Warning: This Rick and Morty season 6 episode 1 review is packed with spoilers. If you haven’t seen the episode, stop reading now – you don’t want to make Mr Poopybutthole sad, do you?
"I guess this is how it ends…" says Rick at the start of ‘Solaricks’. "I thought I was better than this. Dramatic voiceover while stranded in space? I guess when you’re dying the first thing to go is your creativity…"
The smartest man in the universe may be cursing himself for succumbing to cliché – with apologies to Avengers: Endgame – but a quick state-of-the-union address is a good way to begin an episode that picks up (more-or-less) where season 5 finale ‘Rickmurai Jack’ left off. Okay, it’s not a full-on "Previously on Rick and Morty…" recap – let’s face it, that would double the episode’s runtime – but it’s helpful to know that the Citadel of Ricks is still destroyed, the remaining spare Morties have gone feral, and the titular scientist and grandson team are trapped on a spaceship where the power has run out.
They’re not in peril for long, however, and when Space Beth arrives on a conveniently contrived rescue mission, it feels like the episode might be hitting a great big button labelled “reset”. Luckily that’s not the case here, as the gang’s return to Earth kickstarts a fun and inventive deep dive into Rick and Morty relentlessly expanding mythology.
As with The X-Files, the jury’s very much out on whether Rick and Morty’s better when it embraces canon or standalone stories – I’m firmly in the latter camp – but leaving us hanging after the universe-shattering revelations of ‘Rickmurai Jack’ would have felt like a dereliction of duty. This is an episode unashamedly engineered to keep devoted Rick and Morty fans happy, but it also remembers that high-concept sci-fi references, unashamed silliness, and occasional, unexpected moments of heart are integral to the show, too.
Back home, Rick’s efforts to restore normality by rebooting the portal index Evil Morty destroyed immediately fall flat when he accidentally resets portal travelers instead. That means Rick, Morty and Jerry are all pulled back to their original universes, but only after a hilariously drawn-out process of vanishing. “There was so much time to explain!” a typically confused Jerry complains in hindsight.
While Jerry’s home universe looks strangely normal, Morty finds himself on the dystopian Earth he departed when it was taken over by monstrous Cronenbergs. Here he meets a post-apocalyptic Jerry who survives by reading his way through Barnes & Noble and eating Cronenberg brains. Unfortunately for Morty, however, the icy deaths of this Jerry’s Beth and Summer mean he wants little to do with the son who left him behind.
Rick, meanwhile, finds himself back where the bad Rick he chased for decades – the one with the non-descript haircut and cool sci-fi jacket, widely referred to as "Weird Rick" – killed his original wife and daughter. Spurred on by the Ghost Diane he created to torture himself – "You’ll find him. You always do everything you set your mind to, except keep your family alive" – Rick manages to get an early version of his space cruiser up and running. Then it’s time to plot a course to rescue Morty and, if/when they get around to it, Jerry.
The true hero of the episode, however, is Summer, whose evolution from the annoying older sister of the early days to bona fide foil for Rick continues apace. She’s the one who rigs up the beacon that guides Rick and Morty home, and – now armed with Wolverine claws – takes a lead in fighting off the multi-dimensional monsters who stand in their way. She also does an excellent job of keeping both her squabbling moms in order, making it clear why she’s the only person Rick really trusts and respects. His admission to Ghost Diane that Summer reminds him of her is a really sweet touch.
While ‘Solaricks’ isn’t quite up there with Rick and Morty all-time greats like ‘Pickle Rick’ and ‘Total Rickall’, it displays a similar appetite for throwing ingenious concepts at the screen as one-off gags. Indeed, Mr Frundles – the inexcusably cute monster who absorbs the entire world in seconds – is the sort of idea that could have fueled entire episodes (or even seasons) of lesser shows. In ‘Solaricks’, however, he’s discarded with almost indecent haste, as the family head off to make their home in yet another dimension, on an Earth that has a problem pronouncing “parmesan”.
As for Rick and Morty’s overall story arc, the revelations here are arguably just as big as ‘Rickmurai Jack's' bombshell about Rick’s fruitless mission to hunt down the killer of his wife and child. Now we know that the absent grandfather from Morty’s original home was actually Weird Rick, Rick C-137 moving in with the Smiths will be viewed in a very different light. Did he truly want to spend time with Beth, or was his primary motivation getting a shot at his nemesis (the one who isn’t Mr Nimbus) if he ever came home?
From what we’ve seen of Weird Rick, however, his ruthlessness (and total lack of self-consciousness when it comes to nudity) suggest he’ll remain quite the adversary – a fact the Jerry from the Cronenberg universe learns to his cost when he tries to join forces with this toxic brand of Rick. "Why are you here?" Jerry asks as he lies dying on the floor after taking a laser blast to the stomach.
"Buddy, I have been asking myself that exact same question," Weird Rick replies, and we look forward to finding out the answers – though we wouldn’t mind a few Rick and Morty standalones in the interim.
A little Mort information…
- The ‘Solaricks’ title is a pun on Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic 1972 sci-fi movie Solaris. George Clooney starred in the 2002 remake directed by Steven Soderbergh.
- Rick’s apology for not having "a helmet like that Avengers guy did" is a nod to Tony Stark recording a message for Pepper Potts at the start of Avengers: Endgame.
- The mention of the "jerryboree" is a "deep cut" (the show admits it) reference to a daycare facility for Jerries that debuted in season 2 episode ‘Mortynight Run’. This explains why ‘our’ Jerry is in the wrong universe.
- The Cronenbergs took over Morty’s reality in season 1 episode ‘Rick Potion #9’, prompting Rick and Morty to relocate to a new dimension.
- The Downbeat board game under Morty’s bed clearly exists in multiple universes, as it previously appeared in season 4 episode ‘Rattlestar Ricklactica’.
- Weird Rick compares his naked (maybe clone) self to Keyser Söze, the criminal mastermind of The Usual Suspects.
- Rick describes the familial bickerfest of Jerry’s home universe as having "some real season 2 vibes". Back in season 2, Jerry and Beth separated before reconciling in season 3.
New episodes of Rick and Morty debut on Sunday nights/Monday mornings, respectively, on Adult Swim in the US and E4 in the UK. Here's the full Rick and Morty season 6 release schedule for more information.