Very few programs churn out clip shows any more, given the fact that it’s incredibly hard to create a solid plot based around flashbacks. Of course, Rick and Morty wouldn’t be Rick and Morty if it didn’t take an idea like a clip show and turn it right on it’s head, and that’s exactly what Total Rickall does. It takes the idea of cheesy clip shows and makes it infinitely less clunky; instead of just regurgitating old footage at the audience with awkward segways, the flashbacks become part of the threat, therefore creating a seamless reason to have a clip show in the first place. In this episode, the family are faced with a parasitic alien lifeform that can replicate by placing itself into your memories; this leads to a ton of brilliant flashbacks to things that never happened, and a plethora of insane characters that I frankly wish were real so we could see more of them! Each flashback is both hilarious and presents a certain level of danger, meaning that we as an audience aren’t groaning at each memory, but more excited to see which character will appear in the living room next.
The episode opens with the Smiths, including Uncle Steve, sitting down for a nice family meal. For a moment I was confused about whether I should know of Uncle Steve (has he been in it before? Have the family mentioned him in some way? Is my notoriously terrible memory striking again?!), which was entirely the intention; it serves to show how easily memories can be corrupted, as “Steve” has inserted himself right into the family with ease. Of course, Rick realises what’s going on and shoots Steve in the head, causing him to revert back to his repulsive worm-like form. Things escalate quickly from there, as the family’s flashbacks generate all manner of colourful characters, such as Pencilvester, Hamurai, Sleepy Gary, Photography-Raptor and an absolute ton more. It’s ridiculous and fun, and left me smiling from ear to ear. It’s nice to have an episode that features the whole family dealing with the same thing, even if sometimes you forget the danger they’re in due to the sea of delightfully cute and colourful characters surrounding them.
The absolute best thing about the episode by far though is the resolution to the problem; I had literally no idea how this living room alien invasion was going to wrap up in just over 20 minutes, and didn’t see the fix coming at all. After Rick berates Morty, telling him that 99.9% of their memories together are garbage, Morty realises that the aliens seem to only be able to implant happy memories of themselves. Summer frolicking with Tinkles, Jerry and Sleepy Gary canoodling on a relaxing boat trip, Cousin Nicky coming to the rescue in a trapped-in-the-lift situation… Basically, you can tell if your relationship with a person is real and meaningful if it is riddled with depressing or horrible bits. It’s a brilliant idea because life is complicated, and even those you love the most will occasionally drive you crazy. It’s difficult to think of anyone in my life I haven’t had at least one bad time with (whether that was down to them, me, or a situation we found ourselves in), and the following sequence of the Smith family tearfully yet gleefully mowing down alien imposters whilst reminiscing about the rubbish times they’ve had together was quite hilarious.
That being said, this season’s theme of being crushingly depressing in places continues unabated; at first I thought it was difficult and uncomfortable enough watching Summer’s memory of her mother drunkenly giving her an accidental black eye with a wine bottle (“It’s picture day!”), but then, we have Mr. Poopy Butthole… Mr. Poopy Butthole appears at the beginning of the episode, is inserted into the opening credits sequence, has that ridiculous name and looks entirely bizarre. You would think, by now, that I would know that Rick and Morty doesn’t do the obvious thing, so you would think, by now, I wouldn’t be fooled by their very obvious attempts to make it seem like Mr. Poopy Butthole was a parasite. I think I was more surprised than Beth when, after realising that she has no bad memories of Mr. Poop Butthole and shooting him with a laser at the dinner table, that he bled real blood. My heart almost broke as we watched the family panic, as Beth haphazardly pours a glass of red wine with tears in her eyes, as the credits start rolling… The post credits scene of Mr. Poopy Butthole’s recovery in hospital was just heart-rendingly tragic, as he tells Beth (through his physiotherapist) that he’s sorry she had no bad memories of him…
Series 2 is still going strong, balancing hilarity with grief, providing some deeper insight into the family and basically being the most inventive show around right now. If you’re not watching Rick and Morty (stop reading this review, it’s riddled with spoilers!) and go start, now. You won’t regret it!
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)