Rick and Morty S6E4: “Night Family” — A Cream of a Nightmare Dream

The Night Family looms over Rick in Rick and Morty S6E4

The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty S6E4 “Night Family”

“Night Family” is a terrific episode in a season that has so far been extremely solid (although I think I am in the minority that I wasn’t as hot on last week’s episode). Seemingly taking inspiration from both Severance and Us, this is a spooky pre-Halloween episode that satisfies some classic Rick and Morty beats as well as calling back to some great late-70s/early-80s action and horror tropes. 

As he does, Rick is once again in possession of a device of dubious origin that will make his life easier at the cost of a one thousand percent chance of leading to catastrophic consequences. The Somnambulator programs Rick’s unconscious body to do various chores while asleep, such as crunches all night for washboard abs. Naturally, the entire family wants their own Night People. Morty gets abs like Rick and they start an abs-themed podcast, Summer learns Spanish, Beth learns trumpet, and Jerry becomes pen pals with his Night Person. This of course invites insults from the rest of the family, and leads to one of my favorite Jerry-isms of all time, calling Beth and Summer a bunch of  “Debbie Down-theres.”

It doesn’t take long for the Night Family to resent the chores left by the lazy Smiths, specifically dishes not being rinsed off after meals. Rick refuses to grant this trivial favor, resulting in the Night Family smashing all of the dishes. Does Rick give in? Of course not—not only does he refuse to make the Night Family’s lives easier, or even just repair the dishes; he travels off-world to an industrial planet and has indestructible alien dishes manufactured. Rick’s pettiness, onces again, is a catalyst for doom. 

Drones threaten the Smith family.

I was surprised at how creepy this episode was once the Somnambulator consequences kick in. There are some legitimate horror elements here and some of the imagery is extremely unsettling: seeing the Night Family shrouded in darkness with their eyes glowing as they carry out their tasks like zombies is extremely effective. Once the Night Family, led by Night Summer, starts to escalate the conflict against their daytime counterparts, there is a significantly more sinister feel to some of the scenes as the episode leans into horror. Night Summer force-feeding Rick dried scraps from an unwashed plate is downright nauseating. 

Also, it’s just plain spooky to fathom the concept of a Night Person. You go to bed, you wake up the next morning…but while you’re asleep, your body gets up and does things, possibly resenting your awake self and plotting to take over the world with Night People. There’s a real sense of dread, as far as I am concerned, with a lack of autonomy over myself when I’m asleep. I went through a period of sleepwalking several years ago, and I started to move something in front of my door so I couldn’t easily open it. I’m not sure whether or not it worked. On a lighter note, the official condition for sleepwalking is somnambulism, which is amusing because a “Somnambulator” totally sounds like something the writers would just come up with instead of a reference to an actual term.

It’s really funny that, true to form, Jerry uses this miraculous device for something as stupid as becoming his own pen pal. It’s reminiscent of “Meeseeks and Destroy,” but instead of the terrifying hostage situation in that episode, his seemingly short-sighted choice ends up being the Smith family’s salvation, as Night Jerry turns against the rest of the Night Family to save his best friend. 

The climax of “Night Family” starts with a bombastic action sequence that sends up the excess of old-school explosion-filled car chases. It’s well-worn comedic material, but timing is everything, and the recognizable gag of various combustible buildings conveniently built next to each other exploding in an ever-growing chain reaction is still funny. It culminates in the family aggressively fighting, with punches, bites and tranquilizer darts switching each character between waking and sleeping and shifting the dynamic between who is trying to hurt who as the Night Family tries to get everyone to sleep while the awake Smiths attempt to keep each other from getting put to sleep. It’s a hilarious sequence. 

Summer prepares to leap from one car to another during a chase.

Also of note, the animation in this episode is beautiful. Rick and Morty has always looked good, but the past couple of seasons have been especially vibrant. “Night Family” shows us the Smith house at night from angles we haven’t seen before, and some of the editing creatively builds the tension while still keeping in lockstep with the comedy. The whole episode is drenched in style, with John Carpenter being one of the most apparent influences. The synth soundtrack is awesome, and the closing credits crawl has a scratchy film filter that works perfectly. 

Dan Harmon mentions in the post-episode featurette that “Night Family” is an episode concept that they’ve been sitting on for quite some time. That’s probably part of why this week felt a little more old-school in structure. Either way, I really liked it. It got some of the biggest laughs from me so far this season, there are genuine frightening moments (including a couple of jump scares), and and Carpenter-era influences are wonderfully realized. Jerry’s continuing development is also a great change from him being a constant punching bag. 

And Rick still never relented on the dishes. 

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

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