NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Rick and Morty” are present in this review
Rick and Morty kicked off its 2020 run of episodes, and the latter half of its current season, with a very appealing new spin on its anthology episodes last week. That fresh creative invigoration managed to be somewhat maintained this week as well, though it’s also tough to deny that, “Never Ricking Morty” feels like a tough act to follow in terms of its off-the-wall presentation and bonkers resolution. Unfortunately, this week’s episode, “Promortyus” doesn’t quite reach that same degree of creative heights, though it does still stand as a pretty entertaining parody of the more uncomfortable subtext behind many well-known sci-fi franchises.
The main sci-fi franchise parodied by this episode is, naturally, Alien, referenced right in the title that winks at shaky Alien prequel movie, Prometheus. Alien has always been a grotesque and terrifying blend between dystopian sci-fi and visceral body horror, but even by those standards, there are a lot of themes under the surface, relating to motherhood, exploitation and empowerment of femininity, and the somewhat cynical nature through which many of us reproduce as a futile means of staving off death. This satire of the Alien franchise’s darker subtext is chiefly realized through a race of facehugger-like aliens called, “Glorzo”, which Morty and Summer are both separately in charge of at various points, while Rick becomes a host to a Glorzo that’s instead a purveyor of online conspiracy theories.
When it goes all in on the uncomfortable Alien subtext that viewers would rather not think about, “Promortyus” often manages to shine. Alien isn’t the only sci-fi franchise that gets thrown under Rick and Morty’s nihilistic microscope either, with Star Wars, Gundam Wing and Marvel’s Iron Man movies also being examples of sci-fi-tinged media that gets some standout roasts in this episode. One of the best scenes in, “Promortyus” in fact involves an initial escape by Rick and Morty (before realizing at a subsequent family dinner that they forgot Summer on the Glorzo planet), who re-enact Pearl Harbour after massacring a bunch of Glorzo, but find themselves unable to commit a re-enactment of 9/11 between two World Trade Center-like towers. It’s a genuinely hilarious examination of the political themes behind an otherwise simple, wholesome franchise like Star Wars, along with what modern sci-fi franchises do and don’t feel comfortable referencing in their own storylines that are inspired by real human history.
Despite some of these comedic highlights however, “Promortyus” does start to fall apart towards its climax, not ultimately being able to stick the landing of what’s otherwise a pretty amusing sci-fi subtext parody. Even Summer’s presence in this episode can feel a little mixed, possibly being an in-joke related to the simultaneous empowerment and objectification of women in sci-fi media, and how it’s been so largely polarized over the sci-fi genre’s past several decades. Still, Summer being crowned the Empress of the Glorzo, despite being very visibly in control of her human mind, isn’t really used to its full potential, especially when Summer is allowed to get away with being human among the Glorzo, while Rick and Morty obviously can’t.
The ultimate defeat of the Glorzo in this episode is also rather anti-climactic to boot, only doing so much to satirize the self-aware joke that Rick and Morty pretty much never revisit alien worlds that they’ve already been to, and often laid waste to. After Summer appears to demands an execution for Rick and Morty by simply ordering them onto their spaceship, and then trying to tag along to, “See that the sentence is carried out”, the jig is up within seconds (thanks to one whiny Glorzo, go figure), and Rick simply activates a huge harmonica-like sound wave to kill all of the Glorzo immediately. Was the apparent fact that the Glorzo are vulnerable to sound ever truly a thing though? Maybe this is supposed to be a parody of inexplicable Deus Ex Machina events that secure victory for sci-fi heroes, but in this case, it feels like Rick and Morty isn’t so much mocking something as it is merely being the thing it’s purporting to mock.
“Promortyus” will nonetheless get some solid laughs out of viewers, especially if they’re big sci-fi enthusiasts that will understand a lot of the more subtle jokes. Overall though, the sci-fi parody sustaining this episode couldn’t quite stretch out to a fully satisfying conclusion, especially when Summer, one of the best characters on this show, once again feels frustratingly under-utilized on her latest adventure with her brother and grandfather. Some may appreciate Rick and Morty once again going a little more back to basics this week, after the show’s 2020 run was kicked off by another anthology episode last week, but when the previous anthology episode was so great, it becomes easier to notice the shortcomings of this week’s offering. Still, even with some disappointments here and there, Rick and Morty still managed to hit more than miss this week, even if the titular duo have certainly had more creatively fulfilling jaunts to alien worlds that they ultimately left worse off than when they found them.
- Especially amusing Alien parody with the Glorzo
- Rick's and Morty's multiple destructive escapes
- Funny implication of Rick and Morty finally revisiting a world they destroyed
- The sci-fi satire loses steam towards the end
- Dichotomy between Summer, Rick and Morty is too under-utilized