Warning: this article contains spoilers.
After watching Rick and Morty S4E1, I wasn’t really sure what was happening. How was this any different from previous seasons. Surprise: everything still looks subtly phallic or testicular (we all missed the classic ballsack-for-nose look and, of course, penis fingers). And super shocking: in the past two years 2D animation has improved. Yay! But why should anyone want to watch Season 4? After all, haven’t we seen all of tremendously the blown-out-of-proportion scenarios and alternate realities we need to see in a lifetime?
I didn’t understand this after watching S4E1, but after episode 2, I understood (my partner, that ‘lil turdmuffin, knew this all along). Season 4 is, and will continue to be, entirely different from all the other seasons. Up until season 4, Rick was the center of attention. Rick was the man that, in some weird, drunken way, kept the family together.
Now, in Season 4, the family is more of a unit. They don’t need Rick’s antics to keep them entertained with one another. In fact, it seems as if they don’t really need Rick at all. The family won’t let Rick get away with being Rick anymore.
In episode 1, Rick dies shortly after Morty finds a crystal that will show him how he dies given the path he is currently following. If he holds the crystal just right, he can see Jessica (his high school crush) standing lovingly by his deathbed. However, if Morty decides to revive Rick, the image of he and Jessica disappears from the crystal. From then on, Rick chooses to live a life so he can certainly die by the side of Jessica, even if that means he won’t ever revive his grandfather. Clearly, Rick has been overthrown as the focal point of the family. He’s lost Morty’s love and admiration, and he’s lost all the power he previously held. I can only expect this season to be filled with tons of tense and somber moments where Rick feels himself being displaced.
While episode 1 was definitely subtle about this power struggle, episode 2 said out loud on tons of surround-sound loudspeakers mobbing around a toilet throne, “Rick, you’re the King of S***!!!!”
Episode two is centered around Rick’s luxurious toilet time and an app that makes people “fall in love.” When Rick finds that someone has been using his toilet, he bends over backwards to find the perpetrator and set him straight. However, upon being found and threatened by Rick, the crapping criminal suggests that Rick really wants a friend. Rick brushes this off, but when he learns of the recent death of his new frenemy, Rick grieves atop the toilet throne intended to harass his frenemy, knowing that he may have lost his only chance to have somewhat of a friend.
This is probably the first time the audience has seen Rick like this (except for maybe when Unity left him). He’s messed up. He’s lonely, maybe even apologetic. He’s been stripped of his pure badassery. And he knows it.
Back with the family, Jerry develops a dating app with an alien who comes from a colony that leverages the limitless desire for love to distract other planets as the colony steals their water. And, at least for a bit, it works. People are blinded by all the new soulmates they have, and the world turns to chaos. The world hated being alone so much that if an app told them there was a way to have a companion, they would believe it.
Just like Morty in episode 1, the world hates the thought of living (and dying alone) and will do anything to avoid it. Rick will likely spend the rest of the season regaining his previous status and the approval (and affection) of his family. For the rest of the aliens, bird people, and humans of the other realities, they too will spend Season 4 discovering new bonds and relationships. As for us, Season 4 is a reminder that love is weird, and while we all don’t want to be alone, our planet’s water is more important.