Major spoilers below for the latest episode of Rick and Morty Season 7, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!
Just when you thought it was safe to to continue making comparative references between Rick C-137 and Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab, Rick and Morty dove back into canon-heavy waters with “Unmortricken” and shockingly gave its most vengeful character the means and opportunity to brutally take down his white(haired) whale, Rick Prime. Coupled with the return of Evil Morty, this midseason installment seemingly capped off one of the series’ biggest plotlines, drawing comparative lines between it and HBO hits Succession and The Wire.
Co-creator Dan Harmon and showrunner Scott Marder knew they were dropping a doozy on fans already with this ep’s conflict, and that the surprise would be even more palpable in the middle of everything, as opposed to “Unmortricken” serving as a finale. (Adult Swim’s president teased major canon dropping midseason, but I hadn’t expected this.) In that way, the episode’s timing was on the same wavelength as the jaw-dropping fourth episode of Succession’s final season, even though it was conceived and in the works ahead of that ep’s airing on HBO. Here’s how Marder explained it to Variety:
That episode would have been a series finale on a lot of shows, and I liked that it was just an episode in the middle of one of our seasons. We move at a really crazy pace. . . . When Succession did it I was like, ‘Ah, damn! Animation takes so long!’
It has to be a unique jab to a TV writer's brain when an idea they have ends up getting utilized by another series (or movie) sooner than the writer's own project can. Not that anyone would have assumed Rick and Morty snipped its ideas from Succession, considering the Season 7 scripts all pre-date the lengthy animation process and post-production duties. But seeing any another series pulling off a giant story-flipping death in the middle of its yearly cycle, much less one that can be streamed with the same Max subscription, definitely deserves a "Damn!" reaction, if not a stronger one.
At least Rick and Morty can say it had the more violent and depraved midseason death, amirite?
Just so all fans are clear: Rick Prime's death doesn't mean the show is coming to a halt anytime soon, since there are still multiple seasons left to go in Adult Swim's giant 7-season order. Plus, Evil Morty now has the Omega device that could feasibly kill off every character fans have grown to love and/or hate over the hears. (Or in Jerry's case, a gross concoction of both feelings.)
Speaking of Evil Morty, having him return in the same episode as Rick Prime took this episode into blockbuster territory, even if the eyepatch-wearing foe quasi-teamed up with the protagonists instead of serving as another threat. But that was part of the point, with Dan Harmon comparing it to the layered social structure at the heart of The Wire's more dangerous neighborhoods. In his words:
I thought that was a great idea to lean into. It gave me vibes of The Wire — learning throughout the first season that there’s different flavors of bad guy, and then you get that satisfaction of watching your favorite drug dealers against the one that had absolutely proven himself to be a meritless sociopath. That idea of team ups where it’s not as simple, as saccharine as, ‘I’ll put on a white hat, you put on a white hat. Let’s go after the guy with black hat.’
In the end, Evil Morty aided in Rick Prime's demise, but with the rest of humanity potentially paying the cost, now that the emotionally stunted villain has more power than ever. Expect that power to loom large again in, say, 9 or 10 episodes.
Will "Unrickmorten" enter into the annals of the best Rick and Morty episodes? That somber ending alone makes me think it will, and remembering Rick Prime getting the snot beat out of him only bolsters that confidence. But now let's see how Rick handles himself in the more standalone episodes, knowing that his arch nemesis has been eradicated.