I’ve not seen The Purge, mostly because it sounded distinctly like it was Not My Kind Of Film, but I get the basic idea; America decides that it can be lawful and chill basically all the time as long as there’s one night a year when everyone can go bananas and do whatever the eff they like. It’s a premise I don’t really understand (how does the promise of a single night of crime stop anyone with real criminal tendencies from acting on them at any other time? How do actual good citizens cope? How is the population not just whittled down to lunatics after the first couple of homicidal purge-rampages?) but it’s a fairly solid one in terms of providing insane stakes and gore. Lots and lots of gore.
Rick wastes no time in informing us as an audience that this episode will basically be The Purge with cat-people, which gets you nice and excited for seeing how the duo will fare during The Festival (as it is called on this particular planet). Whilst Morty is eager to leave in case something should drag them into the horror, Rick decides to hang around a little, safe in their ship above the madness, just to watch for a while. You know a planet has gone full-blown murder-crazy when even Rick can’t stomach watching them, but before they get chance to head off, Morty’s conscience forces the pair to try to save a young cat-lady from a bunch of weapon-wielding weirdos. You’d think by now that Morty would’ve learned not to mess with things like this (anyone remember his attempting at saving Fart?…) and you’d think Rick would stop allowing Morty to drag him into ill-advised rescue missions, but I guess Morty’s hormones and Rick’s soft spot for his grandson won out. Of course, Morty’s plan backfires when the girl, Arthrisha, shoots Rick in the liver (“It’s the hardest working liver in the galaxy, Morty, and now it has a hole in it!”) and steals their ship. This is probably one of the first times we’ve seen Rick in any real danger as he is typically shown to be nigh-on invincible and incredibly capable in a fight, so it’s a shame it wasn’t a bit more of a big deal; somehow he just whips up some science-potion and poof, the hole in his liver is gone! The ship-stealing however does a good job of getting the pair properly into trouble, as they try to fight off the local crazies with science, spoons and a packet of Tic-Tacs…
They find themselves at the lighthouse, intending to send a beacon to Earth, and this is where the story goes from good to great; the lighthouse keeper agrees to let the pair use his home for shelter and beacon-sending, as long as one of them listens to his tale. His tale, as it turns out, is a horrendously boring screenplay that’s enough to push Morty over the edge. When forced to give his honest opinion of the reading, he loses his rag entirely, and ends up pushing the lighthouse keeper down the stairs and to his death. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; you’d make a MINT if you were Morty’s shrink. He’s been through some awful, terrible stuff (abandoning his home dimension, burying his own corpse, and being sexually harassed by an anthropomorphic jelly bean to name but three) and all the while he’s tried to remain a good person. It’s interesting that it’s not the purge itself, or any self defensive reaction to it, that brings out Morty’s well-squashed-down rage, and I enjoyed this subversion of expectations. He doesn’t kill to save or protect anyone, he’s just a kid who’s been pushed to the brink. And it seems that once it’s on the surface, he’s basically helpless to stop it, rampaging about the place, shooting cat-people and screaming obscenities into the night. It’s disturbing, but somehow amusing and cathartic to watch Morty get a few things off his chest, but Rick handily knocks him out before he can do too much damage to his already precarious mental health.
It’s a pretty grim look at how these adventures have been affecting Morty’s mental state, however the imagery of an unconscious Morty strapped to the back of a mech-suited dancing Rick is pretty wonderful. It also sets us up for another, albeit small, glimpse into the softer side of Rick, as he attempts to protect his grandson via lying about a candy bar being the trigger to bringing out his rage. All the violence aside, this episode is really flipping funny still (Morty’s one-liner to the lighthouse keeper’s corpse was a particular side-splitter for me). Unfortunately, the B plot involving Jerry attempting to get closer to Summer only to ask her for money is barely worth mentioning. I don’t think this episode was as clever or funny about showing just how lonely and pathetic Jerry really is as previous episodes have, and this story didn’t really add anything to the Smith family dynamic. Luckily, it paid off wonderfully in the post-credit sequence in which we find out Jerry has been calling a friend hotline (Taddy Mason is a great name, by the by) for company. Fortunately, not much time is devoted to this part of the story, but it’s sad because I find myself feeling increasingly sorry for Jerry. Whilst he can be a bit of a putz, he genuinely cares for his family and only really has such a problem with Rick because of the danger he puts their family in (and the almost-constant abuse he has to put up with from him). You can’t really blame him for that, and yet he’s often presented as the family’s “toilet paper”…
Whilst the B plot let this episode down a little, overall it was another great installment in what has so far been a stunner of a series. I don’t think you can argue too much with a good lampooning of a franchise, couple with some knowingly gratuitous violence, some pretty stellar dance moves, a nicely poignant ending and some Tony! Toni! Tone! It just feels good…!
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)