Warning: This Rick and Morty season 6 episode 9 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’s nearly 10 years since Planet Express made its (to date) last delivery in Futurama. The long-running Matt Groening cartoon is making its third (at least we think it’s the third – it’s hard to keep track) comeback next year, but in the meantime, Rick and Morty has delivered a Futurama throwback of its own. Unfortunately, ‘A Rick in King Mortur’s Mort’ has more in common with Futurama’s later years than its magnificent original four-season run.
One thing Rick and Morty and Futurama have in common is that they’ve always worked best when taking big sci-fi ideas and twisting them out in weird and silly directions. This episode is based on such a mundane and ultimately unworthy premise, however, that – as with ‘Full Metal Jackrick’ – it feels like a pre-credits joke thinly stretched over 20-plus minutes.
The story starts at a pop-up eatery so cool that spending ages standing in line is an essential part of the experience. Despite Rick’s skepticism, Morty’s so keen to embrace the hipster vibe that, when a passer-by drops one of his (presumably overpriced) sandwiches, Morty refuses to accept the snack as a reward.
Morty’s chivalry opens up a can even more wormy than the living hotdogs Rick’s just grabbed from an illegal vendor – "three crispy, four wriggling" – as the two guys dressed like extras from Monty Python and the Holy Grail turn out to be actual knights. These Knights of the Sun (not to be confused with Nights of the Sun or Knights of the Son) are sworn defenders of Helios, the star at the center of our Solar System – and they want Morty to accept the ceremonial sword that will induct him into their ranks. What could possibly go wrong?
Rick Sanchez’s worldview tends to lean towards the misanthropic, but this is one occasion when listening to his “don’t take the sword” advice would have been a good idea. Morty is soon dubbed Sir Mortaniel (three syllables works better in songs, apparently) and transported to the surface of the Sun, which turns out to be the unlikely home of a Camelot-like civilization – as Rick helpfully points out, "science is clearly not a priority here". Morty also learns that the king of Helios wields the Solar Sceptre, "around which all worlds revolve", and that the life of a god is there for the taking.
There’s a pretty big catch, however, because Morty will only be granted knightly immortality if he cuts off his own penis and throws it into the Sun. Unsurprisingly Morty is resolutely anti-"stem stumping", so grudgingly accepts Rick’s offer of a rescue – though the king throws a spanner into the works when he challenges Morty to one-on-one combat. Rick’s never short of the right gadget for the occasion, of course, and he hands Morty an AI sword that’s learned its fight moves from watching Blade. Even superpowered royalty has no answer to the sword skills of Wesley Snipes.
With Morty now monarch of the Sun, the episode takes its most unlikely twist. Rather than getting all "I told you so" about the incident, Rick admits, "I’m a drunk, I’m a psychopath, I’m a murderer, but when you called me boring… I needed to hear it." When he vows to be at least 22% more agreeable to Morty for “like maybe one episode, or one adventure. We’ll see how it goes,” you can almost feel the love…
Morty still has a “suntourage” of knights hanging off his every word, but he fixes that particular problem by obliterating their entire belief system with physics, explaining that the planets are kept in orbit by the Sun’s gravity, not the Solar Sceptre.
As the despairing knights turn to heroin – their triple-bonded carbon veins make them immune to ODing – Rick and Morty learn that without the influence of the Sun, the various treaties and alliances maintaining political stability across the Solar System are under threat. As the writers’ room shows off their impressive knowledge of hereditary titles, the Sons of the Moon, Viscounts of Venus, the Marquis of Mars, and the Earl of the Earth (who looks a lot like Santa) question Morty’s authority, igniting an all-out war for possession of the Solar Sceptre.
The subsequent montage of death is played for laughs but feels way too obvious. Shifting the tropes of Earth culture to other worlds was Futurama’s stock in trade – though, it must be said, it was generally done with more invention – while the classic Buck Rogers serials were populating the Solar System with arch antagonists well over 80 years ago. That the rulers of the various planets should share traits with the Roman gods who provided their names (Mars likes war, for example) also feels like something of a cliché – even if the way they augment medieval warfare and magic with rapidly evolving sci-fi tech is a fun touch.
There’s also something disappointingly predictable about Morty bringing the Knights of the Son back into the fray by, yes, agreeing to cut off his penis. At least the episode has the sense to make good use of its (temporarily) reformed Rick, when the more agreeable version of the character selflessly rescues his grandson from the “shears of stumping”.
“Here’s something that’s easy to understand, buddy,” Rick says as the duo face seemingly certain death. “I’m proud of you for trying to solve your own s**t.” Admitting they love one another, Rick and Morty get their very own Thelma and Louise moment as they dive into the Sun. As an added bonus, the apparent sacrifice of “Morty the Molten” inadvertently helps the knights realize that penis removal is a really bad idea.
Rick and Morty fans will know that Rick Sanchez being nice isn’t really Rick Sanchez at all, so – while it’s good to know there’s still more to learn about the smartest man in the universe – we’re assuming he’ll have ditched the additional 22% of agreeableness by this time next week. Hopefully next week’s installment will also rediscover the missing 22% (approx) of enjoyability that made this episode a comparative dud.
A little Mort information…
- The episode’s title is a pun on 1995 Disney live-action movie A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, which gave early roles to both Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet. The film was loosely based on Mark Twain’s rather more famous 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
- Following on from Susan Sarandon’s return last week, Rick and Morty goes even more A-list with guest star gigs for Daniel Radcliffe and Jack Black.
- ‘A Rick in King Mortur’s Mort’ also reunites the stars of brilliant British sitcom Peep Show, with roles for David Mitchell (who played Mark), Robert Webb (Jez) and Matt King (Super Hans). Presumably Olivia Colman had other things to do.
- When Rick mentions his AI sword’s “Deacon Frost” moves, he’s referring to the lead villain in Blade, played by Stephen Dorff.
- “Ye Olde Neutral Zone” on the Moon is a quasi-medieval version of the Neutral Zone famous for separating the Federation from the Romulans and Klingons in Star Trek.
- The song playing over the extremely bloody montage of war – probably best to keep the kids away from the image of a crucified Santa – is “Goodbye Blue Sky” by Pink Floyd. The track featured on classic 1979 album The Wall.
New episodes of Rick and Morty debut on Sunday nights on Adult Swim in the US, and on Tuesdays on E4 and All 4 in the UK. Here’s the full Rick and Morty season 6 release schedule for more information.