Who are Rick and Morty without their problems? That’s the issue confronted in “Rest and Ricklaxation,” as the legendary duo decide to unwind after a crazy adventure with a day spa that strips them of their “toxins.” Perhaps that’s something Rick might have proposed a long time ago, given the level of harrowing events that he’s put himself and Morty through over the years.
The fact that this is the first time Rick’s seen fit to address the “toxins” that might have built up in the two of them after what they’ve done? Almost as horrific as the events themselves. Unfortunately, the toxins manifest in the form of themselves, but worse — which speaks to one of “Rick and Morty’s” most common themes: The greatest enemy is always inside us.
But we don’t spend too much time with the toxic versions of Rick and Morty, instead learning that Rick is capable of being a pleasant, cheerful guy without what’s later referred to as the “booger” version of himself inside him, while Morty becomes a high-powered corporate executive who has no trouble landing ladies. (Even ladies who end up getting sucked into alternate dimensions populated by the worst versions of not great people — sucks to be Morty’s date, amirite?)
The most notable genre mash-up proves to be a “Wolf of Wall Street” parody — well, more accurately, a just basic “Wall Street” riff — that reveals what Morty might be like without his fear and self-doubt.
Given how recent episodes have put the secondary characters of the show front and center, it’s refreshing that “Rick and Morty” spotlights its leading duo… except for the part where its ultimate conclusions are relatively simple. Without his more toxic side, Rick is a genuinely good person, while extracting Morty’s greatest flaw — his lack of confidence — leaves a mess of a human and creates a dynamo in the boardroom and (theoretically) the bedroom.
The lack of an explicit genre parody here (beyond perhaps something on the level of subtweeting the Penny Marshall film “Big”?) makes this an ultra-character-heavy installment, though Summer and Beth barely make appearances. Instead, it’s all about Rick and Morty, in two worlds, embracing the concept of toxicity as it impacts their own personalities, with Rick literally having to embrace his worst qualities in order to prevent world destruction.
The most important plot element may be Morty’s increased self-confidence, which enables him to ask out long-gestating love interest Jessica… who ends up breaking up with him, out of fear that he’d grow disinterested in her. “Rick and Morty” is a show with memory as a rule, but Jessica seems to break that rule from time to time — and it will be interesting to see if the events of this episode carry through to next week or beyond.
There’s no deep lesson learned by the characters at the end of “Rest and Ricklaxation,” though that’s never been a quality “Rick and Morty” has embraced. However, we do come to understand something that the show has always aimed to bury deeply within: Rick genuinely loves his grandchildren, especially Morty. It’s the sort of authentic emotion that the show highlights in its best moments, but also knows to keep under wraps otherwise.