“Mortyplicity” takes a high-concept premise to typically outlandish extremes, but also reveals something bold about the show in the process.
This recap of Rick and Morty season 5, episode 2, “Mortyplicity”, contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty is known for being clever and complicated and for turning well-worn sci-fi concepts on their heads, often in a very cynical and self-referential way that exposes the artifice of serialized storytelling in general by telling you it’s all a trick and lightly making fun of you for being tempted to care about any of it. Thanks to all this, I can totally understand why someone would love or indeed hate the show, and “Mortyplicity” is the kind of half-hour that the die-hard fans will really adore and the detractors will really despise since it so neatly embodies virtually all of these essential characteristics.
The hook is that Rick has created various clone versions of the family since someone is always trying to kill them, and this is set up innocuously enough, with Rick being alerted that one of the decoy families has come under attack. But it quickly becomes apparent that the decoys don’t know they’re decoys, so all of them get alerts that the other decoys have been targeted, and they all think they’re the “real” Rick, and on and on, with the big “twist” being that the show never bothers to establish a legitimate POV for the audience. We have no idea who the real versions are, or if there even are real versions at all. The show has never been shy about exposing its artificiality, but here it’s insisting that there aren’t even concrete, “real” versions of its characters within their own universe.
Rick and Morty season 5, episode 2 is very happy about how deliberately complex and confusing it makes this premise. And it’s able to do so because it genuinely doesn’t care about the basic, fundamental aspects of storytelling that other shows couldn’t get away with overlooking. Every time we think we’re grounded in the perspective of the “real” Sanchez family, another Sanchez family kills them off and we follow them for a while until the same thing – or a similar thing – happens again. It’s like a game of tag, but instead of someone becoming “it”, they become dead.
And it doesn’t end, really. The final moments imply that this might have been going on forever and might continue to go on forever, and we might never know who’s who. That’s funny as a joke but it’s near-genius as a storytelling conceit because it really does prove something that Rick and Morty has always claimed to be about but never quite 100% committed to. And yet even after proving that none of this is real or consistent and that it’s ill-advised to care about any of it, “Mortyplicity” makes you care anyway, pretty much in spite of itself.
Because of the way it truly contorts its high-concept sci-fi premise, I was totally on-board with Rick and Morty season 5, episode 2. As with the rest of the show, I can totally understand why someone would hate it. But as an exercise in creativity, ambition, and challenging our ingrained notions of how we should both make and consume stories, “Mortyplicity” is great fun.