SPOILER ALERT: Do not read until you have watched “Rick and Morty” Season 5, Episode 4, “Rickdependence Spray.”
Whether intentional or not, it’s an interesting bit of timing that — considering the inspiration for the title — “Rickdependence Spray” is the “Rick and Morty” Season 5 episode that airs the week after Independence Day. That’s not to say that airing this episode on the Fourth of July would have made its existence make much more sense, there’s just a certain synergy that would have come with it. Instead, “Rickdependence Spray” seemingly exists in its own little world, both in terms of scheduling and the very premises and execution.
Sometimes it comes across like Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon, and the rest of the “Rick and Morty” writers’ room create episodes specifically just to see how inaccessible they can be to outsiders, or to see just how poorly they will land if they were possibly someone’s first episode of the series. “Rickdependence Spray” is one such episode and possibly the epitome of such an episode, going so full tilt into one semen (and sperm) extended joke that it all ends up with “a giant incest baby.” Sure, the Roiland synopsis of “Rickdependence Spray” says “No shame broh. We all do it broh.” But maybe not to this catastrophic of a level.
It all begins at Beth’s, in Morty’s words, “stupid horse hospital,” when Morty learns about the breeding mount used to “collect reproductive material” from the horses. The episode then jumps to one week later, and it’s obvious what Morty’s done: He had sex with the breeding mount. A lot. As much as he possibly could in the span of a week, which was, again, a lot. Of course, that’s not revealed yet. Instead, it’s inferred from the fact that Rick has taken the (supposed) horse semen from the horse hospital to create a weapon to take down the CHUDs (like in the 1984 film “C.H.U.D.”), the underground horse people they’re always fighting (as of this episode). This leads to the creation of killer space sperm… and that’s the episode.
“Rick and Morty” is a smart show that knows how to do dumb humor well. But without intentionally leaning into the bit, “Rickdependence Spray” really feels like an episode that just wanted to throw everything it possibly could at the wall, only to end up a major mess. And the most surprising part of this episode is simply the fact that Rick actually is out of the loop and doesn’t realize what Morty did until he confesses. This isn’t a stubborn lesson that Rick is trying to teach Morty because we all do it bro(h). Morty’s sketchy behavior throughout the episode is never found out — it only comes out because the Sperm Queen says it out loud.
“Rick and Morty” has never shied away from the fact that Morty is a forever 14-year-old boy who just wants to have sex. It really doesn’t matter if the sex is with an inanimate object or not. And because of that, the world almost ends in this episode. Or something like that. The “Independence Day” connection suggests that the fate of the world is in danger in this episode, but the content and context of this episode suggests no sense of urgency whatsoever. In a way, Nick Rutherford’s script just kind of feels like overload of the same jokes that all just kind of happens. The “background marines” bit — complete with the Kathy Ireland “pay-off” — for example, is the type of story “Rick and Morty” beat that would typically hit. But in “Rickdependence Day,” it’s more like an unnecessary detour, another thing just thrown at the wall in hopes that it will stick.
Keith David is always a welcome presence on “Rick and Morty,” but Rick and the President messarounds have never actually been the most interesting or exciting plots of the series. In fact, that’s the reason why the President’s brief appearance in “Mortiplicity” was so good: He got in, made clear he wanted absolutely nothing to do with Rick’s shenanigans, and he got out. But here, the President doesn’t just work with Rick (and Morty), he also works with Summer, Beth, and Jerry. And while there’s plenty of mileage to get out of the whole family being involved in episodes — though to be fair, Jerry’s involvement ends up being nothing more than pouring water for the President — the “plot” Summer and Beth have isn’t all that captivating.
Summer learns a lesson about how men won’t listen to her ideas, yet will listen to other men who say the same idea — something she could’ve easily learned from a former mission with Rick and Morty by this point. As Beth asks her in the climax of this particular thread, “Ugh, ready for all the responsibility with none of the credit,” to which Summer replies, “Let’s Nancy Reagan this bitch.” It’s the type of moment that makes you want to just say no.
While the space semen technically end up losing — thanks to the CHUDs, who Rick was able to broker peace with — that doesn’t stop the “giant incest baby” from being born and launching off into space. If nothing else, it has its own independence day in this episode.