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RICK AND MORTY’s “Mind Blower” Throwaway Episode Gets Deep

At first glance, “Morty’s Mind Blowers” promised to be a silly stand-in for the first two seasons’ “Interdimensional Cable” episodes, swapping out wacky TV show bits for likewise wacky mortifying memories. But like hiding vegetables in a chocolate soufflé, this week’s Rick and Morty used the joke-filled format to further complicate the character who’s been evolving all season: the increasingly confident Morty.

In truth, it’s not really surprising. The first “Interdimensional Cable” drove Jerry and Beth into existential crises over the lives they could have had while everyone else met Ants in My Eyes Johnson and Gazorpazorpfield. In the second, the crew watched hamsters living in butts while Jerry wrestled with whether he could give his penis to a galactic-scale Nobel Peace Prize winner. There is no rest, even during the breather episodes.

The driving conceit of “Morty’s Mind Blowers” is also far more substantial than what people in other realities are wasting their lives watching; we’re diving not only into troubling memories, but memories that Morty had taken from him, sometimes forcibly, by Rick. In these visions of the past, Morty caused an ostensibly innocent man to kill himself, abetted Rick in stranding two astronauts in space jail, and talked a warrior into doubting an apostasy that doomed him to an agonizing hell. He also learned his mom would save Summer over him and watched his whole family get bored while saying they loved him so a demon stellar worm would exit his body. And the squirrels! The squirrels!

All in all, a pretty grim trip played for harmless laughs aimed at the poor sap having a mental breakdown. Yes, it’s an episode built on scrap ideas that didn’t quite have enough legs to become full, stand-alone stories, but it’s also a window into how profoundly and regularly Morty experiences debilitating trauma. And the solution is no solution at all. Wiping his mind steals his life from him, and it’s clearly temporary anyway, since Summer’s nonchalance confirms “Morty’s Mind Blowers” is a gag they’ve done a few times before without us seeing.

Like Neo rolling to The Architect’s many-screened office, our hero has been here before, learned a lot, and it didn’t matter.

Morty’s slow march to Rick status got a turbo boost with this episode, primarily because we got to see a children’s treasury of dark adventures. From his parents’ divorce onward, each new story has been a single uppercut to Morty’s psyche, but “Morty’s Mind Blowers” offered dozens and dozens of body blows.

Not only is that memory bank a collection of traumas (and Rick’s verbal flubs), Rick is also wubba-dubba-delighted to make Morty relive them. “Morty’s Mind Blowers” is a parade of entertaining mini-quests for us, but, for Morty, it’s a barrage of experiences so bad that he wanted them out of his brain. Now here’s Rick, over the moon (yeah) to make Morty watch them.

One big question is whether Morty has ever been able to blank out Rick’s memory before. When they fight for the memory-eraser stolen from the set of Men in Black II, Rick gets flashed, and it puts him in the temporary position of having to trust in what Morty is experiencing. If you’re reading the scene too deeply (and I am), Morty got so angry that he stood up for himself, attacked Rick, and it put them both on equal footing. They were blank slates, sure, but true level is true level.

But Summer also seems impressed when it’s a Scenario 4, suggesting that it’s never happened before. If Rick has never lost his memory, this is a massive step for Morty, whose evil counterpart is currently President of The Citadel of Ricks. Maybe this is the first time that Morty has ever attacked Rick while being casually reintroduced to his worst memories.

There’s also a sly personality quirk inserted into all of the harmful shenanigans. Namely, if Rick doesn’t care about Morty’s opinion, why would he feel the need to erase the time’s where he screwed up? Wouldn’t he take Morty’s begrudging appreciation of his grandpa’s genius for granite?

After “Tales From the Citadel,” this is the second time in a row that Rick has shrugged off an episode as being stupid while delivering some smart character changes. That’s always tacitly been the show’s modus operandi. Downplaying the intelligence so it could be dumb. This last episode was appropriately dumb, but it still fit into the deftly woven story arc that will probably see Morty strong enough to fight Evil Morty in the finale.

Of course, if they just reset their memories, maybe none of this even matters. Hooray!

And now the top five gags from “Morty’s Mind Blowers”:

  1. Squirrels. All day long. Of course #1 is the squirrels.
  2. True Level. “Everything’s crooked! Reality is poison!”
  3. The unexplained body farm they visit after Morty clicks the wrong light switch.
  4. “Beebo led us to water! He’s our friend!”
  5. THREEWAY TIE between burying Santa Claus, Morty as Snowball, and My. Poopybutthole proposing to Morty.

What were yours?

Images: Cartoon Network/Adult Swim

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