Rick and Morty S5E7: Mafia Meets Anime in ‘Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion’

The giant baby called Naruto sucks his thumb as he looms behind the wreckage of the Go-Go-Gotron robot

Rick and Morty S5E7 is a fast-paced riot that rattles through genres and homages like there’s no tomorrow. It feels like the show is back on its A game after a mediocre spell that marked the middle section of Season 5. ‘Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion’ is not a joke-per-line kind of episode, finding comedy in the absurd concepts rather than the dialogue—for this reason it may not appeal to every fan’s taste. But lovers of high concept genre fiction (as lovers of Harmon must surely be) will be delighted by the indulgent use of cliche. 

A giant yellow robot ferret emerges from an ordinary parking garage

The episode gets off to an excellent start in the cold open. Rick emulates real life fanatic toy collectors (of which Justin Roiland himself is one) when he derails a long-anticipated trip to Boob World in order to collect a blue Gotron Ferret. These Ferrets are parodies of the Voltron Lions, and also double as a parody of rare merchandise. The cold open also introduces a brilliant meta gag that will continue throughout the episode—Summer and Morty’s individual voiceovers competing with each other. Summer seems to have been given much more agency in Season 5 than in previous seasons (especially with the ongoing theme of family) so it’s fitting that the writers are literally giving her a voice here. Moreover, the telepathic sparring continues to be funny right until its pay-off at the end of the episode. 

After the titles, Rick, Summer, and Morty return in full Voltron cosplay to rope Beth and Jerry into a monster-slaying adventure. Summer insists it is important for the family to choose to work together no matter what, even as Beth reminds her of the possible giant baby-shaped consequences (‘Rickdependence Spray’—hooray for continuity). However after a colourful and wonderfully animated Gotron montage, Beth admits that it “isn’t not fun”. Rick, meanwhile, is in his element—he delights in meta-managing the boss battle, and seems like he is living out a childhood dream. It’s very nerdy (and a little camp) and only the tip of the iceberg where this episode is concerned. 

There are infinite universes where I still don’t have all five Ferrets.

– Rick Sanchez

When the adventure is over, the second main aspect of the episode really kicks into gear—the mafia movie homage. Dan Harmon is apt to combine two genres in one episode; in fact he did it earlier this season in ‘Amortycan Grickfitti’. Weirdly, Voltron and The Godfather are at least united by the idea of family and teamwork. The lyrics of the (very catchy) parody song that plays over the montage acknowledge the eclectic style of the episode: “pasta with some anime combined, ‘cause they’re two genres but each one is intertwined”.

Rick, smiling wickedly, fires a gun that is shaped like himself

The mafia genre allows for a neat and familiar structure for the episode that gets the Rick and Morty treatment—a highlight of the episode is undoubtedly the meeting of all the Ricks (all designed to emulate classic movie mob bosses). The introduction of Yo-Yo Rick stamps comedic ridiculousness over the ordinarily dark set-up; Rick’s declaration that “he’s lame in a cool way, because he owns it”, almost makes it sound like he learned something from ‘Amortycan Grickfitti’.

The Gotron is a nice visual representation of the family coming together, however Morty is first to notice that they are barrelling towards a disaster. Summer wants to be Rick’s favourite, it’s as simple as that. But indulging a man as self-destructive as Rick can only end one way. As the Gotron becomes a Go-Gotron, and then a Go-Go-Gotron, Summer soon finds herself out of her depth. And when Summer and Rick decide to hire people from outside of the family, it betrays the fact that it was never about family (for Rick, at least) it was about power and convenience. Later, the Gotron punching itself makes a nice representation of mutiny. 

I ended up the left foot of the left foot, I guess because our robot didn’t have an asshole.

– Morty Smith

Where it is easier to pair characters off for adventures, the show has sometimes struggled to find a meaningful place for Summer in the narrative; now, in Season 5, she has become hugely consequential. The elephant in the room is of course the incest baby, and not least because S5E7 referenced him several times before he made his appearance in the climax of the episode. He has a name now too—Naruto…it suits him. The story of Summer and Naruto comes out of left field, but is nonetheless compelling, employing the science fiction trope of exploitation for weaponisation. The episode speed-runs the emotional connection between mother and giant baby, but to zoom in on it may have been unnecessary anyway, since it is a story most are familiar with already (though probably not in this exact form). 

Giant baby Naruto floats in space, wearing an American flag garment

With all the side-characters making references to Naruto, the episode has Rick wondering if the Smith family will ever “live that down”—an unsurprisingly prophetic comment from the show creators, that can be applied to the inevitable controversy of ‘Rickdependence Spray’. Almost as if to spite the aghast fans, S5E7 makes the episode about giant sperm an essential part of the canon. Well played, Adult Swim. 

All I’ve got is myself and my giant tortured government-trained rogue incest monster baby.

– Summer Smith

Ultimately, the mafia movie stuff was a cool vehicle to explore the family dynamic without any sentimentality, while it feels like the anime aspects were just there for fun. As per the genre, the episode ends with the status quo restored, and Jerry reaffirmed as the most expendable member of the family… except, of course, the giant alien bugs that continue to kill millions of humans, because it wouldn’t be a Rick and Morty episode if it didn’t poke fun at its own catastrophic consequences. And the voiceover gag gets its pay-off, as it turns out the spontaneous telepathic connection was the result of Douglas Adams-esque ear parasites.

The biggest fault of ‘Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion’ is that it is bound to be compared to the mafia episode of Community (arguably a more focused and therefore more effective homage). Regardless, S5E7 is safely one of the best episodes of the season so far.

Written by Christopher Lieberman

Writer, actor, John Webster appreciator. Talks about The X-Files a lot.

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