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Rick and Morty - The ABCs of Beth - Roundtable Review

1 Oct 2017

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This article was co-written by Louis Rabinowitz, Laura Markus and Samantha Benjamin.

Overall Thoughts

Louis: If you’ve been reading these reviews all the way through this year, you might be used to seeing a relentlessly positive voice at the start of every one. I’ve loved this season, and I’ve truly enjoyed even the episodes that completely cleaved fandom in two like Rickmancing the Stone or Vindicators. It’s a shame that I can’t keep up that positivity this week.

The ABCs of Beth was a frustrating episode for me, in that it uses so many of the tricks and tools that have worked so well for other episodes of season three - the split A and B plots with different parents from Whirly Dirly, the personal breakthroughs (or lack of) of Pickle Rick, the self-consciously silly plotline from Rickmancing the Stone, but misfires with them. The episode’s constant calling of attention to the ridiculousness of Beth and Jerry’s conundrums made them seem pointless and hard to invest in, while the B plot with Jerry feels disposable and lacks any real revelations into his character.

Even the usual dose of existentialist darkness at the end of the episode feels flat, with Rick’s speech on the universe communicating a caricature of the show’s carefully thought-out philosophy (it’s no “nobody belongs anywhere, come and watch TV”). Everything here feels, to use completely opposing metaphors, overdone and undercooked. The episode tries to hard to be self-aware and philosophically dark, and doesn’t try hard enough to just tell a good story around which the comedy and character development can be integrated.

This isn’t a bad episode as such - it’s still funny and enjoyably fast-paced, and the final twist regarding Beth as a clone is a genuinely excellent and unexpected turning point to the character that goes a long way towards justifying the messy set-up. As Samantha says, no episode of this show is bad. It’s simply disappointing. Ah well. One in nine below-par episodes ain’t bad at all.

Laura: Ditto...what...everyone...else...said? Yeah, that’s not really gonna fly here, is it. Well, what more can I say? This episode probably had the most potential of every episode this season - a chance to explore to oft-ignored Rick and Beth dynamic and to truly get into the nitty gritty of what makes them tick and how they came to be who they are. What’s that, there is never any intention of the show to show us that? F*ck me, then.

This is by far the worst episode of the season. I don’t want to get too negative here, this is still my number one show of the year by far, and it’s bound to have an episode or two that don’t impress me. But I was so looking forward to this one. Even the Jerry B-plot could’ve been something fun for Jerry to do and to show him moving on, but this was just another flashy showcase of Jerry being an idiot and a horny alien hell-bent on destruction. (That’s a sentence I didn’t think I would ever say.)

The greatest strength this episode had was Morty and Summer’s moments together. As Erica Hayes tweeted, they have the healthiest relationship on the show by far, and their scenes were really funny and quite charming here. Even when all else failed, they had each other’s backs and were there to make quippy retorts for every stupid thing Jerry said. If you can recall they had a similar matchup in “Pickle Rick”, and I loved it just as much then as I do now.

But back to the misfiring A-plot, I had no connection to the Tommy story beats. None whatsoever. I was so excited and immersed in this Froopyland that Rick created for Beth, and I was intrigued to see the commentary on how crazy this is as opposed to what “normal dads do for their daughters”. I got some of that, but then a whole lotta gross filler with cannibals and incest? Didn’t we put a stop to the incest jokes in “Ricklantis”? I will say this though: Rick tuning his guitar is the best thing I have seen from him all season. And that scene towards the end - where Beth realizes just how much she has become like Rick and him showing her she has the ability to clone herself and get away from it all? That was good. That was worth the pain of everything else.

Samantha: First and foremost, Rick and Morty never has bad episodes. Whilst last week was complete mindless fun, the ABCs of Beth took some time to further develop Beth & Rick’s relationship, which I’m ever so appreciative of. It starts off with Beth wanting to save a father from death row by bringing his son back from a universe Rick had created for her, and ended with Beth accepting she is very much like her father and that’s ok. The B plot of Morty & Summer staying with Jerry was good for continuity’s sake, but not much else. Jerry is my least favourite character & works best when he either has minimal screen time or is the butt of the jokes.

Character development

Louis: This was obviously Beth’s episode, though not quite as much as I expected. My prediction of flashbacks were limited to Tommy’s terribly performed reconstruction of his childhood trauma, with the rest of the episode hopscotching its way through to a revelation the show had already kind of made (back in Pickle Rick), which is that Beth is like Rick in more ways than she’s willing to admit. It’s a revelation that’s well done, but it hardly changes our view of her. It’s simply Beth stripping away the layers of self-deception to accept that was already evident. The revelations of her childhood instability, and questions over whether that was a result of innate characteristics or poor parenting are diverting enough, but feel curiously weightless - Beth’s tortured childhood is essentially used for a long run of average jokes about items she asked to be made as toys, rather than taken genuinely seriously.

What’s more interesting is that final twist, when she’s presented with the option to clone herself. That’s a fascinating conflict to introduce, between nurturing herself but neglecting her children or prolonging her toxic state for the good of the family, and it feels right that it’s left open to interpretation. For what it’s worth, the final scene does seem to lean heavily towards the idea that she’s a clone, but who knows?

As for Jerry, we learn that he’s an idiot who makes mistakes, but can own up to them under pressure, even if he remains an idiot. This is also known as every Jerry plotline ever.

Laura: What character development? Aside from the dynamic of Morty and Summer growing stronger and the clone reveal for Beth at the end, nothing much happened in the name of development here. And that’s not entirely a bad thing, not every episode has to advance these characters to the stunning degrees matching prior episodes, but the potential was so real. And they really squandered it. [sigh] After this I need to watch “Ricklantis” again.

Samantha: Can I cheat and say Beth & Rick’s relationship? Because I’m going to cheat and say their relationship. Rick is a very complicated character who likes to keep his family at arms length, which more times than not includes insulting & pointing out when they’ve messed up. But he has that other side of him which loves his family & will go to extreme lengths to protect them, sometimes even from themselves. We got a fine case of that here along with Beth coming to the realization she is her father's daughter, and actually being happy with this. The divorce from Jerry has obviously hit her quite badly, but she has to soldier on for her kids. This episode was very much about not soldiering on, accepting her faults, embracing being her father's daughter & righting a wrong from the past.

Funniest moments

Louis: The script wasn’t quite as strong as prior episodes, so while there are plenty of jokes here, not all of them land. Still, there’s a lot to laugh at. Morty and Summer are hilarious as the straight man/woman in the Jerry situation, looking upon the farce that their 40-year-old dad has caused with experienced disdain. The episode overdoses on the dead baby jokes, but the stage display of how Tommy survived in Froopyland is still very funny. “Put a Doodoo in my Butt” is another one for the books.

Easter eggs

Laura: There’s a photo you can see of Rick and Mr. Poopybutthole on the fridge. How adorable.

What comes next (the finale!)

Louis: Oh man. So you might have heard that the finale’s (brokenly translated) description is “Rick goes on a confrontation with the President”. And you might have also seen that the title references The Manchurian Candidate, a movie about a corrupt political figure. You might then, assume that this finale is about evil Morty, recently anointed the President of the Citadel.

The promo, on the other hand, features the real President in the real White House and a confrontation involving the “Kennedy Sex Tunnels”. This might all be a massive switcheroo, and evil Morty vs Rick is still on for next week. That, or the season is genuinely ending in the Kennedy Sex Tunnels.

This will be interesting.

Laura: Dear god, PLEASE be a red herring! I love Keith David as the President as much as the next person, but I want some more Evil Morty now! I got Evil Morty fever! In all seriousness, I could see this episode focusing on Earth’s politics and then in the very last moment of the episode leaving on a nasty Evil Morty-inclusive cliffhanger. This show loves it’s cliffhangers, yo, and if Evil Morty is involved in this one it’s gonna be juicy. Or I could be dead wrong and everything ends off feeling just fine.

What show is this again?