DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Rick and Morty episode “Full Meta Jackrick” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Wubba lubba dub-dub! Rick and Morty‘s back after a six week-hiatus with an outing that thoroughly wrinkled my brain (insert Troy Barnes GIF here). This show is a perpetual smorgasbord of self-referential, meta gags and “Full Meta Jackrick” lets ’em rip. It feels like the writers threw everything and the kitchen sink at the narrative wall to see what would stick. Sometimes, it works. Other times, it’s too nudge-nudge, wink-wink, but I suppose that’s the point. It wavers between bloated meta-ness and cheeky fun.
Ready to delve into “Full Meta Jackrick”? Let’s get to it.
We open with a rare “Previously On” sequence, which is nice considering we’re returning from a six-week break. We see the family learning about Beth (Sarah Chalke) and Space Beth’s (also Chalke) affair and Rick (Justin Roiland) fixing portal travel while Morty (also Roiland) zooms through multiple portals. We also watch a few scenes we haven’t seen (reminiscent of Community‘s “Paradigms of Human Memory”) that are purportedly canon-established, including Summer (Spencer Grammer) announcing her pregnancy, Jerry (Chris Parnell) dying and Beth receiving the death sentence for murdering Jerry.
But that’s not all — Rick and Morty help Tony Hawke solve a murder, and meatballs fall from the sky! Cloudy with a chance of what? Next, Rick proposes to Morty. They’re wed in a stunning cliffside ceremony overlooking a sunset-drenched ocean. Game of Thrones fried our brains, huh?
Then, Rick wishes they travel to a specially protected chamber for their honeymoon. The charge in said chamber acts as a “narrative decelerant.” Rick reveals that none of what just happened is real. They’re on a “previously on” spiral, courtesy of Previous Leon. That devious bastard!
Rick urges Morty to say, “Next time on Rick and Morty,” to no avail. Previous Leon appears, and our fave portal-traveling duo wrestles with the creature through the opening credits. It’s easily the highlight of the episode. Back in reality, Rick tries to shoot at Previous Leon as he flees, wriggling through a hole in the meta layer in the fourth wall. Rick and Morty don goggles to track down the creature. Through Morty’s eyes, we see storytelling devices such as “Deus ex machina,” “Chekhov’s Gun(s),” “Foreshadowing,” “Gratuitous violence,” “Ticking clock” and “Action enhancer.”
Next, our heroes wind up in Meta Land, wherein Rick informs Morty that they’re “basting in meta radiation.” “Every second we spend here is the equivalent of 10 Space Jam cameos,” Rick warns. Throughout this fantastical land, we see letters strewn about, an actual “word balloon” and some weeds marked “weeds.” Lots of obvious labeling. Rick and Morty corner Previous Leon, who starts praying to God.
Suddenly, Jesus Christ (Christopher Meloni) appears, along with Story Lord (Paul Giamatti), the villain of a toy train Morty bought for Rick. Chris Meloni would voice an absolutely shredded Jesus. It all makes sense. JC scoops up Previous Leon. We learn that Story Lord now transcends meta-fiction, breaching meta-reality. He utilized Previous Leon as bait to lure in our travelers. JC proceeds to beat the snot out of Rick and Morty.
Story Lord steals the remote from Rick, trapping him and Morty in this meta hell. Story Lord wants “motivation,” so he flees to find it. JC is about to resume his brutal treatment of Rick and Morty when Previous Leon entraps him. Jesus is flung into a “previously on” spiral of his own. We see his life before and after death, along with his resurrection three days later. He fell in love with Mary, who bears the same name as his mom. Then, JC moves through history while interacting with prevalent, influential figures, eventually rising to the top as a tech genius à la Steve Jobs.
Next, Jesus endeavors to become mortal, and even tries to revive his love from eons ago. Finally, he dies in a hospital bed with a nurse named Mary by his side. Meanwhile, Story Lord finds his writer stowed away in “Citadel Toyz,” the manufacturer of the Story Train. While harassing the writer who created him, we see “Rickleberry Tales” scrawled on a dry-erase board. I’m calling it now — this will become the title of a future Rick and Morty episode. Story Lord orders his writer to give him motivation. After some brainstorming, SL decides that his motivation is motivation. Creative.
Rick and Morty’s narrative motivation is to get home. The duo drags Previous Leon to the Self-Referential Six headquarters. Rick reveals that a prisoner there can help them return to reality. As for the Self-Referential Six, we meet Miss Lead, Flash Back, Connie TinuityError, Protago Nick (who makes a lowly security guard the protagonist — we even get a ’70s sitcom-esque sequence featuring him) and Mr. Twist (after a smash cut of course).
Mr. Twist and Miss Lead taunt Rick and Morty after binding them in place. Oh, and there are only five members of the Self-Referential Six. Well, Mr. Twist attempts to convince Morty that he’s the sixth. Twist and Lead claim our heroes are their captives, but Morty has a twist up his sleeve — a grenade pin from one of the grenades fixed to Mr. Twist’s hips. Boom!
Then, Rick and Morty encounter the Self-Referential Six’s prisoner: Brett Con. Yes, he can retcon anything. After releasing BC, he retcons something for each member of the Self-Referential Six. Still, he takes it a tad too far when he morphs their headquarters into an orange and subsequently banishes Rick and Morty to the tundra beyond the fourth wall. Thankfully, Joseph Campbell finds them. Yes, the writer who explored archetypal heroes.
Joseph Campbell gifts them a map of a region “rich in narrative ore.” Rick gets to inventing a device that’ll whisk them away from this meta hellscape. After many years of hard work and Morty’s pregnancy (Huh?), the invention is complete. They should be able to fly through the opening credits with ease.
Meanwhile, Story Lord hooks his writer up to a machine that’ll collectively zap the motivation from the masses. Suddenly, Rick and Morty appear via portal while donning hero-like costumes and armed with the catchphrase, “Story time is over.” Morty tries to persuade the writer to stop operating the motivation-sucking machine while Rick and Story Lord duke it out shirtless. SL remarks on Rick’s “c*m gutter” abs, and I’m suddenly significantly uncomfortable.
After watching two ripped old dudes brawl, we return to Morty and the writer. Morty channels Joseph Campbell and successfully convinces the writer to return the stolen motivation to those from whom he stole it. Story Lord loses his plot armor, and Rick doles out a brutal ass-whooping. SL dies.
The writer returns to his office/home and conjures a new idea for a script despite the spirit of Joseph Campbell’s attempts to dissuade the former from writing. The episode tag features none other than Tag-Man, who’s partaking in some bloodshed in an arena. He even mutters, “Did you get any of that?” from Dan Harmon‘s Harmonious Claptrap vanity card that appears at the end of every episode. Tag-Man effortlessly kills police, military and government officials who attempt to subdue him. He’s also an ass man, so there’s that.
“Full Meta Jackrick” probably won’t rank as a top five for any Rick and Morty fan, but at least the writers took a big storytelling swing. While the meta stuff occasionally became overbearing, I liked the nod to Rick and Morty being Back to the Future ripoffs. In addition, the “previously on” sequence through the Previous Leon opening credits is pretty brilliant.
That said … how did Morty get pregnant? Is he married to Rick now? What’s with all the incest narrative beats this season? I have approximately one million questions and zero answers, but such is the nature of this mind-boggling series.
Rick and Morty drops new episodes every Sunday at 11 pm on your Adult Swim affiliate.