After pulling one of the greatest April Fools prank ever by airing the season 3 premiere early, Rick and Morty has been airing new episodes since July 30th. Season 3 has seen many elements of the show on fine form, slowly building an arc for our main characters that came to an interesting climax in the recent ‘Rest and Ricklaxation’. Since we’re halfway through the season, now seems like a good time to recap where we’ve been, and where we might be headed.
To begin with a broad point, Rick and Morty has really sharpened its satirical claws this season. Rickmancing the Stone’ begins as a parody of Mad Max, which Rick then renders inane by reducing the world to a familiar, dismal suburb. ‘Pickle Rick’, in which Rick actually turns himself into a pickle to escape family therapy, becomes a hilarious homage to the John Wick films, with pencil-related deaths and references to old folklore abound.
Perhaps its sharpest, most cruel satire can be found in ‘Vindicators 3: Return of World Ender’, which tears apart the basic premise of Marvel’s Avengers piece by piece. Or rather, Rick tears it apart piece by piece; after the galaxy’s mightiest superheroes assemble to stop an unstoppable threat. A blackout drunk Rick stops that threat, and then subjects his sober self, Morty and the Vindicators to a series of cruel challenges. The brilliant but cruel heart of this episode is that Rick’s scheme has no real focus or grand design; he just wanted to ruin the Vindicators, for themselves and for Morty. It works; it doesn’t take long for their easygoing persona to implode into rage and murder.
There’s a common theme in these examples, and that theme is -Rick ruining it for everyone. He’s not a character known for being easy to deal with, but he’s been downright cruel this year, and the examples go far beyond what’s discussed above. On any other show, this might have been a sign of the writing getting lazy, but ‘Rest and Ricklaxation’ both addresses the issue, and complicates it for installments to come.
Separating Rick and Morty into ‘healthy’ and ‘toxic’ versions of themselves is an interesting premise, if a little trite. The twist, that the ‘toxic’ versions stem from what they themselves consider to be their unhealthy characteristic, turns an already hilarious episode into an absolutely fascinating character piece. Of many things this episode reveals, the most harrowing is that it’s toxic Rick that has an attachment to Morty. It’s been easy to read Rick as a jerk who doesn’t want to admit he cares, but the truth is far worse; Rick is a jerk that actively tries to stop caring.
In the season opener ‘The Rickshank Redemption’, Rick flat out threatens to kill Summer in front of another Rick, because it’s easier than waiting for the other Rick to stop holding her hostage. It seemed at the time like a knee jerk reaction to being teased about his love for Summer and Morty. The whole scenario was part of one of Rick’s schemes, but this reveal makes it clear that he wishes he was heartless enough to actually do it. The smartest man in the universe, who dismantled two intergalactic governments. Jerry of all people crossed him, doesn’t want to care about anyone else. He wasn’t kidding when he told Morty it was the ‘darkest year of our adventures yet’, and by the sounds of it, we’re not done either.