Animation / Axiology / Morality

Divided They Stand, United They Fall

Continuing with this month’s theme of various takes on love, this Friday’s post is devoted to one of television’s best depictions of a deep, touching romance: the relationship between Rick Sanchez and Unity. If you have seen the animated genius of Rick and Morty, you probably realize that bold statement was a cheap attempt at a chuckle. The unlikely pairing of Rick and Unity displayed in the episode Auto Erotic Assimilation brilliantly creates some stark and crucial contrasts between the characters that make for a decent philosophy lesson, as well as a shocking similarity to explain the end. Until the creator, Dan Harmon, dishes out some more gold in the next (third) season, Auto Erotic Assimilation will remain one of my favorite Rick and Morty episodes.
As the fourth episode of Rick and Morty’s encore season, the story begins with Rick and his two grandchildren, Morty and Summer, traveling through space – per usual – until they receive a distress signal from a ship and decide to investigate the matter. According to the amoral, yet lovable scientist, the ship is most likely abandoned so it is an opportune time to raid its equipment. Unknowingly, the three stumble upon a few remaining crew members that claim to be fleeing from a hive-mind that has taken over the planet.
It is soon after hearing from the distraught crew members that we hear the voice of Unity. This character is perhaps one of the most interesting figures that Harmon has given us in this series. Simply because Unity is a hive-mind there is never a depiction of Unity’s original body – if there is an original body to be seen. Throughout the space travelers’ visit on the planet Unity has controlled, Summer and Morty come to understand the pitfalls and benefits of everyone guided by one mindset, though it takes a while for the siblings to realize the upsides.
The other half this episode is divided into involves a debacle between Beth and Jerry, Summer and Morty’s parents. Though Beth and Jerry’s dying marriage is a comedic pool that never runs dry, their marriage shall be a topic saved for another time. Instead, I want to focus on the connection that Rick and Unity share, why they are the perfect dichotomy for several theories, and why it is these two mesh so well.

 

An Organized Collective

If for some unearthly reason you haven’t seen this quaint masterpiece, I’ll briefly explain Unity’s abilities and properties. Since Unity is a hive-mind can control multiple people at once. Their thoughts as well as their actions are simultaneously dictated at the will of Unity, therefore whenever Summer or Morty talked to any random person on the planet controlled by Unity they were speaking directly to Unity. Another aspect of Unity that contrasts our usual customs is that Unity has no gender. A completely reasonable trait for a being that only interacts through cognition.

Unity quite literally represents the ideal scenario in which everyone thinks and acts alike. Because Unity controls everyone on the planet Rick and his grandkids are visiting none of the citizens dissent to any task Unity places on them. It is the most efficient and equal society thought possible by Unity. Although it is a well-run community, it is that way because of the authoritative grasp Unity has on the entire planet. Unity effectively subjects all of the citizens on the planet to its own will, determining their life and allocating the skills and resources among them. The penultimate authority.

 

The Unpredictable One

Rick is a brilliant scientist that has mastered the intricacies of interdimensional travel, while wanted by authorities of the Intergalactic Police. He has no problem using a person as a means if it justifies the ends, causing him to come off as callous and egoistic. During this episode, his reuniting with Unity is marked by endless partying and a public commemoration that would put award shows to shame. The relationship he shares with Unity is clearly not symbiotic, as Unity continuously supplies him with pleasurable…things, while he maximizes his hedonistic demands.

As you might have expected by now, Rick is not like his former partner – in fact – Rick is the antithesis of Unity in many aspects. Rick’s often rude and selfish demeanor adequately describes the overall vibe that he exudes: nothing has intrinsic value, so do what you want. His extremely liberal approach to interacting with others exemplifies the radical individualism at the root of his nihilism (a stance that undercuts the roots of what is valued). Rick’s whole persona is an expression of liberalism that is in constant search of truth for the sake of knowledge.

 

Neutralized

It is precisely because Unity is willing to cater to Rick’s every whim with the supplement of an entire planet that the two are simply incompatible. The one similarity that Unity points out to Rick in a ‘goodbye letter’ is their ability to change the will and attitude of others. Unity unsurprisingly because it is a hive-mind, and Rick because of his incorrigible and enthusiastic antics. While Auto Erotic Assimilation beautifully depicts how Rick and Unity quite literally symbolize the old adage, ‘opposites attract,’ it gives a touching ending as Rick returns to Earth and his laboratory. He props up a laser towards his head that’s demonstrated the strength to kill, and as the laser charges he sits in silence until his head drops to the table and the laser misses him by inches. With the song Do You Feel It? by Chaos Chaos playing during this final scene, the tone of this episode is capped off in a fitting way, like no other animation I’ve seen in a while.

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