NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Rick and Morty” are present in this review
Rick and Morty is once again reinventing itself for Season Four’s fourth episode, this time practically ditching its sci-fi flavouring entirely, in favour of a fantasy backdrop. “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” starts off on an immediately bizarre note, with Rick sacrificing the life of a cat-person companion for a treasure he immediately throws away (this is never explained), and Morty pestering Rick for a pet dragon as a result, eventually leading to Rick crashing his spaceship. Even when Rick regains consciousness in the hospital however, Beth continues to pester him about the dragon, leading to Rick being forced to organize a soul-bond between Morty and his new, giant-sized pet.
This seems like a recipe for comedic gold, especially when we get a Jerry subplot as well, complete with a talking cat companion, voiced by Matthew Broderick. Despite this however, “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” feels like it doesn’t totally come together as well as hoped. This episode is clearly centering around the theme of expectation-vs.-reality, as well as the efforts to control a reality that we deem to be less than ideal, which has lots of comedic potential. This is all done amid a proudly bizarre backdrop of high fantasy, partying and sex as well, all of which leads to a surprisingly mundane conclusion, which is probably the joke. Despite clearly having a recognizable structure behind it though, this episode’s humour often feels a little too broad, with the Jerry subplot falling especially flat, and never really realizing its true potential.
This episode seems to be strongest in its opening stretch, where there’s a lot of clever jokes that effectively satirize the supposed enchantment behind a fantasy scenario. The dragon, Balthromaw also having a hoard of treasure even beyond riches, including an authentic Ghostbusters II Ecto-cooler drink from 1989, and Small Soldiers candy dispensers from 1998, easily makes for one of the best jokes in the episode. Overall though, even in the stronger core Rick/Morty storyline, which Summer also tags along for, the humour is pretty uneven, ranging from being legitimately funny, to just being plain weird.
Perhaps Rick and Morty bit off a little more than it could chew here, since the humour really seems to lose itself in the latter portion of the episode especially. Despite the fair enough story device of Rick hanging out with Balthromaw, only to accidentally soul-bond with him, providing an excuse to try and sever the previous soul-bond with Morty (in turn seemingly satirizing the fantasy of coveting relationships until we’re actually in one, especially in adultery), this obviously doesn’t go as planned. The resulting series of fantasy-style set pieces can be amusing too, but the big joke of a, “Slut dragon” soul-bond monster to defeat the villains of this episode is disappointingly weak, relying more on half-baked shock value than actual wit. Balthromaw is freed from Rick and Morty just the same though, with Summer lending a hand herself, but Summer’s presence in this episode is nonetheless pointless. Likewise, while the dragon being sent packing because Rick and Morty are bored with him is kind of funny, its ultimate payoff in this episode’s epilogue scene isn’t as funny as it deserved to be.
Speaking of not being as funny as it deserved to be, that’s a feeling that’s all too prevalent throughout this episode’s Jerry-focused subplot. After Rick denies any connection to a mysterious talking cat that suddenly shows up in Jerry’s room, which, again, is kind of funny on paper, Jerry decides to go on a party-filled adventure to Florida with the cat. When Jerry is framed for defecating on the beach by the cat however, the cat has to try and bond with people at a party by himself, which simply leads to him getting kicked off of the party boat. Rick eventually helps Jerry drive the cat away, after witnessing some sort of horrifying truth behind his ability to speak, but we never learn what that truth is, and Rick erases Jerry’s memory of the horrible sight to boot. There’s a clever idea behind the talking cat subplot also being something of a satire between always craving what we can’t have, and not wanting what we do have, but it just isn’t that funny in its execution. That’s a bummer, because Rick and Morty has managed to make some pretty gut-busting episodes from even highly dark and uncomfortable subject matter and themes.
This leaves, “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” feeling like something of a misfire for Rick and Morty, even if it’s still a decent enough episode to get some chuckles. The shift to a fantasy tone is bold, and there are plenty of good ideas in the storytelling, but the humour is too broad and scattershot to fully satisfy. Likewise, the subplot shared between Jerry and his new talking cat friend completely fails to launch, taking an interesting idea, and not ultimately doing much of anything with it. It’s still commendable to see how boldly Rick and Morty keeps trying to reinvent itself between episodes, but sadly, this episode feels like a bit of a failed experiment. That being said, I’m sure that the show will pick itself up again, hopefully managing to provide a better balance between humour and intelligence in next week’s midseason finale.
- Initially strong dragon humour
- Some clever satire of fantasy-vs.-reality
- Jerry subplot is amusing in concept
- Jerry subplot is wasted in execution
- Humour is too broad and uneven
- Slut dragon climax is more cheaply shocking than truly funny