“Rick: A Mort Well Lived” traps a phenomenal Die Hard riff in a high-concept skewering of Rick’s emotional limitations. A tremendous episode.
This recap of Rick and Morty season 6, episode 2, “Rick: A Mort Well Lived”, contains spoilers.
Yeah, this is a really good one.
The thing about Rick and Morty is that even though it has become kind of a poster child for snarky, self-referential, pop-culturally “aware” satire, it generally builds something meaningful around the ideas it’s ripping off or the stuff it’s making fun of. Innumerable pieces of media have made reference to Die Hard, for instance, since the iconic 1988 Christmas classic – yeah, I said it – has become such an intractable part of our collective consciousness by now that everyone’s probably going to get the joke. But “Rick: A Mort Well Lived” doesn’t just make reference to Die Hard, but instead builds an entire B-plot around it that operates on multiple levels.
Rick and Morty season 6, episode 2 recap
It’s Summer who ends up “doing a Die Hard” here as she attempts to thwart a group of thieves in an amusement arcade, but that’s only the start of it. The thieves are alien Die Hard academics, the theory being that the myth has become so pervasive that every culture has a version of it, and Summer, being 17, has never actually seen Die Hard, so there’s all kinds of stuff going on in that concept ranging from the broadly obvious, such as Summer crawling through vents and taking down the thieves one by one while spouting catchphrases, to the pleasingly meta, like the villain reading a book titled The Nakatomi Paradigm that eventually gives Summer the key to victory by spoiling the film’s ending.
Even in the A-plot, there are more joys to uncover – it can’t be a coincidence, for example, that Rick is inhabiting someone named “Roy”, which is the name John McClane tells Al to call him. Rick is Roy because he’s plugged into an arcade machine called Roy: A Life Well Lived, which has distributed Morty’s entire consciousness across five billion NPCs, and he has to explain to an entire citizenry that they’re all fabricated components of a 14-year-old boy’s mind trapped in a video game.
This idea alone is good enough for an entire episode, and it’s littered with detail and nuance here as the society gradually turns on the notion that they’re really just “grandchildren” and Rick has to weigh up Morty’s true value to him in order to convince the populace to abandon who they think they are in order to leave the simulation for a proposed “greater good”. There are all kinds of big ideas implicit in that concept, and it takes Rick to task for his emotional limitations by having his inability to say “I love you” to Morty spiral out into a holy war that eventually decimates the planet and leaves behind a crucial part of Morty’s consciousness – the 8% that Rick deemed an “acceptable loss”, as though the shaving away of a person’s identity might ever be considered acceptable.
Summer is doing the Die Hard thing to give Rick the time he needs to save Morty, but the two plots are mostly disconnected in every other sense. The joke here is that because Summer hasn’t actually seen Die Hard she keeps going off-script and bewildering the aliens, led by Peter Dinklage essentially doing an exaggerated Hans Gruber impression. It’s really brilliant stuff, though whether any of it – particularly the stuff about Morty’s consciousness – is paid off in subsequent episodes remains to be seen. The premiere suggested that the show’s internal continuity might be of more importance than usual this season, so there’s a chance, but even if it doesn’t happen, “Rick: A Mort Well Lived” is still a wonderful time.