This review contains spoilers.
The arrival of Rick and Morty’s fourth season comes at a very interesting time in the show’s history. It’s no longer an under-the-radar cult hit—the dark comedy and cartoon is now capable of getting McDonald’s to bring back a 20-year-old promotional sauce; last year, Adult Swim gave the show a 70-episode renewal. Yet, even as season 3 showcased some of Rick and Morty’s best episodes yet, it often got more attention for the seedy underbelly of its fandom that’s full of entitlement, the belief that you have to be of a certain intelligence level to appreciate the show, and meeting more inclusion with harassment.
Safe to say, there’s a lot of baggage attached to Rick and Morty nowadays. And for the most part, Rick and Morty tackles that head-on in “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat” with the kind of vibrant, jam-packed meta-nonsense that we’ve come to know and love during a premiere that includes a little bit of the old and plenty of the new.
An uncertain future looms over both Rick and Morty, even as their main adventure—which Rick now has to get verbal permission on from Morty—involves harvesting a number of Death Crystals that can show you all the ways in which you might die in the future. It’s handy in the heat of the moment, but not exactly practical for long-term use.
Of course, that won’t stop Morty from shaping his present so that it leads to the exact future in which he grows old and dies with Jessica (the classmate he’s cyber-stalking on Instagram) by his side telling him that she loves him. Like much of Rick and Morty’s run to date, it leads to a mess of Morty’s own creation rather than Rick’s, who spends much of the episode hovering around Morty as a sort of “woke” hologram form bugging Morty to clone him up until he obtains corporeal form again.
Morty might always be drawn to Rick’s adventures, but he’d still rather die of old age instead of the many potential future deaths that await him. He has no problem doing whatever it takes, whether it’s accidentally causing Rick’s death, refusing to tissue samples of Rick’s corpse into a clone compiler, killing whoever gets in his path, or saying the one thing that convinces a judge to let him walk free. He’s even willing to merge into a creature that looks like it came straight out of Akira if it means he gets to die in Jessica’s arms.
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But that instinct to stick with what’s familiar isn’t isolated to Morty from C-137. When Morty fails to clone Rick, a failsafe kicks off so that a clone of Rick is created in his garage—only he ends up in a fascist dystopian dimension where Morty kills his Rick for being “too political” and just wants to “have fun, classic Rick and Morty adventures like in the old days.” He’s open to Rick bringing out a Mr. Meeseeks, at least until Rick orders it to kill Fascist Morty, resulting in killing everyone in their spaceship once the glass breaks.
The next dimension is decidedly not human but equally as fascist and dystopian, and by the time he arrives in a dimension where people are wasps, the Rick we know flat-out admits that he’ll say just about anything to ensure he gets home. While not a fascist dimension, Wasp Rick notes that “Wasp Morty’s been on some crazy message boards,” so Rick should nix the Hitler talk.
Morty (and some of Rick and Morty’s fans) are averse to change. He’ll cling to what’s familiar, reminisce wistfully on the good old days. But just revisiting the staples over and over again can lead to a dull existence; even when a single future seems clear, there is always more to it. And it’s not like Mr. Meeseeks is the only familiar creature we’ll revisit this season if the season 4 trailer is any indication.
“Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat” is something of a soft reset for Rick and Morty, taking on the baggage—both in and out of the show—that it left behind. But by the end, we’re left with the staple of what always made Rick and Morty so exciting: Rick and Morty, about to head off on another adventure.