How can a mind be hidden inside itself?
Rick and Morty Season 5 Episode 8 — “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” — asks and answers that very questions in a Rick solo episode all about his relationship with Birdperson. It’s a trippy episode where Rick traipses through Birdperson’s subconscious, like an Inception dreamscape made of memories. So it’s fitting that the episode title riffs on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie where we witness the deleted memories of a forlorn former couple told in a disjointed surrealistic style.
That means we get to see all sorts of great moments that pander to fans who want closure on details like how Rick and Birdperson met or, more importantly, what Rick truly meant by the Battle of Blood Ridge being Birdperson’s “big day” during his wedding.
Rick and Morty is at its best when it humanizes the characters that are so often caricatures, and nowhere is this more potent than in the strength of Rick’s friendship with Birdperson.
After almost dying in the Season 2 finale, Birdperson was resurrected by Tammy and the Galactic Federation. He returned fully as Phoenixperson for a confrontation against Rick in the Season 4 finale, and here we are close to the end of Season 5 when the character finally returns. Rick is able to reconstruct Birdperson’s body but cannot resurrect his mind. The only way to bring him back is to become a thought and invade BP’s memories to rekindle his will to live.
It makes for a good excuse to explore how the two of them met at a concert where Rick was giving away free drugs, and how they became rebels against the Galactic Federation. “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort” is in many ways a gift to all of those fans who want more serialized stories about Rick’s past, particularly because Rick teams up with a younger version of himself based on Birdperson’s memories. For all intents and purposes, it’s a cool Young Rick with a full head of hair, a sweet vest, and a makeshift portal gun. But he — and the memories he travels through with our Rick — are a delight.
The episode approaches every little Rick and Birdperson tidbit from the past and explores it in loving detail. In the “Get Schwifty” episode, there’s an Easter egg that’s a photo of Rick, Birdperson, and Squanchy as a band called The Flesh Curtains. That very moment appears as a memory, and the trio is unceremoniously squished by the main action of the story.
Rick and Morty is giving us what we want … but is it satisfying?
This approach comes to its climax when we inevitably go to Blood Ridge. During Birdperson’s wedding to Tammy, Rick gripes that “Birdperson’s ‘big day’ … was at Blood Ridge on Glapflap’s third moon against the Gromflomites.” Almost five years later, we finally see what happened that day when Rick and Birdperson led the rebels against the Galactic Federation offense.
Yes, it’s an epic battle with great action and stellar animation. But devoid of any real context, it winds up feeling a bit masturbatory. The glory and valor we’ve built up in our minds over the years were far more fulfilling. Yet the scene does service the story at hand: Rick and Birdperson hug and spin around in a circle in the air shooting enemies in a moment of intense intimacy. With the battle won, Rick reveals that he has the technology to travel the multiverse, and he invites Birdperson to join him.
But he’s a simple bird and an even simpler person. Rick also explains that existence is meaningless because despite what they did in the battle, there’s a myriad of other realities where they lost or won the battle — or it didn’t happen at all — and they’re each as real as the next. Birdperson asks the question we all should’ve been asking: If Rick truly believes that, then why help at all?
If Rick truly is a nihilist, then why help anybody? Why forge connections even with his family? Rick does this in spite of himself. He says he helped Birdperson because he respects him, and based on the context, it feels a lot like love. Ultimately, it helps explain why Rick is so jaded with his existence, because Birdperson declines the offer, and it seems to break Rick’s heart. We get an interesting amount of closure, but is it satisfying?
Rick and Morty Season 5 returns September 5, 2022.