The Rick and Morty Darkometer: S3 E5 – ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’
You just gotta feel for Jerry.
The cold open gives us a snapshot of Jerry’s pathetic bachelor life and his awful, awful apartment before Rick, in classic style, kicks the door down, drags him naked from his bed, and declares this to now be a Rick and Jerry episode. So it’s going to get depressing – hell, it’s already been depressing – and that tends to register higher on the darkometer than any amount of blood and gore, since it’s harder to pull off.
As it turns out, Morty – after demanding his one in every ten adventure last episode – has somehow wangled Rick into taking Jerry out on a pity-adventure, rather than this being a space-gangland execution, to Jerry’s surprise and tentative delight. However, rather than an actual adventure, Rick takes him to hit up some sort of space Butlins, where Jerry lucks out and pegs it as a classy joint despite, as Rick points out, having absolutely no frame of reference to make that judgement.
Almost immediately, Rick is jumped by an old pal, who sticks him through the chest with a spear. Rick responds by getting the guy in the neck with a broken bottle. Of course, this is all a spot of fun, because it turns out the resort is covered by an immortality field to provide a consequence-free environment, sort of like when wealthy first-worlders go to Thailand and stick their genitals wherever they please. This is illustrated aptly by having two alien children cavorting around, with the brother merrily shooting the sister in the head.
Like an awful lot of Rick’s adventures, it involves a lot of drinking. When Jerry excuses himself to the space-bathroom, he gets sucked painfully through the hand dryer – recovering instantly, of course – and is confronted by the staff of the place, who had this space-holiday camp foisted upon their home planet by Rick and aren’t best pleased. They have a plan to assassinate Rick on the Whirly Dirly ride, since at one point it sticks out of the immortality field, and let’s be real, in 99% of works of fiction these would be the good guys.
When Jerry returns to the bar, Rick tosses some mildly barbed comments his way. Really, nothing you wouldn’t hear a hundred times over while co-habiting with Rick, especially if you’re Jerry. Jerry then casually suggests they ride the Whirly Dirly. There’s a Nietzsche quote I’ve always been fond of: ‘Of all evil I deem you capable: Therefore I want good from you. Verily, I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws.’
On the Whirly Dirly mere moments later, Rick apologises for putting a strain on Beth and Jerry’s marriage. This is enough to make Jerry completely reverse course and save Rick’s life – that’s how flighty and weak-willed he is. Rick fights his way out destructively enough that it destroys the Whirly Dirly and brings down the immortality field, and back in the welcome centre, the adorable alien boy caps his sister one last time.
Rick then puts two and two together and figures out Jerry was in on it – and then the dying second assassin instantly confirms this. Rick advances on him, but doesn’t even have the chance to belt him before Jerry, in the course of cowering back, steps into an alien that starts eating him. This gives Rick a chance to spill some home truths about Jerry’s ultimately pathetic nature – which is nothing new, but this time it’s a lot more justified. Though he does eventually save Jerry, to use him as bait to lure in a big-balled space chocobo on which they can make their escape.
Unluckily, on the space-flight home, the leader of the conspiracy comes back for one last scare. But when even he gets on scoring points off Jerry, Jerry snaps and ineffectually tries to fight him – hurting him very slightly but just enough to make him fire his gun and break whatever the ship uses to shield the passengers from the freaky-deaky spacey-wacey, and we get one of those marvellous trippy sequences that Rick and Morty’s wibbly-wobbly art style does incredibly well. With everyone feeling a sense of cosmic oneness, the leader of the conspiracy starts to question if he even wants to kill Rick any more. Naturally, this gives Rick the chance to get the drop on him and kill him.
Finally home, Rick and Jerry have a brief moment of mutual respect – where they agree not to air out each other’s dirty laundry – before we’re straight back to normal, Rick returning to a loving family and Jerry quite literally left out in the cold, now lighter to the tune of his wallet and bus pass. But in a way, the mutual respect makes sense. Jerry has turned out, in the clutch, to be as murder-happy as Rick, just with less means and motive, and I mean a lot less means – he basically had to be pointed towards an assassination and then let it happen. Still though, he’s incredibly blasé about it, suggesting that Morty’s ever-growing psychotic streak isn’t just to do with Rick’s influence.
The b-plot doesn’t let down on the dark front either. Ethan’s broken up with Summer for a girl with bigger tits, because of this Summer is having body image issues, and Beth does a terrible, terrible job of reassuring her about it. Which all seems a little adolescent and 90210, until Summer goes to the garage and digs out Rick’s embigulator to enlarge her breasts. This goes incredibly wrong incredibly quickly.
On discovering Summer, now gigantic and trapped in the garage, Beth attempts to use the embigulator to reverse the process, in a Freudian attempt to better Rick. This also goes terribly. The ‘normalise’ setting just gets all of Summer’s parts to scale, making her overall even bigger (thank Christ she wasn’t worried about being too fat, eh?) and the ‘reverse’ setting turns her inside out. The Simpsons only brought out stuff like that on Halloween. Even calling the embigulator’s technical support line only gives the little men working inside it a chance to escape.
At about the same time as his grandfather dresses down his father on a faraway planet, Morty lets Beth have it for – and this is really kettle-being-black-as-night territory – having degenerated into being more and more like Rick. Once again, though, in context it’s more than deserved. The exchange gets heated enough that Summer, who’s now some fifty feet tall, wanders off without them noticing.
Luckily, Morty’s knowledge of hackneyed teen dating spots leads them right to her. And Beth brings about a heartwarming resolution in a way only this show could, by turning herself giant and inside-out for an emotional if garbled reunion. Meanwhile, Morty calmly taunts Ethan before – we are left to assume – turning the embigulator onto him. I say ‘are left to assume’ since we see him horribly warped in the post-credits scene, but that could have happened in any number of ways. Nevertheless it is perhaps too harsh a punishment for a teenage boy who broke a girl’s heart for entirely shallow reasons – it’s not like it’s not an awful thing, it’s just that they’re ten-a-penny.
The post-credits scene also features the little men from inside the embigulator, now free and enjoying life before one of them is snatched by a bird. We didn’t get a chance to know them as well as we have Jerry, but the universe is no kinder to them. While of the show’s power combo, Morty is clearly the everyman, real everymen don’t get to experience high-concept sci-fi rigmarole. Real everymen dream of escaping a job they hate and get shat on by events outside their control – they’re far closer to Jerry and these little guys.
The darkometer, which goes from ‘day at the races’ to ‘losing your kid’s birthday money at the dog track’, rates ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ as ‘the ending of Star Wars Episode III’ – a lot of people have died, some have just been mutilated, and everything’s pretty fucked but the writers have left in an obvious kernel of hope that the kids might just be able to turn everything around and make it all better. The saps.