Rick And Morty's Season 6 Episode Rick: A Mort Well Lived Is An Ode To Joy For Die Hard Fans

For a good long while, it seemed that the parody had become the lowest possible form of comedy. With such abhorrent cinematic garbage piles like the works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer ("Date Movie," "Epic Movie," "Disaster Movie," etc.) dominating the form for nearly a decade, it felt like almost no one even knew how to make a decent parody anymore, let alone a good one.

Enter Dan Harmon. Thanks to his groundbreaking sitcom "Community" and its numerous episodes that parodied everything from specific classic movies to genres, he and his writers proved that parody could be more than just empty references and callbacks. Putting down-to-earth characters who go to a community college inside a pseudo-zombie apocalypse, as in one episode, is an extension of the way Edgar Wright made films first and parodies second in his early work like "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."

When Harmon teamed up with co-creator Justin Roiland for "Rick and Morty," the potential for parodies both specific and stylistic grew exponentially with the show's sci-fi setting. Furthermore, as an animated production, parodying major movies would much easier. Sure enough, a number of the series' classic episodes are fantastic parodies of movies and TV shows, like "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender" and "One Crew over the Crewcoo's Morty."

Season 6 is only two episodes in, yet its second episode, "Rick: A Mort Well Lived," may have just accomplished the series' best parody of a single movie: the immortal "Die Hard." Just like some of the best episodes of the series, this episode works on numerous levels, especially for "Die Hard" fans.

Die Hard is the most easily replicated and parodied action movie

Christmas movie, schmistmas movie — "Die Hard" is an action movie. And not just an action movie, but the action movie.

Putting aside Christmas Eve, families, stockings, chestnuts, Frosty and any other holiday trappings that might ring a bell, the 1988 film that introduced star Bruce Willis in a whole new way and solidified director John McTiernan as an action guru (following his success the previous year with "Predator") is a sterling example of its genre. There may be other movies with more explosions, better action choreography and stuntwork, more complex characterizations, and so on, but "Die Hard" has an endlessly enjoyable premise and an airtight structure.

Certainly, anything so culturally relevant as "Die Hard" is bound to be parodied, and the movie has had more than its share of riffs. Take this Ben Stiller Show sketch, or this moment from "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon I" with Willis himself, or even this moment from "Community."

"Rick and Morty" is far from the first TV show to base an episode around a "Die Hard" scenario — shows as disparate as "Farscape" and "Chuck" have had "Die Hard"-themed episodes. Yet "Rick: A Mort Well Lived" is a parody that feels like it's coming from a true, die hard fan, double entendre intended.

Rick and Morty knows Die Hard isn't broke, and doesn't try to fix it

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of "Rick: A Mort Well Lived" parodying "Die Hard" is that the parody is only the B story of the episode. Written by Alex Rubens, the episode's A story involves Rick (Justin Roiland) attempting to save his grandson Morty (also Roiland), whose consciousness has been splintered into a billion pieces inside the virtual reality game known as "Roy: A Life Well Lived" in the Blips and Chitz arcade (first seen in Season 2, episode 2: "Mortynight Run"). As Rick attempts to reconstitute Morty as a bunch of alien terrorists infiltrate the arcade, Summer (Spencer Grammer) is advised by Rick to deal with the terrorists by doing a "Die Hard," a movie she's never seen before, given that she's just 17 years old.

While an episode-length "Die Hard" parody would likely get old after a while, "Rick: A Mort Well Lived" slyly uses the rock-solid structure of "Die Hard"as a tension-relieving cutaway in between the emotionally thorny and ethically complex main story. It's a joy to see so many classic scenes from "Die Hard" filtered through the bizarro sci-fi lens of "Rick and Morty," such as the head alien terrorist (voiced by Peter Dinklage with Alan Rickman-like regality) murdering an employee who won't give him information, Summer facing off against a terrorist on top of a long table before speaking to Dinklage's character on a "walkie-talkie," and so on. Director Kyounghee Lim gives each of these moments a few key visual elements to make the references work, but doesn't go too far outside of the show's house style.

A deep cut reference to Die Hard With a Vengeance, and...Raiders of the Lost Ark?!

Perhaps the deepest cut when it comes to references in the episode is one that isn't a reference to "Die Hard" but rather 1995's "Die Hard With a Vengeance," the third film in the series. In the episode's tag, the brother of Dinklage's alien terrorist is attempting to pull a job by making someone wear a poster board sign that says ,"I Hate Everybody." This is a direct reference to a scene in "Vengeance" where John McClane is wearing that oddly broad message in the film's television edit. The final film's version of the scene features a far more offensive and racist phrase that McClane is forced to wear. 

Of course, "Rick and Morty" being "Rick and Morty," the episode has to defy expectations at every turn. Rick cheekily calls the events of the episode "almost too on the nose" of a parody, and then the episode's final pre-credits moment has nothing to do with "Die Hard" at all, instead parodying the final shot of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (itself a moment that's been homaged quite a few times). Only "Rick and Morty" would end an episode-length movie parody with a reference to a completely different movie.

It's for Die Hard fans, but also pokes fun at them

Beyond the most obvious references, "Rick: A Mort Well Lived" peppers its "Die Hard" parody with knowing winks and nods that "Die Hard" fans will pick up on, like the alien terrorist referring to a "Thornburg Cycle" of stories (named for Richard "Dick" Thornburg, played in "Die Hard" by William Atherton) and later mispronouncing "motherf—er" in a bizarre way (similar to how Rickman says the word funny during the climax of the movie).

The extra subversive topping on the delicious "Die Hard" pizza is that not only is Summer oblivious to what happens in "Die Hard" (thereby making her perfect for the gig since "the guy in 'Die Hard'" never saw the movie either, as Rick points out), but the alien terrorists have planned their entire crime thanks to their being devotees of the film, enough that they've written several books on the movie (a plot point that cleverly ties the B story to Rick and Morty's A story involving religion). In other words, they're "Die Hard" fans, and the only fly in the ointment who can truly do a "Die Hard" against them is a non-fan like Summer.

The alien terrorist even tries to belittle Summer by saying he's "starting to doubt you can even quote a single line" from the film after he crows about how much he understands the movie's importance. Once Summer turns the tables on him, he astutely observes, "She hates 'Die Hard'...which makes her the ultimate McClane."

"Rick: A Mort Well Lived" is an episode that has its cake and eats it too, indulging "Die Hard" fans with a loving homage while equating fandom of the movie (and, by extension, any fandom) with religious zealotry. Being a huge "Die Hard" fan myself, if this is the show's idea of a Christmas gift for me, I gotta be here for their New Year's party.