“Rick and Morty” 2.4 “Total Rickall” (8 out of 10) Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon; Starring Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, Spencer Grammer, Tony Babieri, Keith David, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Matt Walsh; Run time 30 minutes; Originally aired 08/16/2015.
The fourth episode of season two “Total Rickall” is a true return to form for “Rick and Morty.” It would be unfair to call any episode of the show bad but some are stronger than others and this is a great example.
Fair warning to readers, spoilers ahead.
This week’s episode opens with the family around the table reminiscing with Jerry’s brother Steve who has apparently been living with them for over a year, though he’s never appeared in a previous episode. Unannounced, Rick raises a gun and shoots Steve, as he dies his body transforms into an alien parasite and Rick explains that this life form uses false memories to implant itself into your life and multiply.
The trouble here is that each member of the family has clear memories of this person in their lives and as such cannot identify who is real and who isn’t. As Rick explains, a new character appears in the scene, a hot dog shaped little man wearing a top hat called Mr. Poopy Butthole who is obviously a false character implanted into their lives. Only he isn’t, more on that later.
Rick locks the house down behind blast shields to prevent the parasite from getting out of the house and taking over the planet. From here the parasite multiplies, each time one or more members of the family remember back on a time with a false character a new one is created and before long the entire house is filled with all manner of fictional entities including Sleepy Gary, Beth’s true husband and Jerry’s secret lover, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Reverse Giraffe who is exactly what his name implies, a giraffe with a long body but short limbs and neck.
Rick tries his damndest to retain a level of control but is soon overwhelmed by opposing forces and Morty, now aligned with his parasitic false friends, takes Rick to the garage to execute him. When Rick uses his last moments to berate Morty for being a whiny piece of shit, Morty realizes that Rick must be real, as the parasites are only capable of implanting positive memories of which Morty and Rick have a rare few.
“Total Rickall” is another great example of “Rick and Morty” taking a well known sci-fi trope, this time the idea of false memories as well as alien parasites, and turning it on its head. Once the key to identifying the parasites is discovered a blood bath ensues. Soon everyone is dead save for the five core members of the family and Mr. Poopy Butthole.
Last week’s episode, while not the strongest of the “Rick and Morty” portfolio did end strong (in a holy shit that’s dark kind of way) when Rick loses the love of his life for the second time, realizes he is a negative influence on those around him, and tries (but fails) to kill himself. I remarked last week that I hoped the series would have more moments like this, while the major appeal of “Rick and Morty” is the comedy, what sets it apart is the way it balances that humor with the darker elements of the characters. I’m glad to see that wasn’t lost in this week’s episode.
Once the air clears Beth looks around, reviews her memories of Mr. Poopy Butthole and realizes she has nothing but positive experiences with him, then shoots him in the gut. Surprisingly, instead of transforming into an obvious alien parasite, Mr. Poopy Butthole bleeds out on the kitchen floor all the while screaming in pain. In a post credits scene we see him doing rehab and learning to walk again.
This creates a problem with the continuity of the episode. Uncle Steve was the original parasite and was killed at the beginning of the episode, then replaced by Mr. Poopy Butthole who then spawns the myriad of false family and friends. With the revelation that he was real all along the question then becomes, who was the real parasite. Rick mentions that they begin small and could be stuck to the bottom of your shoe, the outbreak could be explained away by an invisible spore that we never see.
However, I’d like to suggest a more interesting possibility, someone else in the family is an imposter. Maybe Morty is really trapped on some other planet or reality, replaced by a doppelganger who instigated the parasitic outbreak and is still implanted in the family. Or maybe one of the other characters has been false all along, biding their time in plain view. With two thirds of the season still in the chute I’d love to see the repercussions of this implication explored down the line. We’ll have to wait and see.
New episodes of “Rick and Morty” air every Sunday on Adult Swim. You can catch up on previous episodes right here.