premiere worth the long — but not as long as usual! — wait? Grade the episode below, then drop a comment with your thoughts (including any explanation of Floaty Bloody Man. I won’t even pretend to know what that was about).