Rick & Morty Promo Hints Season 5 Is Fixing A Problematic Character
Rick & Morty’s season 5 promo promises to do justice to the show’s problematic character Jessica, but will this be enough for frustrated fans?
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Rick & Morty’s season 5 promo promises to do justice to the show’s problematic character Jessica, but will it be enough for frustrated fans of the sci-fi comedy series? Since the series debuted in 2013, Adult Swim’s sci-fi comedy series Rick & Morty has won over a huge fandom, but as beloved as the show is, it’s not without its fair share of criticisms. The series often plays down its female cast, with important figures such as Beth’s mom never even being seen onscreen. Fortunately, a sneak peek at the show’s forthcoming fifth season teases that Jessica, Morty’s often-seen but barely-heard-from love interest, may finally be gaining some agency of her own on the show.
Jessica has always been a problematic character. She’s mostly a two-dimensional (or even one-dimensional) character used only to set up humiliating jokes for Morty as he attempts all manner of zany schemes to win her attention. Whilst Morty’s crush makes him a punchline of these jokes, there’s nonetheless a sexist undertone to a show with so few primary female characters using one of the recurring cast as a set up for jokes, rather than giving her any defining characteristics of her own. Jessica has been an important player in the show, with one of her early appearances in season one’s Rick Potion #9 showing how dark Rick & Morty could get.
But that episode and many others have limited Jessica’s role to being the object of Morty’s affectations. The character, although she appears regularly onscreen, is a force who is acted upon but does no substantial acting of her own even after four seasons. However, in the fifth season sneak peek, Jessica gets a moment of actual character development where, appropriately enough, she notes that Morty has never talked to her about his feelings for her before. She gets the chance when Morty calls her fearing death and reveals his crush. It’s a satisfying and promising touch that implies that the character may soon become more than a mere sounding board for more Morty jokes. Often, female characters have been the unsung heroes of the series, so it’s nice to add another to the mix.
It’s always cringeworthy when Rick & Morty tries to play off the shortcomings of its writing as intentional features rather than bugs. As a character on the show’s fellow adult animated comedy Bojack Horseman noted, it’s not enough to say you feel bad about your shortcomings and then continue to play into them. That’s arguably exactly what the show’s fourth season debut did, with Morty spending the entire episode pursuing Jessica, whilst her part in the episode was limited to a skinny dipping joke and a post-credits punchline. And admittedly Rick & Morty hasn’t always excelled at this sort of thing, as outside of a few stray moving moments it took until season 4 for Rick himself to get some character development.
But the show has proved time and again that it can write engaging characters amongst the sci-fi comedy madness, so it’s not too much to expect that Morty’s recurring love interest would be offered this courtesy. Given how frequently she appears onscreen, there’s no reason that this sneak peek couldn’t signal real change in how Rick & Morty handles Jessica’s character. The season four episode above is only one example of a pattern that has emerged throughout the show’s run, and with any luck, the scene glimpsed in the fifth season sneak peek won’t end on a reset that renders Jessica a flat character once again. Admittedly, Morty’s character has had other love interests on the show throughout its run, but a gruesome fate befell Anatomy Park’s Annie, so it’s not necessarily any better than consistently using Jessica to set up gags instead of offering her any memorable characterization of her own.