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The animated sci-fi series from Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland is utterly baffling in its brilliance. It's not just that it's funny — though that's a huge part of it — it's that Rick and Morty is one of the most drop-dead-funny things that's ever been seen on a screen. It also just happens to have its fair share of chilling (even depressing) human moments.
That's the real silver bullet of this series, if you ask us — it's a comedy, it's a drama, it's an homage, a parody, a celebration, a therapy session, all of those things. At the end of the day, what makes the show really stand out is that it's full of brilliant sci-fi ideas. Some of them are new, and some are subversive spins on older concepts. Almost all of them garner a WTF when watching.
It's hard to single out any one moment from this show in the WTF department. Doom Patrol was the same when we tried to pick just one moment there, and that endeavor looks tame by comparison. Still, when looking back over the insanity of Rick and Morty's first three seasons, one moment leaped to the forefront and demanded attention. It takes place during Season 2, in the episode "The Ricks Must Be Crazy."
While Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith venture into the battery of Rick's spaceship, Summer is left behind. Rick gives his ship's A.I. a simple directive: Keep Summer safe. It definitely satisfies the task, but the escalation of the various methods that it deploys are truly cut from the very fabric of what holds the WTF continuum together. Screw that blue pill. WTF?
Rick isn't gone long before a catcalling moron comes knocking on the spaceship door, yelling at Summer to answer whether or not she thinks she's better than him because she's ignoring him. Classic! The ship, naturally, laser-beams this guy into small, bloody, Resident Evil-style cubes. When another man enters the scene (claiming that the first guy was his son's pediatrician), the ship goes to make the same move. Summer forbids it from killing, so the ship shoots a laser into the second guy's back, paralyzing him.
Things ramp up from there, and soon enough a SWAT team is deployed around the ship. Summer still demands that there is no killing, and now she also demands that no physical force be deployed.
The ship alters its primary purpose to "Keep Summer safe ... no physical force." They're surrounded by the SWAT team, though, so how is the ship going to manage? It scans the soldiers and detects a "psychological option."
This is the real WTF moment.
In a blink, the ship scans the lead officer and discovers that his son has drowned at some point in the past. The ship starts "gestating," and Summer doesn't like the sound of that. It then deploys a metal container, which rolls toward the soldiers. They think it's a bomb, and they're not completely wrong. It's a WTF bomb.
The container opens, and the lead officer's reborn son emerges. The man runs and hugs his dead son, who is seemingly resurrected, but the boy just says, "Daddy, leave the girl alone." The boy then dissolves into a bloody, viscous puddle in the officer's arms. He has lost his son a second time. The ship declares to the entire squad that all of them have loved ones, and that all of them can be returned ... all of them can also be taken away.
The soldiers back off.
Summer forbids the ship from doing this again, but the ship is getting frustrated with Summer and her rules. Summer is no longer permitting "emotional countermeasures," so the A.I. gets to the point of mocking Summer for not letting it do what must be done. It also mocks the way Summer talks.
Eventually, Rick and Morty get out of their own adventure within the ship's battery, which is actually the equally weird A-story in this episode. Summer's experience with the ship's A.I. is the B-story, for crying out loud! With this show, even the B-story can leave you emotionally scarred. Seriously … WTF?
This is one of those moments in Rick and Morty where the show lets you know what it's fully capable of. Every time you think it's reached its limit, the show laughs at you and sighs like the A.I. does at Summer. Oh, you think the pedophile Jellybean King was the limit? Well here's the Meeseeks episode. Think that was too much? Here's Morty turning into a car in an episode's tag, playing off of what we thought was a random joke from Rick earlier in the episode. Still too tame? How about Pickle Rick?
Rick and Morty gives new meaning to the very notion of the "WTF moment." This moment stands out because normally a series would go through the first beat with the first guy, and then continue repeating that beat while the bodies piled up. Not here. Here they escalate the situation, and the writers make things harder on themselves as they have Summer continually add new rules. In forcing the A.I. to get more creative, Summer forces the show to get more creative as well, and the result is … emotional countermeasures.
Baffling in its beauty, effortless in its execution, and really the only next logical place for an A.I. of that power to go. It's the kind of bold choice that other shows might come up with but discard because it's too silly. Of course it's too silly, but what's wrong with silly? Silly does not equal ineffective. In this case, silly equals an animated side character having to face the death of his young son twice.
Seriously ... WTF? Summer is safe. But Summer doesn't feel safe.