Rick and Morty’s fifth season was always bound to be a little different ever since writers started telling media outlets in 2020 that the show would adopt a bit of the continuous storytelling narrative some fans had been yearning for some years now. However, results have been somewhat divisive, thus posing the question of where does season five leave Rick and Morty and how good it really was.
And yet, to answer that question it’s impossible to avoid making amends with the fact that Rick and Morty’s own penchant for randomness and producing one-off episodes leaves a season with as many highs as new lows. Nevertheless, Rick and Morty did introduce a completely new element, one that the series itself is bold enough to call its potential “jump the shark” moment, and that is the canonization of Rick Sanchez’s past.
RELATED: The Saddest Moments In Animated ShowsConsidering the show’s massive success, it’s no surprise Adult Swim renewed it for at least 50 more episodes, so with Rick and Morty season seven already in development, how do the events in "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort" and this week’s "Rickmurai Jack" factor into that? The answer is of course, that it depends as the new revelations could very well lead to Rick and Morty outright resetting its plot or simply embracing more tightly interconnected stories.
The two-episode season-ender had no issues referencing events as far back as season one's "Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind", so the long-overdue definitive payoff for Evil Morty could arguably take as long as that. Still, the revelation that the Rick Sanchez viewers know is one who escaped to a different reality where Beth was never killed clearly reaches a level of storytelling that has never before been touched.
This means that the biggest takeaway from season five is actually these newfound canon elements like the story behind Birdperson and Rick’s relationship, the insight into the type of pain Rick experienced throughout most of his life, and finally, the feeling of empathy he seems to have gained after his stint with the two crows, who are probably not better than Morty. It’s simply too early to call whether these revelations can actually be Rick and Morty jumping the shark.
All this came at a price though, having to endure some of the most uninspiring Rick and Morty episodes ever. Rick and Morty references will never fully miss the target when it comes to pulling off smart and whimsical pop culture jokes or writing entire episodes from old tropes that stem from movies and television, but that the show itself self-deprecates the usage of the Giant Incest Baby in “Rickdepenndence Spray” is a testament that writers are fully aware of how much of a curve they were throwing.
There’s an obvious rollercoaster route in season five where its premiere starts a brief descent into some of the show's more forgettable stories, while the two-part finale and even episode 8 could easily make a best Rick and Morty episodes list. It’s hard to say this is directly due to the premiere and last three episodes being the ones that are more connected to the rest of the series, because “Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular" does bring back the United States' president and Rick's shaky relationship with the government.
Things like having Jessica become a time-sensitive demigod is the type of setup the bodes well with the way Rick and Morty has been leaving trails for so many years, whereas what goes in-between episodes 2 through 7 -despite having a certain degree of interconnectivity- does not seem to leave much room for that. The way Rick and Morty writers address continuity going forward becomes more crucial because that model leaves much less room for errors.
Rick and Morty’s fifth season succeeds on two main levels: 1) Those looking to lighten up with animated content will find much of what they've come to expect from the series, after all, it’s mostly the same type of humor; 2) Giving Rick a solid backstory open up the doors for even more character growth further down the line. How does it fail? Well, it produced several lackluster episodes -perhaps more than any other season, which could probably bring down the show a whole lot more if they were part of a more serialized approach.
The more likely scenario for Rick and Morty is the show will continue its successful formula of featuring mostly one-off adventures, all while slowly adding in more and more canon events they can reference in a way that's not strict enough to restrict creativity. The evil President Morty took years before he finally grew into the multiverse-ending villains he triumphantly at the end of season five, and even new mysteries like his yellow portal fluid or just what lies beyond the central finite curve are perfect ingredients for a similarly spectacular episode in the future, as most questions fan could have had until this point have now been answered.
Of course, just like Rick Sanchez himself, the show's writers love to keep several doors open to many potential futures so it's perfectly feasible that all this insight into Rick's past was nothing more than their way of telling audiences that, yes, his dead wife is the entire nexus event that gave birth to his adventuring lifestyle, and that's it. Even then, despite all its flaws, it's impossible to deny that Rick and Morty's fifth season does far more in terms of character development than all the hilarious episodes that came before it, and that alone signals that the show is evolving.