Warning: This Rick and Morty season 6 episode 5 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?
It turns out there’s more to fortune cookies than meets the eye in an entertaining but throwaway story that has lots of fun exploring the concept of luck. 'Final DeSmithation' is also the latest Rick and Morty episode to explore the possibility of Smith family incest as a plotline (see also 'Rickdependence Spray’s Giant Incest Baby'), though if you’re still with the show halfway through season six, chances are you don’t see that as a problem. (We’re still not sure if Beth falling in love with her clone in 'Bethic Twinstinct' comes under the same bracket, but it was definitely weird.)
A dinner at Panda Express takes the customary turn for the weird when the family tuck into their customary cookies. While Beth and Morty receive bland platitudes ("family time is time well spent"), Jerry’s message makes everyone in a restaurant go silent: "You will have sex with your mother." Eww!
While most people would dismiss the fortune as a harmless joke, Jerry takes it to heart, purposefully throwing up the cookie, taping up his groin, and refusing to answer calls from his mom to ensure it doesn’t come to pass. His paranoia isn’t helped by the fact Summer and Morty see his insecurities as an opportunity to play a succession of pranks, pasting their gran’s face onto erotic photos, or trapping their dad in a closet with a freaky mom doll. Jerry even gets to the point of dressing in Morty’s clothes, because Morty’s mom being his wife would stop the fortune being problematic. In any other show that logic would seem weird…
Jerry finds unlikely support from a man who regards him as "the single dumbest human I’ve ever met", mainly because – using a device that looks suspiciously like a Ghostbusters PKE meter – Rick has noticed that there’s something up with his son-in-law’s probability field. Not only is it an excuse for Rick and Jerry to spend some rare quality time together – and for Jerry to appear with his genitals blurred out on numerous occasions – it’s also the start of a journey into a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of American society.
After an experiment involving boxes and holes that requires Jerry to go to places no human should ever go, Rick deduces that the best place to start is the Panda Express that dished out the offending fortune. In one of the strangest pieces of product placement we’ve ever seen (presumably Panda Express signed off on it?), Rick goes full Inspector Gadget in an epic fight sequence beautifully choreographed to the theme of '70s/'80s sitcom Taxi – the only track on Rick’s playlist thanks to an earlier practical joke from Summer and Morty.
It turns out that the bust is a bust, however, and that the Panda Express staff only brought out the big guns because they thought Rick was a DEA agent trying to shut down their city-wide meth ring. It’s a shame about the sliced and diced bodies on the kitchen floor but, as one of the gang calmly points out, “it comes with the territory”.
Rick and Jerry’s one lead is a Fortune 500 delivery truck that takes them back to the sprawling, secret underground factory that’s cornered the fortune cookie market. Jerry’s in no mood for Rick’s jokes about the Cookie Monster, but he does go along with the reusable Sailor Moon-style transformation sequence that gives him a handy disguise, while also saving the show money.
It turns out the company is cornering the market on fate, and that if you invest enough money in the business you can literally control your own destiny. Rick also works out that Jerry’s (for now) unresolved fortune effectively makes him immortal – there’s no way he’d use his son-in-law as a human shield otherwise, right? Right?
Then it’s time for the big sci-fi idea, one of those semi-regular examples of Rick and Morty technobabble that require several rewatches before you truly get your head around them. At the heart of Fortune 500 is a creature that usually eats chaos, but has developed a digestive disorder that’s causing it to strip randomness from space-time. As a result, it leaves behind super dense pockets of energy that “bend entropy towards definable outcomes”. According to Rick, it’s how fate works – kind of like gravity but “instead of pulling small towards big, it pulls unknown towards known”. Of course, understanding all that isn’t quite as important as the realization that everybody who’s ever eaten a fortune cookie was actually eating alien poop.
It also sets the backdrop for a wonderfully inventive battle royale, in which Go-Go Gadget Rick takes on a legion of Fortune 500 goons, and makes the Panda Express scrap look like a playground tiff. Meanwhile, Jerry does everything he can to avoid the inevitable with his very confused mom, who’s been brought in by the company’s power-hungry CEO to take Jerry’s dangerously unresolved fortune out of the equation.
There are definite echoes of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s infinite improbability drive and Red Dwarf’s luck virus in the way the episode treats chance as a tangible commodity. Soldiers are armed with fortunes that give them the ability to control fire and water, or stick to walls, but in classic Rick and Morty style, they’re turned into weaknesses rather than strengths – as the guy who cannot die finds out to his cost when he’s left in massive pain by a chestful of bullets.
Rick wins out by making the CEO the most successful woman in the world, therefore resolving her own unresolved fortune and making her mortal. She still has time to go full Akira as a weird blobby monster, but she’s no match for the chaos-eating creature.
Rick also does the decent thing and saves Jerry from an extremely close encounter with his mom, when they’re both nearly sucked into a vortex. We’re assuming Rick’s hastily created “Jerry no sex mom” fortune neutralizes the original prediction, but there’s a chance that Jerry’s going to have some pent-up immortality to carry him through the rest of the season – which would be quite the kicker for Rick, who loses the invulnerability granted by his own unresolved “you’ll make a new friend” fortune when Jerry gets too nice, and invokes his father-in-law’s wrath.
So while Jerry may have been successful in avoiding the unspeakable with his mom, Rick and Morty will always find a way to make sure he doesn’t end up on top.
A little Mort information…
- The 'Final DeSmithation' title is a reference to the long-running, fate-driven horror series Final Destination.
- For the benefit of anyone born after the mid-’80s, Taxi was a sitcom about a group of New York cab drivers that ran from 1978-1983. It’s famous for kickstarting the careers of Andy Kaufman, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd.
- When Jerry tells Beth that Sleepy Gary ruined his gag reflex, he’s referencing a fictional lover created by an alien parasite in brilliant season 2 episode ‘Total Rickall’.
- Over Beth’s shoulder we get a brief sighting of a picture of Snuffles, the family dog granted intelligence by one of Rick’s inventions in season one episode 'Lawnmower Dog'. Snuffles subsequently left Earth to find more super-intelligent pooches.
- Rick calls on the Eye of Thundera to help him change into a smart suit. The Eye of Thundera sits in the hilt of Lion-O’s Sword of Omens in ThunderCats.
- Jerry’s effects-heavy costume change is based on Japanese manga/anime Sailor Moon, the story of a schoolgirl who transforms into the eponymous hero via a characteristic, budget-saving animated sequence.
- As well as being the company that controls fate in Rick and Morty, the Fortune 500 is also Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 biggest companies in the US.
- Jerry’s mom previously appeared in season one episode 'Anatomy Park'.
- Rick mentions that Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, prime ministers, and Billy Zane are all present at the Fortune 500 CEO’s presentation. Billy Zane clearly operates in high-power circles – he was also present at Derek and Hansel’s walk-off in Zoolander.
- The fate-pooping creature looks like a giant tardigrade. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery also featured a giant tardigrade, powering the ship’s prototype spore drive.
- When the creature’s keeper – the one who wants to marry the beast – mentions Margaret Howe and a dolphin, he’s referencing a scientist who took part in a controversial Nasa-sponsored experiment in the 1960s.
- When the family visit the zoo in the post-credits sequence, Morty is disappointed to discover that the humans are the zoo exhibits. As his reaction suggests, this is a rather overused trope in sci-fi, most notably used in The Twilight Zone episode 'People are Alike all Over'.
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.