The latest iteration of “Rick and Morty,” titled “Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion,” was a mashup of mob movies, anime, and family togetherness that made for a bizarre and disorienting storyline. It was probably the best-written episode of the season, and, absent a few minor hiccups, enjoyable throughout.
The story begins with Rick, Summer, and Morty on their way to an intergalactic theme park, “Boobworld,” the premise of which is exactly what you think it is. They detour, though, when Rick spots an old giant ferret robot on a nearby moon, one of the five parts used to form “Gotron,” an enormous robot controlled by five people (an homage to the 1980s cartoon Voltron, which was exactly the same but not shaped like ferrets.) To Morty’s dismay, they abandon the amusement park trip and take the robot home, joining the other four, which Rick has already collected.
The five ferret robots need pilots, which proves to be the perfect opportunity for an adventure for the whole family. A little cajoling from the kids convinces Beth and Jerry to join in, and they fly off to a distant planet to destroy a giant bug lizard that is laying the place to waste. They dispatch it with ease and all enjoy themselves in the process — as close to a wholesome afternoon as the Smith family is likely to get. In and out, twenty minutes adventure. But for real this time.
Naturally, it doesn’t end there. From the beginning of the episode, Morty and Summer have had dueling voiceovers in the style of the main characters in Martin Scorsese movies, and it symbolized their fight for dominance of the adventures. When Summer sided with Rick in wanting to abandon the trip to Boobworld in favor of the Gotron campaign, she displaced Morty as Rick’s favorite sidekick. But without Morty’s naysaying, Rick spins off into new and more erratic directions with the robot obsession.
Following the mob themes, Rick calls together four other alternate universe Sanchez/Smith families from other dimensions and meets with them — i.e., “the heads of the Five Families”. In exchange for helping them to acquire the complete sets of robots in their universes, they agree (after some conflict) to join forces with him. Five Gotrons form to make an even bigger GoGotron and flit about the cosmos vanquishing giant insect alien enemies.
But if you’re a fan of mob movies, you know that it’s too good to last. The Smith mob — and especially Rick and Summer — grows drunk with power and begins to spin out of control. “Sometimes enough is enough,” Morty often reminded Rick, but Summer was more concerned with keeping her grandpa happy — and retaining her new spot as favorite grandchild. Meanwhile, some new characters arrive, drawn anime-style. They claim to be the original owners of the Gotron, which they claim Rick has culturally appropriated.
Morty refuses to join their scheme to take back the ferret-bots, but he is kicked out of the business soon enough. Summer forces out Beth and Jerry, too, but when she goes to tell Rick, he’s already done the same to her, having been convinced to replace her with Kendra — a member of the anime clique.
Back in the family home, Summer confesses to the family that she had been recruited by the government to train the giant incest baby floating in space since episode 4. Instead, she came to love it and taught it to escape. This scene is jarring for a couple reasons. It reminds us of the gross and terrible episode where this weird space baby came to exist, and it is disconcerting to think of him as having been drifting around Earth orbit all this time.
But it is also a break from the episodic nature of the season thus far, an instance where the family really messed up and are bound to deal with the consequences of their actions — even if this is one plot point many fans would have been happy to forget. As a practical matter, having the scene be a long explanation from Summer, even with flashbacks, feels like too much telling, not enough showing. Maybe this was a matter of making the episode fit its allotted time slot. Whatever the case, it was the least smooth part of the action-packed show.
Back in the action, the anime crew try to retake the giant robot from Rick, with the thing punching and kicking itself in an absurd civil war. The Smiths arrive, riding on the now truly enormous space baby, whom Summer has named Naruto, another anime reference. Big baby makes short work of the robot, and they all return to a robot-free life. Giant insects are still invading everywhere, though, with no real solution in sight in the absence of Gotron. (Their reason for invading is discussed in the post-credit scene for the biggest laugh of the whole show).
“Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion” felt a lot like a traditional “Rick and Morty” episode and had more of a well-thought-out plot line than some of the season’s weaker installments. Mixing anime and mob movies was unorthodox, but that is nothing new for this franchise. The season has had its ups and downs so far, but this effort was solid, fitting nicely into the themes of growth and responsibility while offering some good action sequences, clever references, and plenty of laughs.