For those among you who aren’t familiar with Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s Adult Swim animated sci-fi comedy, stop reading this article now, watch all three seasons of Rick and Morty, then come back and read this article. It’ll only take you 682 minutes, or a little over 11 hours. You’ll be able to thank the author of this article for this recommendation later. Spoilers lay ahead.
Now, with season three recently concluded, fans of the show have a painfully long wait ahead of them. To combat the impending Rick and Morty drought, let’s review Rick’s character in season three.
This season got off to a fantastic start on April fool’s Day of this year with “The Rickshank Rickdemption”. After the emotional rollercoaster that was season two’s finale, during which we saw Rick seemingly grow as a character as he willingly sacrificed his freedom for the sake of his family. This was a powerful moment in the show; a character that viewers had grown to know as a cynical, detached, and selfish jerk, actually pulls a turnaround and saves his loved ones through self-sacrifice, all to the tune of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. The aforementioned opening to season three chronicles Rick’s escape from the Galactic Federation prison, and the ensuing chaos which follows, spawning the ever present schezwan sauce internet meme in the process.
Months later, on July 30th, the rest of season three returned, airing until the final episode arrived on October 1st. Many people online have already had discussions pertaining to the philosophical ideas that come up within the show; this season in particular seems to play with the idea of agency as a central conflict for its characters. Why do we make choices? What does it mean to choose? Do our choices even matter in the end? Each episode tackles this subject matter to a degree, some admittedly better than others.
Debatably, Rick’s strongest performance this season had to be in “Pickle Rick”. In this episode, as the title implies, Rick transforms himself into a Pickle. While the rest of the family is coping with the recent divorce, Rick is off adventuring through sewers and a Russian embassy in his pickle form. This seemingly random and eccentric action is, in reality, a complicated ploy on Rick’s part to avoid going to family therapy. When he finally does make it to therapy later in the episode, Rick is met with a fascinating psychological deconstruction of his character. The therapist Dr. Wong tells him: “Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness… the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control”. There is a dichotomy between the effect Rick’s infinite intelligence has on himself, and the effect it has on his family. Beth herself is constantly blocking any sort of emotional contemplation, refusing to consider how her father’s actions are eroding her family. Similarly, Rick’s solution is always to ‘not think about it’. He says it himself when asked about loving his daughter: “we don’t really buy into that kind of crap… my access to infinite timelines precludes the necessity of attachment”. Rick transcends the limitations of reality via his science; he can do literally anything, yet he denies himself any opportunity for emotional attachment. Beth reflects this denial in her behaviour, and we see this play out over the course of the entire season.
As fascinating as this season was for Rick and his family, it ended on a relatively underwhelming note. After visiting a dystopian version of earth, destroying a team of superheroes, spawning a toxic version of himself, and possibly cloning his daughter, the season ends with Rick fighting the President because Morty isn’t given a selfie. It’s a far cry from the absolute turmoil of season two’s finale, and even season one’s finale of a house party gone awry had more exciting moments. While the concept of Rick finally ‘losing’ to Jerry, his intellectually inept son-in-law, is certainly a compelling narrative twist, Beth’s choosing to go back with Jerry and stop defending her father seems much too sudden. We as the viewer, might still be unsure whether or not Beth is a clone, but regardless, her decision is a rash one that reads as out of character.
Naturally, the show continues to entertain, subvert, and perhaps even inspire, those who watch it. Rick Sanchez (C-137) is a character that can take us to an endless amount of interesting places, maybe one day he’ll realize that the choices he makes to find those places are entirely his own.
Written by: BeNjamyn Upshaw-Ruffner