Subtitle: An examination of the third episode of the second season of “Rick and Morty” entitled “Auto Erotic Assimilation” with an eye towards encouraging nominating this episode for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, to be presented at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention.
Note: This is packed full of spoilers.
For the tl;dr folks, it is also not short.
You Have Been Warned.
I’m glad that I held off writing about Rick and Morty until Season 2, Episode 3, “Auto Erotic Assimilation“, which you can watch by clicking right there (or elsewhere), written by Ryan Ridley, produced by J. Michael Mendel, directed by Bryan Newton, created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. I was frankly a little worried. I initially found the first two episodes a bit lacking, probably because the bar had been set so fracking high throughout season 1. My finding was dead wrong. Thinking back to the episodes in season 1 and comparing them to season 2, I think I can safely say that a lot of season 1 was about the creators / writers / directors proving that they had the deep knowledge of science and science fiction to intelligently pull off a series like this without falling into the realm of easy SF clichés, unless it’s done on purpose.
Season 2 was if anything, even more brilliant, because in season 2 the poo hits the squantchy fan. That shizzle got real. And episode 3 was the fracking most real, at least up until that point in the season. I believe I have identified the episode I’ll nominate for this year’s Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo.
You might be asking yourself, “What’s a Hugo?” Simply put, the Hugo Awards are science fiction’s most prestigious award, are awarded annually, and are voted upon by both attending and supporting members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, a.k.a. Worldcon.
Not sure if you can nominate for this year’s Hugos?
- On or before January 31, 2016 11:59 p.m. PST, were you:
- an attending or supporting member of MidAmeriCon II, the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Kansas City, MO, USA?
- an attending or supporting member of Worldcon 75, the 2017 World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Helsinki, Finland?
- an attending or supporting member of Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention which was held in Spokane, WA, USA?
Answer “yes” to any of the above and yes, you can nominate and vote. If you would like to print out and mail your nomination form, download it here. If you want to vote online, contact the MidAmeriCon II Hugo Administrators Dave McCarty and Will Frank.
All of that being said (yes, yes, I know) what to my mind makes”Auto Erotic Assimilation” a Hugo worthy episode? Well, what’s the episode about?
Introduction – While traveling through space in Rick’s home made spaceship, Rick, Morty, and Summer come across a distress signal from an alien starship. Rick intercepts and boards the starship with the intention of looting it, but instead he comes across the ship’s surviving crew members, who explain their planet has been taken over by an assimilating hive-mind, before the aforementioned hive mind attacks and assimilates the rest of the crew.The hive-mind knows Rick, who awkwardly admits that he and the mind, named Unity, used to “date.”
Main Plot – On Unity’s planet, Rick and Unity passionately rekindle their relationship while Summer and Morty ponder questions of free will, sin, redemption and senseless hatred. As the planet descends first into an exotic drug fueled orgy, then into an exotic race hate fueled riot, Unity realized exactly how bad a couple it and Rick make and dumps him.
Sub-plot – Simultaneously, on Earth, Morty and Summer’s parents, Beth (Rick’s daughter) and Jerry (Beth’s husband), discover under their house, Rick’s underground lair. Inside of the lair, they discover Rick’s monstrous imprisoned alien creature. They soon begin vicious bickering, to the point that the creature, fed up with their arguing, breaks free of his restraints and berates them both before leaving.
Epilogue – Losing Unity devastates Rick, leaving him in a state of mind so broken that he attempts suicide. Yes, on screen.
From this single episode we can see that Rick and Morty is steeped in deep science fiction lore. Within the first couple of minutes not only does this episode build upon every book / movie / television episode we’ve seen where the protagonists decide that exploring a derelict spaceship is a good thing to do, we’re also given a very Ricksonian reason for going ahead and doing so. Of course, the proof that no matter the rationalization it’s still a bad idea comes in this case straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Well, that and a telenovela filtered through Futurama.
The concept of hive minds has been examined in science fiction at least as far back as 1930, as seen in Olaf Stapledon’s “Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future.” We’ve feared them as presented in the book, “The Midwich Cuckoos” later adapted as “Village of the Damned.” Perhaps we envied them a bit as the Over-Mind in “Childhood’s End.” We’ve used their name as a pejorative, like the Borg from “Star Trek.” I’m pretty sure I’ve never considered the possibilities presented by having them (it?) as a lover, especially if it (they?) had no interest in adding me to their collective but was interested in the singular me.
“Auto Erotic Assimilation” continues science fiction’s long tradition of using the genre’s unconventional settings to explore the more and less conventional aspects of the human condition. For example, sexuality. If you’re quick on the uptake, you soon understand that Rick considers the variety of species and genders unified by Unity to be a sexual feature, not a bug. If you don’t get it at first, the screenwriters have included a short, uncomfortable and hilarious scene to make sure you understand. Also explored: utopias, politics, dystopias, parenting, warfare, free will, personal pronouns, capitalism, exo-virology, marriage, p.t.s.d., and many more. All extremely skillfully packed into 23 mind bending minutes.
Of course, no amount of bloviation on my part can replace watching the episode with your own five eyes and judging for yourself. You can either wait until the series goes into re-runs or watch the episode on the Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] website if you are a cable or satellite subscriber. If you’re web savvy, you might even be able to stream it by grabbing a handy link from somewhere.
Please comment and tell me. Have I made a good start on making the case for nominating this episode of “Rick and Morty” for a Hugo? If not, what am I missing? If so, after you’ve watched the episode yourself, will you consider nominating it?
*The title of this post is intimately (see what I did there?) tied into the themes explored in “Auto Erotic Assimilation” in ways not obvious unless you’ve carefully watched Season 1. In particular, season 1, episode 11 “Ricksy Business.”