Escalating chaos is that this show’s sweet spot, so it’s no surprise that an episode featuring a reality-warping clone war is a moment classic. “The multiverse” may be a concept linked with “Rick and Morty” more closely than maybe the other show on TV. When trouble’s brewing, a leap to an alternate reality is nearly certainly round the corner. So it’s equal parts surprising and exciting when the show manages to craft itself an episode-spanning problem that’s self-contained. during this week’s “Multiplicity,” all that havoc is weirdly both confined to one idea and sprawling so wide that Rick has got to take a fast breather to draw up a diagram and explain. All of it adds up to an exquisite execution of a deceptively simple idea. It’s the simplest the show has been for a while.
“Multiplicity” starts with (what seems like) a typical Smith dining room volley of ambitious plans, family insults, and unexpected visitors. As does happen sometimes, the intruders wipe out the breakfasting quintet before they will even get out of the space. This attack triggers a wave of nested showdowns between Decoy Families (those that Rick has placed in strategic locations) and therefore the families who assume that they’re those at the highest of the chain, liable for eliminating all the fake versions of them below. As these encounters start to complicate themselves, with Decoys making their own Decoys, that chain starts to diversify within the wildest of the way, with links of each size and shape traveling in every direction. soon, fake Smiths start mutating to the purpose where all of them realize they’re the very thing they’re trying to hunt.
Like last week’s season premiere, “Multiplicity” is proof that the show is at its most enjoyable when it’s paced well. This doesn’t necessarily mean “tear through enough plot and branching timelines during a way which will have Reddit timeline constructors going berserk for weeks,” but here that’s more of a natural byproduct than a driving goal. For the maximum amount of chaos as there’s during this Mandelbrot set of fractal clone warfare, it’s all outlined in a way that’s surprisingly clear to follow despite the general story going into overdrive. When sets of families are firing lasers at one another across the Smith house (or a version of 1, anyway), it’s easy to spot one because of the front room set and therefore the other because of the Kitchen set. they’ll have nearly identical personalities, but episode writer Albro Lundy sets up an attacker/defender dynamic in each of those smaller battles that provide purpose to every new wrinkle.
“Multiplicity” is extremely careful to only play the “Wait, which one’s which?” card in calculated situations. That the solution is “It doesn’t matter because they’re all close to getting neutralized by an interdimensional molecule zapper” certainly helps. (It wouldn’t be a top-tier “Rick and Morty” without a heaping helping of nihilism.) Even in those repetitions, there’s a continuing escalation happening that provides this episode the right quite forward momentum. There’s also admirable restraint in “Multiplicity” by not going after the low-hanging pop-culture clone story fruit. There’s no overextended Michael Keaton riff when the concept of degenerating “copy of copies” decoys comes up. In line with the remainder of the episodes, the fast “Westworld”/“Ex Machina” twofer becomes how to differentiate between families while also calling out Rick’s referential tendencies.
If anything, Rick pausing to elucidate his own “Highlander” joke is that the closest the episode involves getting sidetracked, but it’s also being delivered ahead of a whiteboard illustration that anyone can prefer to unpack instead. It’s no coincidence that one of the show’s best episodes in years keeps the whole family together. Maybe it’s weird to mention that each Smith loved one gets an opportunity to shine, as long as one among Summer’s spotlight moments is her slowly plunging a dagger into the chest of somebody who looks a bit like her. Still, seeing Marionette Beth responsible for the underground resistance and Marionette Jerry becoming a tract for a colony of beavers therein truly deranged extended tag are ideal ways to offer the standard Rick/Morty dynamic a needed break.
Having four-plus seasons of this show under its belt is additionally a built-in advantage. The Smith family are not any strangers to being confronted with themselves, so “Mortiplicity” actually finishes up taking advantage of everyone just going with the premise that folks who appear as if they are bent on their destruction (and that the target is mutual). With the time that saves, the episode can make space for small treats just like the bucket list conversation (on behalf of everyone else who shares your wish, Jerry, we see you and you’re loved) and therefore the montage of Decoys all discovering their non-human parts. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but how has it taken this long for a Rick to work on his own brain?)
The skill demonstrated here isn’t just within the written setups and payoffs, but in Lucas Gray’s direction, too. The execution of the enormous Blue Geodesic Hologram Rick (assuming that’s what the name of the inevitable Funko Pop goes to be) is the maximum amount of a delight because the Leatherface Rick’s skin lair is horrifying. (Seriously, between this one “Hannibal” episode, we’re good on “demented torturers slowly separating people from their own flesh” plotlines for an additional decade approximately .) The one-two punch of the Sesame Street Smiths’ existence and therefore the reveal that they’re giant mascot suits as a part of a ploy to be too cute to be annihilated is about the purpose when “Mortiplicity” proves that it’s close to sustaining its high-concept balancing act for the whole runtime.
There’s even a Keith David cameo! That’s like having a small, perfectly portioned dessert after a hearty meal. Not only that, but no other detail goes unwasted. you’ll make the argument that Mr. Always Want to Be Hunted maybe a Mr. Poopybutthole decoy of his own — if you’re gonna steal, steal from the simplest — but how was the show getting to introduce a personality like that and not pay off the name? The pairing of him and therefore the episode’s first joke (“We’re gonna kill God”) is that the most thrilling quiet opening to a story: one that tells you everything that’s close to unfolding before you even know it.