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Rick and Morty - The Rickshank Redemption - Roundtable Review


This article was co-written by Louis Rabinowitz and Laura Markus.

“Before we jump into spoiler territory, let’s take a second to talk about this fantastic show for those who might not know what it’s about. Rick and Morty is a sci-fi, action, adventure, family drama, dark comedy, animated cartoon. So basically it’s a genre-blending work of art. We follow mad scientist Rick Sanchez and the rest of his family on many journeys of the self, other planets, dimensions, and more. With a show so infuriatingly creative at times, there seems to be no way to go for it but up, as Louis and Laura theorize. The season three premiere dropped on April Fools day, and with the rest of Season 3 airing every week starting this Sunday, we thought there would be no better time than now to jump into the fantastic world of this show. We hope that you will join us!

Overall Thoughts

Louis: I thought this was a very strong start to the season, especially considering the Gordian knot of a situation that the cliffhanger of season two left. Season three is often a point where originally interesting shows lose their lustre and become stale, so it was great to begin with an episode that was like nothing I’d seen before on TV. It felt like a conscious attempt not to do that in fact, blowing up a huge amount of the established mythology and bringing about a major shift in the household with Jerry kicked out by Rick, and taking apart the idea of a humanised and vulnerable Rick whose struggles we could root for. Like the very best episodes of this show,

The Rickshank Rickdemption is simultaneously a fascinating exploration of the infinitely complex psyche of a man who can see the full scope of the multiverse beyond anything we can comprehend, and an incredibly silly gagfest where the moral of the story is ‘dipping sauce’. It leaves season three able to go anywhere, but to do it without the guard rail of a neat and pre-established mythology to work through. A great, dense, thrilling, baffling 23 minutes.

Laura: I thought it was a very satisfying season opener, and essentially part-two as it were of “The Wedding Squanchers”. Regardless of how long you’ve been waiting for Season 3, your expectations for this episode were through the roof, and it’s seemingly impossible for any show to combat all of your requests in 23 minutes. But for my money, this was awfully close.

The writing was on point, as per usual. There are some scenes I have doubts about and will probably need further explanations of later on, but it was still brilliant. Some people are criticizing it for being too serious and not containing enough laughs. Well, maybe they should watch it again, or 17 more times, because I’ve managed to find not only a lot of laughs but also a lot of heart, which is precisely why I love the show so much and it’s at its best when it harnesses these traits with perfect balance.

Cliffhanger resolution

LouisRick and Morty season two ended on an episode that seemed to get to the truth of the show and of the character of Rick with a surprising, and kind of moving, emotional honesty. Season three’s opening episode flips the switch the other way entirely, and that feels deliberate. In almost every respect (bar quality!), this episode was the reverse of the season two finale, precision-engineered to induce whiplash by undermining almost all of the theories and interpretations were created back in 2015.

Season two suggested that Rick genuinely cared about his grandkids and felt remorse, so this episode seeks to brutally dismantle that image. His great backstory here is his search for limited edition Mulan dipping sauce. His masterplan involves kicking Jerry out the house. It’s almost a different character to the one we left.

And that’s kind of brilliant. Not many shows could get away with changing its interpretation of its main character so drastically, but Rick and Morty is one of the privileged few that can. It thrives on constantly wrong-footing its audience, on keeping us just as baffled as poor Morty is, all the time. If this show ever defined its main character in concrete terms and got him to emotionally open up, it would end. The way in which the episode re-asserts that total moral myopia that defines Rick by questioning and questioning his character until our conceptions of him break down entirely is clever and cruel. Which is very much the Rick and Morty recipe.

Laura: I have to say I’m on the fence about how this episode is trying to make me see the previous one. That finale was totally perfect, from start to finish. Rick’s sadness over losing Birdperson and having to go on the run was palpable, and I personally believe that he didn’t have an ulterior motive when turning himself in. Maybe he concocted some plan while he was lying there in prison: but beforehand? I just don’t buy it.

But the story in and of itself was bonkers in the best way. Using the Brainalyzer to take over the minds of the government one by one and then, having the Citadel of Ricks come along, going into their brains too to teleport into the government to destroy it once and for all? Outrageous. Rambunctious. And yet? So utterly Rick and Morty. The family also had good development after the cliffhanger. Jerry’s job was relevant; those pills were basically their meals. And all of their problems finally boiled over to have Morty completely turn on Rick, Summer stand by him, and Beth and Jerry divorce...basically because of him. That was all great. I should probably wait to see more episodes before I allow my mind to completely wander off about all of these offerings.

Character development

Louis: For such a plot-heavy episode, The Rickshank Redemption is surprisingly insightful about its main characters, setting up some genuinely interesting character arcs for the year in amidst the total chaos. It was interesting, and kind of sad, to see Morty turned against his grandfather for the entire episode, desperate to shield his sister from the frightening and unstable life he brings about. It was genuinely shocking to see him take a shot at Rick because of those feelings in the honest belief that the bullet was a blank.

Yet it feels right - this show is so narratively elastic that real, tangible consequences hit hard when they come, and Morty’s behaviour is a directly traceable result of every horrible thing that Rick has done to him making a complex situation where we can entirely understand his fury at his grandfather, yet feel unnerved by the break in the status quo of Morty as Rick’s loyal(ish) plaything. This episode sends him down one hell of a dark path for “the darkest year of adventures yet”, and I’m here for his descent into anger at his grandfather’s manipulations. Maybe he can get an eyepatch.

Summer also had a great episode, because in a rare instance, the show takes her seriously. She’s the optimistic voice for Rick – a teenage girl who’s mirrored her mother in latching onto a mythology of a man who she can’t imagine with flaws, and therefore a foil to the cynical and hardened Morty that gives their relationship a more original bent than just ‘younger brother and older sister’. And the episode never undermines that affection. It might be misplaced, but it’s not wrong, and she comes out of the episode as the most likeable of the family - away from Beth’s dangerously desperate need for a father figure, and away from Morty’s dangerous apathy. It’s an angle I’d like to see more of as Morty becomes distanced from us.

And poor Beth, whose character journey is both absurdist and sadly believable. Rick’s treatment of her borderlines on emotional abuse, wherein he uses his presence as a weapon with which he can freely carve out his own will, turning his negligence into an advantage as his rare availability to Beth becomes preciousness.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that Beth turns on Jerry so fast - Rick is colder, more aloof, less affectionate, and far more of a mystery to her, compared to the husband who spelled out the entire nature of his character, presumably, within about 12 seconds of their meeting. To be able to finally pin him down after yet another long absence where his presence overrides any real problems she may have is an offer that she can’t refuse. Yet of course, it’s a terrible offer. It’s like starving someone and giving them just enough scraps of food to develop a relationship of power, to force them to feel grateful and to ascribe false emotional significance to what is essentially a cruel con. Rick will inevitably let her down, and another cycle will begin. This show really gets depressing to analyse.


Laura: Perhaps the most surprising thing about the episode was Morty’s characterization. He seems to be going through puberty for real now, which is nice, but when you think about what that means in terms of his dynamics with everyone it can be quite a troubling thought. He’s becoming unphased, desensitized, and unbothered by what his grandpa is making him do, but the best part about this is that he is refusing to let him do it to Summer. He doesn’t want her to see him in that light because it’s a facade. Morty used to see him as a hero, a genius, and knowing what he knows in this episode he shifts his gears. He’s cold, heartless, and bails on everyone because, “No one is special to him. Not even himself”. Remember in the Purge episode where he went on a murderous rampage and was at ease because he thought it was just the chocolate doing that to him (but we, as the audience, got to see it wasn’t)? Well, he has no qualms about shooting his grandfather in the freakin’ face. So while it’s good to see them bring back this trait for continuity reasons, if you really think about what this means in the grand scheme of things...it’s horrifying. I said in my post for SOTW that I would not be surprised if this version of Morty turns out to be the Eyepatch Morty we saw earlier in the show. It would make sense based on where he’s going and his utter defiance and lack of interest in Rick and what he’s doing. I could see that being a possible plot for the season finale. And what a finale that would be, am I right?

Then, you had Summer, by far the best thing about the episode. Of course you’re supposed to feel for her and that she sees Rick as a true hero. All that she was able to see from him is the good stuff, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. I think Summer is in a interesting situation. Beth has been telling her not to be like her and get sucked into Rick’s vortex. So she clearly has knowledge about what Rick can really be like. But she has been on a few adventures and has seen a good side of him. When Rick was talking her down, telling everyone that he’d shoot her, I wonder if it was genuine. Maybe she knew all along that his plan was to make everyone think he would shoot her. Part of believes that could be true. And Summer is a lot smarter than we think she is, after all. I am still so happy that she shined so much in this outing. I hope she gets to continue being a focus in the rest of the season!

Mythology

Louis: They blew up the Galactic Government! The gag of changing their currency to ‘0’ was a fantastically simple way of doing that, and the sheer audacity of the show completely destroying this key element of its mythology with such a mundane trick outweighed the way in which this was, essentially, a giant, bare-faced reset button to bring us back to the familiar Earth we know and love. 

Laura: Summer and Morty were saved by the power of the dead Rick in their backyard. That was an incredible throwback as it proves that moment was never forgotten by Morty, for better or worse. I’m surprised his portal gun still worked and the Rick that took over this world didn’t steal it for resources, but nevertheless, it was a great moment.

Of course you have to mention the fact that they brought back the Council of Ricks. It was a pretty important plot piece in the episode, and it helped to resolve the cliffhanger as mentioned above.

And the final scene of the episode is directly reminiscent of the ending scene to the Pilot. Only Morty seems less surprised about Rick’s behaviour, finally starting to see him for who he is, and is becoming less scared of him and what he can do. It was great how they brought back the “Rick and Morty forever and ever 100 years” line by saying “97 years” this time. And of course we now need 9 more seasons of the show to get to that dipping sauce. Brilliance.

Funniest moments

Louis: Jerry yelling “Willem Dafoe!” for a reason we will never understand. The moment we realise that Rick’s tragic origin story means nothing, and that he just makes this stuff up for kicks. Everybody screaming at Morty in the stand-off. The gun with a note saying ‘fake gun’ on it. How quickly Beth makes her decision to kick Jerry out and put aside her complaints about Rick. "Pill brulee." The fact that Rick’s garage is brought up by arranging dead flies. The improv joke. "I'm going to take a shit." Jerry folding himself seven times. The reprise of the iconically disturbing final scene from the pilot, only now there's 97 years and nine seasons to go. And of course, the Mulan dipping sauce, the kind of beautifully stupid joke with horrifying implications that only this show can do. I feel like I’ve hit about 2% of the jokes here.

Laura: Rick’s dumb rant about the McNugget sauce was too funny. The sheer fact that he would perform all of these insane tasks to get that sauce back in his life is something he probably would do. And Louis already mentioned the hilarious table banging scene, with Jerry shouting “Willem Dafoe”. That was my favourite stupid scene that I can’t stop laughing at, every single time I watch the episode. And lastly, the improv joke which lead to Rick saying, “I’m gonna take a shit” every time he swapped bodies with someone. Comical genius.

Easter eggs

A Dipper and Mabel version of Morty
Laura: There was a wonderful direct reference to the show Gravity Falls in the episode. In the scene where Summer is walking with Morty and other Ricks in the Citadel of Ricks, you can see on the left side of the screen that there is a Mabel and Dipper version of Morty, complete with a dress, headband, and signature Pine Tree hat. Seeing as how there have already been a few references and homages to that show in Rick and Morty, this was the icing on the cake. I will lose my mind if we ever get to see the actual characters in the show one day. Anything is possible!

What comes next

Louis: What I want from season three is… basically irrelevant. This is a show that’s almost always best when it’s focusing on its own bizarro, unexpected new ideas as opposed to calibrating everything according to fan feedback (it’s the difference between the brilliantly weird ‘Rixty Minutes’, and its sequel, which reproduced it to diminishing returns), so suggesting things to bring back or plot directions to take almost seems like a moot point. It’s not like the show should never reuse ideas (Laura mentioning the Meeseeks reminds me how it would be the cruelest injustice in a world of cruel injustice if they never came back), but doing what’s proven has never been Rick and Morty’s way, nor should it be.

I do, however, want to see Beth and Summer integrated more into the main stories, as they’re our most relatable points of contact to the show’s world now that Morty has started to lose his marbles - the season three premiere teed things up well in that regard (especially with Summer as a paid-up adventurer alongside Rick and Morty).

The trailer, unsurprisingly, looks fantastic, and there’s so many individual ideas and moments to unpack in there. I’m especially excited for episode two, which seems to be inspired heavily by Mad Max, both because the source material’s unapologetic weirdness is a perfect fit for Rick and Morty and because the show has had a lot of success with its genre pastiches in the past, like with season two’s ‘Mortynight Run’. Also, while 2017 certainly has its problems, it’s also the year where we’ll have an entire episode focused around a man making himself into a pickle. Good things still exist.


Laura: Yeah, I’ll echo what Louis said. I don’t even have any concrete hopes and wishes for this season, other than having a badass, fun time. This is the first time in my history of watching the show where I have no idea what’s going to happen next (since I binged the first two seasons knowing most of the big spoilers that took place). It seems that Justin and Dan both have great ideas on where to take the show and what references to bring back and what to leave out. They did mention that they are bringing back something for a standalone episode (my money is on the Meeseeks reprising for a small role) which does excite me. However, I think I am much more excited about character developments as opposed to huge plots.

I mentioned above that Morty, Summer, and Beth are intriguing me the most. And while I do loathe Jerry in most places, I am curious about how they are going to utilize him now that he’s spending some time...divorced. Pickle Rick seems like it’s going to be an absolute blast! There’s so much goodness from this short trailer that I don’t even know where to begin. The Mad Max parody looks good, though it would probably fair better for me if I actually watched the movie. The roller coaster ride with Jerry and Rick looks like a recurring plot throughout (maybe that’s the small serialized story Justin and Dan were talking about). I don’t know. It all looks amazing, I am both excited and afraid for it, and I really just can’t wait to see how this season goes.

Thanks for reading our first roundtable review! Rick and Morty season three begins this Sunday at 11.30pm ET on Adult Swim, and airs new episodes at the same day and time from there on out. We'll have a review of episode two, Rickmancing the Stone, for you next week.

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