The fifth season of Rick and Morty has come to a close and was met with a wildly mixed reception. This review will include mild spoilers for the events of Rick and Morty season 5.
Overall, the fifth season of Rick and Morty is quite an enjoyable experience. If you enjoy intense action and absurd comedy, the show is definitely one to watch. It provides some well-needed backstory and thought-provoking themes.
Caution: Spoilers Ahead
The fifth season as a whole is almost like a continuation of the 4th season with more emphasis on the relationship of Rick and Morty themselves. A lot of this season had a focus on the dynamic between the two characters. By either being at each other’s throats or having an understanding moment.
Absurd storylines frequently had me pause and try to digest what was going on and how they thought it up. The one that caused the most controversy was in “Rickdependence Spray” where the plot of Morty’s killer sperm ends with a giant incest baby launched into space. Another episode had the duo turn into turkeys and ended with ancient “turkey killing aliens” underneath the Lincoln Memorial. The episodes are definitely creative and really do keep up the fun and extreme tone the show tends to create.
A few canonical, or main plotline episodes, were also released diving more into Rick’s backstory and the history of The Citadel of Ricks. The trouble Rick and Morty suffered through the season pretty much funnelled down to these last two episodes with the first showing them how toxic their relationship really is. The final episode packs as much backstory and plot as possible. It brought back the fan favourite “Evil Morty,” a mysterious character who has consistently appeared throughout the seasons and slowly grows in power.
The season frequently split the duo, focusing on separate storylines. The only episode they had together was “Rick and Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular” which focused on the ongoing rivalry between The President and Rick. With a season so focused on the Rick and Morty dynamic, they are rarely in the same scene together.
This is not to say that splitting them up was a bad thing, by acting by themselves we see how much they really depend on each other. We see this in a number of episodes especially “Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion” where Summer replaces Morty as the side-kick but doesn’t know how to control Rick’s impulsive urges. Morty also has his “Rickpiphanies” as he screws up the simple act of grabbing wine from another dimension and requires Rick’s help to fix it.
Giving the main duo individual screen time did certainly give Morty character development, you can see a big difference between season 1 and season 5 Morty as he pretty much commits genocide in the first episode. He also starts to use the portal gun independently and even participates in mature relationships. In the episode “A Rickconvenient Mort” Morty is shown actively pursuing a relationship that would have been extremely odd in earlier seasons. Furthermore, he also ends the relationship on his own terms.
If you’re a consistent viewer of the show, you can tell Morty’s has had a tougher time than usual on this season of the show. Between getting his heart broken multiple times, unintentionally endangering the Earth with his sperm and being on bad terms with almost every character, even the president.
As a viewer, seeing Morty go through this without any reconciliation leaves a bitter feeling whereas previous seasons would give Morty a happy ending or allow him to realise and grow for himself. Making Morty go through this may be a future plot thread but for now, it just seems sad.
We see more of Rick’s past this season which is what fans have been waiting for. The episode “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” vaguely hints and jabs at Rick’s backstory by partnering up with a past memory of himself and exploring his friendship with Birdperson.
His relationship with Birdperson and Morty makes Rick fight with who he is as a person, as he uses selfish means to gain their approval. Withholding the existence of Birperson’s child and going back to Morty only after he’s abandoned by the crows he replaced Morty with, all work to show that Rick is an asshole which has been a recurring element in his plotline.
Be that as it may, the finale thrusts us into a short montage of Rick’s life, starting from the death of his wife and kids. It’s confirmed that the scene in season 3 episode “The Rickshank Rickdemption” is the actual death of Rick’s family which pushes Rick to travel the multiverse in search of the Rick that killed them. This montage also leans into how Rick ultimately created the Citadel.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the previous ones this season has been received poorly by the audience but praised by critics. The drawback for this season mainly sits in the lack of substance in writing and withholding canon episodes in the season.
The show seems to prefer the “reset” sitcom style of having a new story every episode that has worked in the previous seasons. It feels as though they may have run out of ideas and try to come up with a super crazy plot which is great in terms of comedy but really doesn’t leave a mark emotionally.
In terms of canon, what the audience wants is more progress in the main overarching plot which is the events regarding evil Morty. The last season faces criticism for not including the main story, and although season 5 delivers, it crams everything into one final episode. The cliffhanger at the end of the finale makes you forget everything that occurred in the season.
The issue lies in the finale feeling more like an information dump more than a finale episode. The humour of the show was pretty decent but there were a few instances where it didn’t quite fit and felt like it depended on the absurdity of the episode.
Jokes that break the fourth wall and jokes that are self-conscious are great but get old really fast, especially if they potentially block the narrative. Throughout the season Rick would quote his distaste in revealing “canon” until reluctantly revealing it all in the final episode. It felt as if the creators of the show disliked the fact that the fans wanted to know the character more.
In comparison to previous seasons, season 5 does perform better than the 4th but doesn’t quite hold a light to the first 3. The cliffhanger certainly left us asking questions and hungry for the next season.
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