TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S2 E3 ‘Auto Erotic Assimilation’

HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL.

It’s taken me a while to write this review, as I’ve been struggling to put into words just how I felt about this episode. After multiple viewings and days to really think it through, I think this might be one of the best episodes of Rick and Morty yet, as it perfectly blends poignant and complicated emotional moments with the sort of sci-fi hijinks we’ve come to love about Rick and Morty into a surprisingly cohesive and still utterly hilarious whole. Never has an episode of a TV show stuck with me in a way that this episode has; each time it has hit me just as hard and left me pondering all sorts about love, Rick, free will, feelings of abandonment… But we’ll get to that.

This episode opens with Rick, Summer and Morty investigating a distress signal on a spaceship; not to help, of course, but to loot all the potentially awesome alien gear left behind if the crew are all dead. Once aboard the ship, the three are confronted by Unity; a parasitic entity taking over the bodies of members of the ships crew, who just happens to be an old flame of Rick’s. Unity has grown since her departure from Rick, having taken over an entire planet and achieving world peace with it’s inhabitants, whereas Rick is the same old egotistical, sociopathic Rick. As guests on her new planet, Summer and Morty are sent off to explore, whilst Rick drags Unity back into a relationship apparently built on debauchery and large amounts of narcotics. It’s here where the episode gets really interesting; Summer and Morty’s plot revolves around the idea of peace/security vs free will, whilst Rick and Unity’s is a representation of how some love, even if genuine, can be quite toxic.

Whilst Morty, having learnt in the last episode that some things should just be left alone, tries to embrace a relaxing break in the paradise created by Unity, Summer cannot let go of the fact that each of the people on this planet have lost their free will, their personalities, their lives. You’d think the episode would try to plead the case for freedom, as other shows would, however it takes a much more muddied and complicated standpoint; as Unity’s control over the population weakens during her drug-addled sex-escapades with Rick, we see that the planet is riddled with homicidal race warriors and sex offenders. It’s not that Summer is wrong to suggest that these people should be able Auto1to choose their own paths in life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean her alternative is right, either. This kind of unpredictable treatment of such big topics is one of the many reasons I love Rick and Morty; it doesn’t talk down to you, despite it’s often childish humour.

Rick and Unity’s time together in this episode is both hilarious and heart-breaking; Rick’s terrible influence, whilst very funny, is reflected in Unity’s inability to keep her once perfect civilisation straight, resulting in all-out warfare based entirely on nipple-shape. She’s (I say she as the main voice for Unity was Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, though Rick was seen talking to Unity via several other people) drawn to Rick because of their shared ability to see the wider picture, but for her that means being a better entity and achieving some kind of peace, whereas for Rick it means doing what he wants, when he wants, because he can. (This is illustrated perfectly by one of Rick’s bombastic sexual fantasies, involving a stadium full of redheads and any man that even vaguely resembles his father). She’s entirely wrapped up in Rick, giving him everything he wants and being drawn back into drink and drugs with him. It’s a destructive and messy relationship, and Morty and Summer decide to leave after seeing what Unity has become under Rick’s influence. The episode takes a turn for the depressing when, after taking stock of her war-torn planet and hungover self, Unity leaves Rick via the medium of millions of copies of the same note littered about the planet; “Rick, forgive me for doing this in notes, I’m not strong enough to do it in persons…” It’s a harsh and emotional scene, made even harsher upon Rick’s return to the Smith family, where he makes an attempt to end his life in the garage to the tune of ‘Do You Feel It’ by Chaos Chaos. The combination of the beautiful and melancholy song and Rick’s utter despair is just heart-breaking. It’s rare that we get such an insight into the softer side of Rick, and this episode really hammers home just how lonely Rick’s life is; he acts as though he doesn’t care to simply hide the fact that, due to his genius and propensity for getting bored easily, there isn’t really anyone that could hold his attention or affection for long. His relationship with Unity was important to him because she is pretty much the only being that could give him what he wants and needs from a relationship; excitement, attention, intelligence and limitless possibilities. I’d never really stopped to think about how cripplingly lonely Rick’s life must be; we know from his rampant alcoholism and attitude to almost everyone that there’s obviously a lot going on in his head (and heart) that we aren’t privy to. I’ll admit, this ending hit me like a ton of animated bricks; when you watch a show that is predominantly a comedy, the emotional beats, if written well, can entirely blind side you. I always cite Scrubs as a great example of this; for the most part it was silly jokes, slapstick comedy and fun japes, but every now and then they’d hit you right in the heart with such a raw, real situation that it could reduce you to tears. This episode of Rick and Morty did just that to me; we think of Rick as such an uncaring man that to see his emotions being worn right on his sleeve was almost crushing.

I realise that I’ve been rambling about this episode for a long while, and I haven’t even mentioned Beth and Jerry’s subplot, or Patton Oswalt’s wonderful turn as Beta-7, a neighbouring hive mind that clearly has designs on Unity and Auto2is threatened by Rick’s magnetism, but such was the strength of the main story in this episode. To be honest, Beth and Jerry’s story just served to show the growing rift between the pair (another example of Rick’s toxicity), and to show just how Rick’s absence has affected Beth as a person. It’s not a bad sub-plot at all, but given Rick, Morty and Summer’s exploits, it does somewhat fade into the background. (That being said, there is a wonderfully weird looking alien locked in a sub-basement complex that gives them a brilliant dressing down, and Jerry’s attempt at street slang is priceless).

Overall this episode had it all; a wonderful conceit, great sci-fi elements, some tear-inducing jokes, some tear-inducing emotional meltdown moments, and a fantastic cast. Top marks! 

Rating: 5/5

Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: