The impossible has happened — Rick and Morty has gloriously topped itself once again in the WTF department. The show is likely the Grand High Overlord of WTF Moments, and while other shows were questioning the nature of their reality this past Sunday night (as some of us were preparing for May the Fourth), Rick and Morty came along with a runaway "story train" that went more meta than the show has ever gone, ending with a moment on par with the Szechuan Sauce craziness from earlier seasons.
"Never Ricking Morty," the first episode in the second batch of new fourth-season shows, makes it clear that it's going to be an anthology episode fairly quickly. When Rick and Morty both get on the scene, though, they aren't interested in doing that. Around several cutaway scenes featuring them, Rick goes on rants about canon, continuity, narrative, etc. — clearly having disdain for all of those things. He hates this train, he hates the circular story method, and he hates the villain "Story Lord" who runs it ... a man who is way more "cut" than expected.
The way that certain muscles are described in this episode is a huge WTF, but that barely registers. Rick also forces Morty to come up with a cutaway story for his mother and sister using the Bechdel Test, and the scene results in Beth and Summer blasting scorpions with the power of their periods ("special time") before Ruth Bader Ginsburg pops in to laud them. I guess it passes the test? WTF.
But once again, this runaway train keeps going. Even Jesus himself doesn't stop it. (That happens, by the way. Jesus appears in the episode.)
The final cutaway reveals that this entire adventure has taken place on a toy, a "story train" toy that Morty bought for Rick at the Citadel. Rick goes on another rant about it, but he's positive this time. He praises Morty in a long monologue about how Morty went out and bought something, which is the best thing anyone can do.
This rant about the power of consumerism is insane, and that's before it turns topical. Rick gets in a reference to the current real-life situation that we're all dealing with: the global pandemic revolving around COVID-19. Rick's odd rant about how the only purpose we have is to go out and buy things hits in a whole new way.
Then the post-credits scene plays, and of course, it's a commercial for the "Story Train" toy. Dan Harmon loves fake commercials, and this one is a whopper. The fake ad ends with the viewer being blasted with a website link (www.story-train.com) and being screamed at to visit the site.
I knew that the link would probably lead me to a big middle finger or some such thing — this entire episode is a giant middle finger to everything, including itself. I really should not have checked it out. This show continually tells you not to take it seriously, and though fans were excited to see things like Tammy and Summer fighting with lightsabers in the trailer for these episodes (yeah), that little tidbit is just in a one-off cutaway bit on the train, and not "canon," as both Rick and Morty point out.
What is canon here? It doesn't matter.
Dan Harmon's own method of writing is being mocked with the story train toy chugging along in a circle, so this show has taken the WTF gloves off and is mocking itself more than anything. I seriously couldn't believe they were going this hard at themselves, but the question remains: Did I go to the website? Did I fall for it? Did I rampage a McDonald's to get that top-tier Mulan dipping sauce, the only thing that matters in life?
Yes, I went to the site. I did it immediately. I received a big "url not found" message, which is intentional. The domain was purchased before this episode aired, and the answers, the merchandising, the final destination of the story train? They never existed. Nothing exists, it's just a show. The site that would make my life complete with my very own story train (perfect for quarantine) does not exist.
No other show would have me checking out that site. Sure, I wanted to see if it was real ... but if it was, and a real story train was being sold? I know in my darkest soul that I would have bought one. It's the most important thing I can do in these troubled times.
WTF, Rick and Morty. Truly WTF? You have outdone yourselves, and I really do not know where you go from here. I'm baffled, astonished, mad at myself, and questioning absolutely everything. I'm excited and scared. This show has begun to incept me in a way that no other sci-fi series ever has, and I am always ready for more. I cannot get enough. I will ride this story train (in a closed loop) for as long as it runs. That's some special Mulan sauce.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.