“Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” might be my least favorite episode of Rick and Morty so far.
The story begins with the titular pair on another wild adventure, that leads to a disappointing, and ultimately, pointless discovery, one that Morty’s companion died for. Rick’s omelettes always require too many broken eggs, but this time, Morty is angry enough to demand compensation, in the form of a pet dragon.
Rick’s deadpan response, that “dragons are for nerds that refuse to admit they’re Christian,” is the funniest one-liner of the episode, definitely the peak of the dragon-based humor. While Rick is compelled to follow through on his promise, making a contractual arrangement with a wizard, Jerry finds himself talking to a cat, which assures him that his ability to speak has nothing to do with Rick.
Morty acquires his dragon, and is overjoyed to do a Daenerys Targaryen and swoop through the sky, although that’s the extent of the creature’s purpose. Their relationship is more of an enslavement, the dragon being with Morty against his will. Indeed, the mythical beast wants little more than to lay on his pile of “treasure,” which includes a ton of garbage that humans happen to find valuable (no packets of szechuan sauce?).
After effortlessly besting the dragon in combat, Rick and the dragon bond, sharing intoxication and even bonding their souls together, a not-so-sacred act that was supposed to be exclusive to Morty. The wizard returns to scold the dragon, calling him a “slut,” and taking him back to his world to be executed.
While the sexual aspect of the dragon is somewhat funny at first, especially with Rick enjoying Morty watching him soulbond, it’s pretty much the only joke that this episode has to make about dragons, or about anything, really. As Rick, Morty and Summer enter the magical realm of high fantasy tropes, Rick’s technology unexpectedly fails him, but he’s unimpressed to see Morty in his element, wielding a spellbook.
Rick, rightly, finds magic to be completely nonsensical, just a different way to misunderstand reality, but it’s not far removed from his infinitely malleable technology, and he soon gets the hang of it. Summer becomes a scantily clad archer, and Morty chooses to be himself.
As the trio slay their way through orcs and goblins, Rick is extremely bored by this universe of dungeons and dragons, and little wonder – this is a half-hearted parody of the fantasy genre, even lazier than Matt Groening’s Disenchantment; perhaps high fantasy isn’t all that funny to satirize.
As the trio save the dragon, they soon find themselves in the company of other “slut” dragons, banished for their lewd behaviour. Cue a series of jokes that fail to land, repeating the connection between soulbonding and sex.
United in their cause, they all get intimate and bond together to form a super-dragon, Steven Universe-style. Well, sort of – Steven Universe has an intelligent and thoughtful approach to merging, and the sex metaphor really isn’t that clever.
Together, they defeat the wizard and leave, Morty and Summer feeling extremely unsettled after the soul-orgy with their grandfather.
Meanwhile, Jerry has been encouraged to live recklessly with his talking cat, who prefers a hedonistic approach to life, leaving questions about his past unanswered. As Jerry and the cat find Florida to be unfriendly, Rick decides to help them out, partly to get away from his awkward dragon encounter.
Rick, unlike Jerry, demands an answer, and scans the feline’s brain to discover why it can talk. The answer is enough to seriously disturb Rick, and he’s seen the worst the universe has to offer – but it’s not enough for him to take the cat’s life, for some reason. Perhaps it wasn’t the cat’s fault, whatever happened.
Taking one for the team, Rick decides to spare Jerry the mental scarring and wipes his mind, which is rather sweet of him; it’s probably the kindest thing he’s ever done for the man, and a callback to all those times he’s erased Morty’s memories.
Later, the dragon and the cat encounter each other, and seem to hit it off straight away; the two make plans to elope to Florida, and hopefully, will never, ever feature on the show again.
Rick and Morty has always been a bit silly and immature, but this episode leaned on a weak joke for almost the entire runtime; here’s hoping it’s the only stinker of the season.