Let’s get this out of the way upfront: there’s no indication of when Rick and Morty might return with another season. If it does. Which, who knows? Maybe it won’t. The stinger at the end of the season finale checks in with Mr. Poopy Butthole, who has a happy family now and seems to think he might even have grandkids by the time a fourth season of Rick and Morty rolls around. Point is: don’t hold your breath.
And unlike the ending of last season, this season finale of Rick and Morty doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Instead, it more or less resets the entire show to season one level dynamics.
The main adventure starts out like a classic Rick and Morty excursion: there’s an alien loose in the White House (well, specifically in the underground Kennedy Sex Tunnels) and the President calls on the pair to take care of it. Rick and Morty aren’t really feeling it though. They’re bored and frankly they’re sick of being treated like the President’s personal Ghostbusters. So they portal out of the tunnels and go back to playing Minecraft (Rick: “So you’re mining stuff to craft with, and crafting stuff to mine with? Did your dad write this game?”). Too bad they’re under satellite surveillance and get totally busted by the government.
What starts out as a sort of break-up turns into an escalating pissing contest between Rick and the POTUS. The President wants to establish his independence and prove that Rick isn’t some sort of all-powerful God who is above the law. And Rick? He IS sort of an all-powerful God, or at least a Doctor Who-like figure (whom he finally name-checks in the episode because let’s just make the subtext text, amirite?). Even so, he mostly just wants the President to take a selfie with Morty and also stop bugging them with dumb shit. Saving the world is one thing — finding alternate Earths to move to is a hassle — but he couldn’t care less about America.
So they proceed to one-up each other. Sure, the President proves he has his own transport gate and shrinking technology, and doesn’t need Rick for that super-science stuff. But Rick’s gadgets are still cooler, and hey — he goes ahead and negotiates a cease-fire not only with a new race of tiny people with nuclear capabilities in Brazil, but also between Israel and Palestine (the “Pretty Obvious If You Think About It Accord”). He basically does the President’s job, while giving the President all the credit. SICK BURN, RICK!
All of this leads to a knock down, drag out fight in the White House — which leaves several secret service agents dead, as well as quite a lot of property damage. Rick seemingly gets the President right where he wants him, and is going to finally get Morty that selfie… only to find that Morty has left.
And here I should mention the b-plot, which picks up on that ambiguous ending from last week. Did Beth choose to head out on her own and let Rick replace her with a clone, or is she still herself? SHE CAN’T TELL. She feels different, but is that because she’s finally at peace with her decisions or because she’s been programmed to be at peace with her decisions, because she’s a damn clone? She asks Rick, and he tells her she’s not a clone, but that’s exactly what he’d say if she WERE a clone… probably because if he knew she was becoming self-aware he’d have to kill her and start over. It all gets to be too much, so she goes to the one person that knows her better than anyone: Jerry. And Jerry, being an idiot, has a very unscientific way of reassuring her that she’s the original Beth… which conversely convinces her that she’s a clone, because she finds that she actually is in love with Jerry.
They head out to a secret cabin with the kids where they can be a family, safe from the danger of Rick Sanchez. And obviously Rick immediately finds them (he brings a gun — not to kill Beth, whom he still insists isn’t a clone, but to kill Jerry). He accepts that Beth and Jerry are getting back together, but needs to leave this dimension because he’s just pissed off the President and still hates Jerry. When Morty refuses to go with him, however, Rick… decides to stay. He pretends to be an all-new version of himself (who happens to be a fly-fishing enthusiast) to patch things up with the President, and then continues to live with the new, improved, and happy Smith family. It’s just like season one, only more streamlined.
But based on that closing push-in shot of Rick’s coldly furious face, he won’t let this status quo last. If, you know, there is more of the show in the future.
For a season that explored the psychology and motivations of the core characters so thoroughly, it seemed jarring to suddenly have all that progress waved away. And then I realized that Rick stayed. Perhaps that’s the greatest progress of all. Morty refused to go away with him, so he chose to stick around in a situation he detested instead of just moving on and starting over in another dimension. Is it affection? Is there a deeper game being played? We may never know.
It was a very funny episode that didn’t offer any resolution. Evil Morty is still out there, and Beth could still be a clone (we’ll never know for sure, unless a Real Beth shows up one day with lots of crazy space adventures under her belt). Summer didn’t have nearly enough to do (though that dressing room scene was pitch-perfect). This was almost staunchly NOT an episode to read into, as if the creators were playing along with our need for mythology and theories all season just to shut that shit down in the finale. And you know what? It feels right. It feels just fine. Perhaps the most unpredictable thing about Rick and Morty is that it’ll turn around and pretend to be predictable every once in awhile.
But seriously, what the fuck and I supposed to do with my life now that the season is over? Oh right — I’ll just watch DuckTales!