A large part of Rick and Morty’s charm is that it’s a treasure chest of obscure references, with (often) a tightly written script, served with a truckload of dark humour underpinned by a bittersweet core.
Needless to say, it takes quite a bit to keep on serving new episodes with similar quality, so I don’t have many expectations. I’m glad to say that those low expectations have been met, as Rick and Morty stick to landing with a safe but entertaining opener.
The first episode of Season 5 (available on HBO Go) takes us on another typical roller-coaster ride that doesn’t give much away in terms of what lies ahead. If anything, the trailers possibly revealed more. What we do know so far is that Jerry and Beth’s relationship is on the mend, and both sides are willing to go the distance to make each other happy.
It’s not the only thing that’s throwing us for a loop. Morty’s perennial crush, Jessica, reveals her interest in Morty at about the same time Rick’s lifelong Nemesis, a campy Namor/Sub-Mariner archetype by the name of Mr Nimbus, makes his first appearance. And what an entrance, by George. Nimbus and ‘Richard’ go way back; not only does Mr Nimbus is even familiar with Rick’s formal name, he seems to know Rick’s wife, Diane, personally. Voiced by Dan Harmon, Mr Nimbus will probably return, seeing that he will be a crowd favourite.
Jessica’s stunning revelation is what kicks off the events of Episode 1, and what transpires after continues to be the catalyst that keeps the episode going. The pseudo-time travel arc is a twist on a classic time travel trope, but at the same time, it’s also more of the same whatever-they-do-royally-screws-up-a-whole-generation-and-many-more cliche that neither Rick nor Morty could care less about. The gag is wearing a bit thin, but the frantic pace of the episode just about has enough gas and comic relief to get to home base unscathed. One positive: The vastly different paces of the two worlds perfectly play off each other, and this unlikely premise possibly sets up – or rather, teases – Jessica’s role for the season ahead. Is it a spoiler if I christen this the deus ex machina episode? Even Rick himself calls it out.
With Summer becoming a more regular minion at Rick’s beckoning, this is the closest the family has been in years, which possibly explains why the Smith family was featured heavily in the trailers. But some things remain the same, with the series flipping the bird at the classic hero’s journey – Rick accepting that he has to keep resolving these cliched storylines with his plot armour, and Morty, pretty much being Morty.