Rick and Morty season 5 episode 1 spoilers follow.
Rick and Morty season five starts with Beth and Jerry in a surprisingly good place, “a sex-positive place” as Chris Parnell recently put it to Digital Spy. “It’s fun to see the relationship change and evolve and grow,” he continues, and that’s true, but perhaps not even diehard fans could have predicted precisely how Jerry in particular would “grow” this season.
“Mort Dinner Rick Andre” introduces us to a far more sexual version of the couple than we’ve ever seen before, much to the disgust of their children. So when Mr Nimbus AKA The King of the Ocean, asks if they’re up for a threesome, Beth and Jerry actually consider it.
Not even the potential “death by orgasm” cited by the starfish’s paperwork puts them off for long. And while Morty’s story does end up taking centre stage, Beth and Jerry return briefly at the end discussing safe words outside of Nimbus’s door, ready to get schwifty.
Before this episode, there had already been some speculation that Jerry might be queer. That’s thanks in large part to the season-two episode “Total Rickall” where Jerry pursues a relationship with Sleepy Gary.
While it turns out that the memory of this character was actually a fake one implanted by a parasite, Jerry was still devastated to discover Sleepy Gary didn’t really exist. In fact, he even wanted to die alongside Gary at first, telling Beth that he’ll need time to recover from this loss before he can be intimate with her again.
Although some fans chalked this down to Jerry’s emotional neediness and desperate desire for validation, this didn’t exactly seem like a straight character’s journey. And now, three seasons later, Jerry has finally acted on his queer desires in a threesome with Beth and Nimbus.
Does a one-off session mean that Jerry is really queer though? Some detractors might point out his obsession with Beth, but that doesn’t mean he’s straight. Jerry is fascinated by Nimbus throughout this episode, even worrying at one point that he might fall in love with the Sea King. If we were to use a label, bisexual or pansexual seems far more accurate here than straight.
This wouldn’t make Jerry the first LGBTQ+ character to appear on this show, and while we’re at it, he’s not even the first Smith family member to be revealed as queer either. Most viewers might not be aware of this, but Rick himself is canonically queer. Remember when he enjoyed sexual encounters with an entire planet of male and female aliens in season two? Or how about that moment when he played bondage games with a male gnome while inside another person’s dream?
Rick’s pansexuality is incorporated rather casually, and Jerry’s queerness is also treated in a similar way. Labels are never used and no one really bats an eyelid when these LGBTQ+ story arcs do unfold.
On the one hand, this approach helps normalize queer experiences which are all too often othered. For that, Rick and Morty should be celebrated. But five seasons in, it does feel like the show is almost too casual in this regard. As previously mentioned, a lot of fans aren’t even aware that the main character of Rick And Morty is queer (And Summer is too if the comics are to be considered canon).
By treating queerness with this much subtlety, the show runs the risk of appearing averse to positive representation. And that’s even more likely when the most direct acknowledgements of queer identity tend to come in the form of jokes like Sleepy Gary.
Jerry’s longing for Nimbus certainly represents a step in the right direction. It’s casually done again, like most of the show’s previous forays into queerness, but it also seems like more than just a joke this time round. Yes, it’s funny that Beth and Jerry are banging an absurd sea person who also happens to be Rick’s “greatest nemesis”, yet more crucially than that, it also seems to be playing into the evolution of Beth and Jerry’s relationship.
Season five has already begun to explore serialized storytelling in ways that this show can only benefit from. With more emphasis on family moving forward, let’s just hope that future episodes allow Jerry to “change and evolve and grow” more too. And that’s true regardless of whether he stays with Beth or meets someone else in the “many orgies” Chris Parnell teased are “coming up” soon in season five.
Rick and Morty airs on Adult Swim.
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