When Futurama left the air last summer, it left a decent sized crisis-brought-on-by-mad-science hole in my heart. Rick And Morty has filled this hole, and of the episodes we’ve seen so far, “Anatomy Park” comes the closest to being something I could imagine Fry, Leela, Professor Farnsworth, and the rest facing off against. (Hell, there’s actually an episode that has Farnsworth and a few others shrinking down to fit a group of hyper-intelligent flatworms that have taken up residence in Fry’s stomach.) That’s both good and bad; the bad being that, at least at first blush, the whole “Anatomy Park is really just a parody of Jurassic Park, eh? Eh?” isn’t the most gripping of ideas. The story’s structure is predictable, with Morty and the others struggling to find an escape while their numbers are picked off scene by inexorable scene. Combine that with an odd, disconnected B-plot, and you don’t have a lot to get excited about.
Yet “Anatomy Park” works, and it’s another point in favor of the show that it works because of trappings and idiosyncrasies that are already established parts of Rick And Morty’s universe. The anatomy theme park isn’t a bad idea, but when you add in the fact that the park is built inside Reuben, a drunk homeless guy dressed up like Santa Claus who dies less than ten minutes into the story, well, that’s an effective use of specificity. Rick shrinks Morty down while the rest of the family is having Christmas dinner (yeah, this is the Christmas episode, another nice touch) to find out what happened to Dr. Xenon Bloom (a terrific John Oliver), a microbe scientist and John Hammond knock-off (check out the cane). Inside the body, horrible things are happening, and it only gets worse when Reuben, as previously mentioned, dies. You don’t want to be inside a body when it dies, kids. Just ask Art Garfunkel.
Like I said, story-wise, this is no great shakes; Morty, Xenon and the others (Poncho, the bad-ass who turns out to be a saboteur; Roger, a zoo keeper; and Annie, who used to work at the churro stand) try various escape routes, the situation worsens, people die horribly. It’s fine, but not, y’know, inspired. What makes it memorable is stuff like Rick’s obsession with pushing the Pirates of the Pancreas attraction, a joke that gets funnier as the episode goes on (“Pirates of the Pancreas was my baby. I got a lot of pushback when I pitched it.”); or the fact that Rick’s solution to the crisis is to enlarge Reuben’s corpse so much that Morty and Annie (the only two survivors) are at their normal size, creating a giant naked Santa body to hover over the United States, terrifying everyone except for the news anchors who use it for puns. Then Rick explodes the corpse, raining blood and gore on the planet below. It’s both a logical answer to the problem, and a horrible, hideous mess, which is pretty much the usual.
The B-plot also works, and I think credit is largely due to the voice actors; Dana Carvey is great as Jerry’s father, Leonard, but Patricia Lentz as Jerry’s mom, Joyce, and Echo Kellum as Joyce’s new lover Jacob (he also voices Poncho) are also effective, speaking with calm, soothing sincerity about how they’ve all discovered valuable new truth in their lives. That truth being a sort of three person relationship, with Joyce screwing Jacob as Leonard (dressed as Superman) watches. There’s really only one joke here: while Jerry reacts with (pretty understandably) shock and horror, everyone else believes Joyce and Leonard have made a beautiful, life-affirming decision, and Jacob is a patient and relentlessly polite. While this is yet another storyline which depends on making Jerry look foolish, this one benefits from the fact that Jerry isn’t actually being unreasonable or pathetic; his initial refusal to accept what’s happening is much easier to sympathize with than Beth’s complete, unquestioning acceptance. And in the end, everyone gets to bond over a rain of blood and their shared love of isolating electronic devices, because no one learned anything.
Morty’s brief affair with Annie is a weird bit that isn’t really funny enough to justify the time spent on it; she’s barely a character until the very end (when it she becomes interesting just long enough for Rick to shrink her gain), and her shift from “vague contempt” to “intense sexual longing” is just kind of odd. The only way it really makes sense is that she’s an opportunist using whatever tools she has at her disposal to survive, which makes sense in terms of that last scene, but is still pretty sketchily filled in. (And it’s not like she was attaching herself to anyone else before she and Marty start groping each other. I dunno. I’m thinking too much about this, but the show’s odd forays into Morty’s burgeoning sexuality remain a weird distraction.) Other than that, though, “Anatomy Park” holds up well: a messy, loopy twenty minutes that offers a great sampler of all the series has to offer, and a brief, but telling, glimpse into the dream that was the Pirates of the Pancreas, which really should’ve been the centerpiece right there, anybody can see that.
- Summer has a boyfriend! And he survives the episode, even though Rick has stuck the next Anatomy Park inside him, which doesn’t bode well for his chances.
- “Mmmmm Jerry, you are really giving it to this ham.” -Jerry
- Reuben doesn’t get many lines, but his grunted “Pearl Harbor” is well-timed.
- The disease monsters are just great looking monster designs. They’re believably threatening and scary, which raises the stakes, makes the story more engaging, and the jokes funnier.
- Okay, given the whole Jelly Bean King thing in a later episode, what exactly are we supposed to read into Ethan’s tearful confession to Jacob? Something about his brother and a bush and the brother making him be “the girl.” That doesn’t sound good.
- Rick’s “puffy vagina” comment was also creepy. Not because of the comment itself, but because of the implication that, what, he slept with her himself? So either she’s older than she looks and she was hooking up with 14 year-old Morty, or she’s young (she looks about the same as Jessica, Morty’s high school crush) and, I don’t know how this sentence has a happy ending. Wait, forget I said “happy ending.”
- Hepatitis C takes out Hepatitis A. “I think they’re just good guys.” -Annie
- “It’s all right, the TV says there’s nothing to worry about.” -Jerry