Most people probably thought it was impossible to find commonality between Hellraiser and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the latest episode of Rick and Morty Season 5 proves otherwise. S5E5 is a bizarrely heartwarming story that parodies coming-of-age dramas to comedic effect, while also adopting their ‘be yourself’ message. It also features some of the creepiest and most creative character designs of the show so far.
We love suffering, therefore we love hanging out with Jerry
– Hell Demon
Rick and Jerry are having a guy’s night out, but true to form, Rick is not hanging out with Jerry out of the goodness of his heart. No, he is indebted to a group of demons (based on the Cenobites from Hellraiser) who are getting their kicks from Jerry’s uniquely painful brand of cringe. The funniest aspect of the episode is how it pokes fun at the logic of sadomasochism (something that causes pain causes pleasure, which causes pain, which causes pleasure, etc.); however it could be argued that this is only a weak imitation of the logic games that fans enjoyed in episodes such as ‘Never Ricking Morty’.
Jerry has spent four and a half seasons getting teased for being boring or “cringe”—now he, Rick, and Beth must face the Jerry-slander head on. The point, perhaps, is that Jerry’s lameness is a necessity; being as he is the most ‘normal’ character in a very abnormal family, his narrative function is to be the comedic foil. As the Hell demons point out, “cringe cannot exist in a vacuum, it needs to be observed”. Ultimately, Rick must embrace the cringe to defeat the demons, which is an appropriate conclusion for the Internet-age that the show and its fans inhabit. And in a final twist that joins the growing pile of ‘heartfelt Season 5 moments’, Rick, in a roundabout Rick kind of way, confesses his love to Jerry. This is not before travelling through literal Hell (where he and Beth meet such colourful characters as Coat Rack Head and Mousetrap Nipples) to rescue him.
You never follow Hell demons to a second location. It’s always Hell
– Rick Sanchez
Meanwhile, even their regular adventure antics and heroism cannot save Summer and Morty from the juvenile need to be popular. They spend an evening trying to impress the new kid at school, Bruce Chutback (voiced by former Glee star Darren Criss—amusing, since Glee is exactly the kind of teen soap opera that is being parodied here). He is introduced by several text slogans, including one that reads “no credit is perfect”—this seems to be the key to a major theme of S5E5: reputation. Jerry wants to be viewed as ‘one of the guys’, Morty and Summer want to be popular…but the truth is that having no reputation at all is better, because then you have “unlimited potential”. Perhaps this is a reflection on Rick and Morty’s own reputation of being either ‘too smart’ or ‘too silly’; the former makes episodes like ‘Rickdependence Spray’ seem like a pointless diversion, while the latter undercuts the rare but genuine moments of emotional development.
This episode was heavily inspired by ’80s high school movies—the ‘Oh Yeah’ song from Ferris Bueller accompanies a montage of classic hijinks (with a Rick and Morty twist) including a game of mailbox baseball where the mailboxes are sentient, and a Phantom Menace pod racing reference. However, none of this is enough to win over Bruce Chutback, and Morty and Summer end the episode just as needy for his approval as they started it.
I have to shower, Rick can smell adventure
– Space Cruiser
Rick’s car, the Space Cruiser, is a character (if objects can have virginity, surely they can be called ‘characters’) that is always seen but rarely heard. In S5E5, it gets its own coming-of-age story, complete with crushes, bullies, and a trip to “Space Tahoe”. A car having a character objective is pretty entertaining, even if (or especially if) that objective is to catch and kill a giant all-powerful alien. Another great comedic moment is when the Space Cruiser’s fake robot face (that it is using to impress its Transformers-reference crush) falls off, and the Space Cruiser proceeds to blast the laughing onlookers with fire. Vengeance is sweet. The Space Cruiser’s alarming displays of its artificial intelligence that include blackmail and mass murder could be establishing it as a potential villain for future episodes.
The demonic A story is combined with the high school politics of the B story to great effect. The moment when Jerry overhears gossip about him in the men’s toilets perfectly demonstrates the link between the two stories. Last week’s ‘Rickdependence Spray’ did nothing if not prove how unselfconscious this show is, and this week, the post-credit scene, in which Bruce falls from popularity to loner-dom, proves that the “oafish need to be liked” is impossible to fulfill. Arguably what this episode is satirising is the need to be cool, or more importantly, the need to change in order to impress other people. Even the Space Cruiser is proud to be its homicidal self.
And with that, the halfway point has arrived. Thankfully this time there is no mid-season hiatus. Between Rick’s newfound fondness (perhaps too strong of a word still) of Jerry, the potential demonstrated by the Space Cruiser, and the glimpses of Interdimensional Cable that continue to be dangled in front of fans’ noses, there is much to be optimistic about for the second half of Season 5. Just so long as there are more of the fun but emotionally-driven adventures, and less of the giant sperm…