Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Rick and Morty: Season 4 is how little the series has focused on the brewing tension between Rick and Jerry. Given how Season 3 ended with Jerry triumphant (inasmuch as he can ever truly succeed at anything), you’d think this latest batch of episodes would focus a lot more on their rivalry and Beth’s torn loyalties. Fortunately, Season 4 finally makes up for lost time in its penultimate episode. “Childrick of Mort” is a solid addition to the season that finally gives Jerry some long overdue attention.It’s a nice change of pace to have the whole Smith family joining in on this latest adventure. The idea that Rick is reluctantly forced to care for a race of “Ricklets” he created in a one-night stand with a sentient planet is certainly amusing. But that said, were this just a straightforward Rick/Morty/Summer-driven storyline, there might not be quite enough meat on these bones. It’s all too easy to imagine the end result being a retread of ground covered in “Auto Erotic Assimilation.”
Having Beth and Jerry in the mix helps steer this episode in slightly more novel territory. Granted, this is hardly the first time we’ve seen Jerry go to great lengths to prove his worth to his disinterested family, but it’s a premise that never really gets old. Especially considering how little we’ve seen of Jerry since the end of Season 3 (in October 2017, no less). It’s a real hoot watching Jerry try and fail to impress his kids, only to wind up bumbling his way into becoming a god to a group of Rick’s rejected offspring. Jerry definitely has the lion’s share of the most hilarious lines in Episode 9, though that’s really as much due to Chris Parnell’s impeccable delivery as it is the quality of the writing itself.
With Morty and Summer relegated to B-plot status this week, that frees up the episode to focus a great deal on the twisted father/daughter bond between Rick and Beth. The actual relationship between Rick and Gaia is largely downplayed, as is whatever sort of connection Rick might feel toward his misbegotten children. Again, that seems the wise move so as not to retread old ground. Instead we get what proves to be both a humorous and sad look at one of those rare periods where Rick and Beth find a real connection. That Beth connects with her father by following his example and literally playing god is mostly a disquieting reminder that she inherited most of Rick’s bad qualities along with the good.
In that sense, this episode plays like a loose sort of sequel to Season 3’s “The ABC’s of Beth.” Is it just coincidence both episodes were the second-to-last installments of their respective seasons? It does seem as though the series is developing a habit of growing more introspective towards the end and reminding us of how much Rick’s self-absorbed mentality has infected his offspring.Jerry’s antics notwithstanding, “Childrick of Mort” isn’t necessarily the funniest addition to Season 4. But it does feel like an appropriately downbeat episode to lead us into the big finale. The ending in particular wraps up everything on an appropriately depressing note. What should have been a relatively successful ending to a zany camping trip quickly devolves, and everyone winds up leaving Gaia more miserable than when they arrived. It’s enough to wonder if that’s a portent of things to come next week.