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Rick and Morty - Pickle Rick - Roundtable Review

This article was co-written by Louis Rabinowitz, Laura Markus, Milo M-J, Abi and Luca.

Overall Thoughts

Louis: To sum up Pickle Rick, we have to look at it as an action movie with a classic hero at its centre. Every action hero has a catchphrase of some type to coolly see off their enemies, or to reflect their brutal outlook on life. James Bond has “shaken, not stirred”, John McClane has “yippie ki-yay”, Jason Bourne just kind of grunts a lot… but Pickle Rick? Pickle Rick’s catchphrase is “Pickle Rick”. His catchphrase is his own name. That’s how cool he is.

That’s a really long-winded and tangential way of saying that Rick and Morty took a funny absurdist gag and turned it into a brilliant action movie pastiche that played as John Wick with more rats, complete with strangely intricate comic-book detail (the feeling that there’s a fascinating story going on somewhere in this world with Jaguar versus a despotic regime) and pints upon pints of blood and mustard spilt.

Even better than that, Pickle Rick managed to layer in a witty and emotionally intelligent B-plot about family therapy and eating poop that culminates in a classic Rick and Morty moment in which the episode’s wacky and heightened atmosphere is broken to reveal something dark and complex underneath it all.

We just saw an action movie beginning with a rat massacre and ending with a pickle man walking on rat tendons into a therapy session. What a time to be alive.

Milo: Now that’s more like it! Pickle Rick tackled a concept that could only be done on a show like this with it’s absurd idea of turning Rick into a Pickle for an episode. It couldn’t have worked, yet it did, and as a result this one is probably my favorite episode of the season so far in how well it turned out. The blood and gore that the series brought to the table in this episode is one of the most over-the-top that we’ve seen in awhile too, as Rick found himself in the middle of a cliched revenge flick which once again got the most out of its guest star Danny Trejo.

Abi: I’m honestly just sat here still in awe that I watched an entire episode of television where the main character was an animated pickle that got more done in one hour than I’ve done in a year. It’s just absolutely bonkers that this is a concept that the writers came up with and it should’ve been completely ridiculous and not worked but because they absolutely went there with it it actually ended up being hilarious. It was definitely over the top, but it totally worked. The juxtaposition of the action with Rick and the therapy session with Beth, Summer, and Morty was great. And having Danny Trejo and Susan Sarandon as guest stars this episode just shows how big this show is getting now. Definitely a great installment and this show just keeps getting stronger every week. PICKLE RICK.
Laura: Now THAT was an episode, am I right? Jeez, that could’ve been the most empty offering of the show. It could’ve been nothing but mindless action and gore, with some psychobabble on the side not leading to much development of anything. Thankfully, that is all “could’ve beens” and not what we actually got. We did get beautifully animated fight scenes and a nice but sometimes clich├ęd revenge story, but underneath all that we got a gruesome look at the tragedy of the family and what is ultimately killing them, mentally. And I loved every second of this masterpiece.

Luca: What a great episode. I loved the premiere for its intricate writing that eventually culminated in an amazing payoff, but episode 2 had me a bit worried, but that feeling was quickly swept away by an amazing that brilliantly managed to turn a surreal yet simple opening act joke into a whole action packed episode that also tackled some big aspects of the current family situation and the impact that Jerry's decision to leave is having on the other characters. It was also neatly wrapped in a bow when the two plot lines collided at the end of the episode delivering us some good insight on the father/daughter relationship at the core of the series.

Character development

Louis: As cleverer people than me have pointed out, Pickle Rick is one of the most searing indictments of Rick and Morty’s central character that the show has offered to date. With the help of a classically pulpy action movie plot and a heaping of ultra-violence that we’re encouraged to see as exciting, the episode allows us to vicariously experience the power of Rick’s fantasy that he’s constructing to distract himself from that nagging urge that, just maybe, he ought to have gone to therapy with his family.

But most of the meat, character-wise, comes in that extended therapy sequence culminating in Rick and Dr Wong’s duelling soliloquies. Before that culmination, we get a really interesting look at how Rick’s disparaging of meaningful emotional connections and promotion of tough, straightforward commodities like intelligence and power have impacted on Beth, whose extremely unsympathetic behaviour here (poor Morty and Summer, saddled with two garbage, neglectful parents at the worst possible time in their development) lines up uncannily with Rick’s socially maladjusted nature.

Dr Wong’s speech is an interesting one, because it’s at once a powerfully insightful confirmation of Rick’s toxic behavioural patterns and fear of his own intellect, written brilliantly by Jessica Gao, displaying a grasp on the confusing complexities of Rick’s psyche that manages to square the circle between the genuine love and kindness he has in his heart and his typical behavioural pattern of shunning all of that, and also… kind of clangingly unsubtle?

I don’t know. I suppose that it’s reasonable that Pickle Rick ended with this moment of piercing clarity after 20 minutes of pure avoidance, and it’s exceptionally written. But the show has been a little subtler and more elegant than this big, static monologue in finding those contradictions and complexities in Rick’s character in the past.

I’m really just splitting hairs here. I will stop now.
Milo: Rick turning himself into a Pickle to get out of therapy was pure Rick, and as a result he pretty much deserved it when he got stuck in Pickle form for most of the episode and had to make do with whatever was presented to him. He was able to eventually make amends and possibly form an even closer bond with Beth in the future, who also seems to be possibly the most heavily affected by the divorce that we’ve seen so far. Although that said this was a Jerry-less episode this week, so maybe we’ll find out how well he’s handling it next time. It’s also worth mentioning Danny Trejo’s Jaguar again here, who could have pretty much have walked straight out of any action movie and he felt right at home. Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ll see of him on the show!

Abi: Hey, Rick wanting to have a drink with Beth is totally character development, right? I mean sure he spent the 20 minutes before it being typical Rick and lying to people and going to absolute extremes to get out of going to therapy, but it ultimately brought him a little bit closer to Beth which was nice and unexpected. I’m totally seeing him going back to the same old Rick next episode though.  

Laura: The idea that everyone thinks that Rick and Beth are totally bonding now and have no underlying issues to address is truly laughable to me. If anything, all of this proved that they are so inclined to shield all of their emotions and refuse to actually talk about their problems - and this is truly frightening since it could be a trait that they pass down to their kids/grandkids. Morty and Summer are traumatized, sitting in the back seat of the car and hearing their mom/grandpa utterly mock them and try to joke about therapy. They clearly need to go back to therapy, and they want to, but obviously they are facing some backlash about this. I don’t think Rick developed at all in this outing. I think Morty and Summer are showing the most change. And I think, more than anything, we are truly seeing the worst of Beth here. Which is actually refreshing, because we haven’t seen this much of Beth in the whole show. This is promising.

Luca: Character development was really the main core of the episode, with Morty and Summer both showing disturbing behaviors following Jerry's department from the family, but the whole therapy plot turned on itself when really were Rick and Beth to get the biggest amount of growth. The fact that Rick went through all the Pickle stuff just to be there nonetheless (despite hidden by his search of the vial containing the antidote) shows how he's deep down willing to go to the extra mile for his family, just like Beth finally faced the unhealthy relationship she has with her father, how much they has affected her life and how she's still willing to go beyond that just to be with her dad.

Funniest moments

Louis: I feel like I have to start with the concept of Pickle Rick in the first place, because that joke is still funny four months after we first heard it. Otherwise… Rick’s beautiful, baffling rat suit, Dr Wong’s sideline in helping people to stop eating poop, the hilarious detail of the folk story of ‘the pickle man’, Jaguar and his comic-book freeze frame exit, Rick’s pickle parkour, the way in which the unsettling details of Morty and Summer’s behaviour go completely neglected by their mother and Dr Wong, the post-credits pay-off with Jaguar, Rick versus the cat who thinks he’s a snake and Beth’s egregiously awful mothering were all, you know, pretty funny moments.

The fact that these funny moments came in such a bleak and desperately sad episode is legitimately amazing. I mean, what other show on TV right now can balance slapstick like a pickle using mustard and a gherkin as a bandage with a constant undercurrent of existential despair?

Milo: Pretty much anything with Pickle Rick this week was pure gold. It was amazing. It’s hard to pick a specific moment because everything was just on fire this week in the comedic department, with so many standout moments. Even the over-the-top nature of all the bloodshed served only to add to the humor this week.

Abi: Honestly, pretty much any and every line Rick said this week. I loved Pickle Rick and they could’ve just had him in the garage just lying there as a pickle and it would’ve been funny but just the sheer absurdity of him killing rats and people and busting out of a mansion was amazing.

Laura: Honestly, I wasn’t laughing much at this episode. A lot of people gave The Rickshank Redemption some hate because they didn’t find it funny at all. In my opinion, this one offered a lot less jokes than that one. Not that it’s a bad thing, just something I had to consider. Though I will say that Rick turning himself into a pickle to avoid going to therapy with his family was not only #relatable, but also just sad. And the family’s debate over what the syringe was holding made me chuckle.

Luca: As much fun as the whole episode was, the opening bit with Rick turning himself into a pickle still takes the cake.

Easter eggs

Laura: There’s a picture of Snuffles on the wall in the bathroom, which can be seen at the very beginning when Morty is searching for Rick. No Jerry in this episode, however they got use out of Chris Parnell by having him voice one of the guards. And could all this eating poop be some kind of conspiracy brought on by that television show in “Rixty Minutes” where a character named Glen was eating shit, and then his mother brought him a court order that prevented him from doing so? Is Glen real? 

Is shit-eating a virus that is spreading? Rick’s suggestion to Beth for them to go to the Shoney’s - people are thinking that they NEVER LEFT THE SHONEY’S! It’s certainly an interesting proposition. Also, that, “Ohhhhh YEAHHHHHH!” scream you heard Rick say when he got to unleash the anger on the rats; if that sounded familiar it should’ve because he did that scream in “Auto Erotic Assimilation”.

Louis: We can’t forget that Doofus Rick, the kindly one from Close Rick-counters also ate poop for a living, and I feel like he might be more receptive to Dr Wong’s therapy than our Rick. Also, though I kind of touched on it above, the myth of the ‘Solenya’, the pickle man who crawls from cold soup, is a fun nod to the myth of ‘Baba Yaga’ in John Wick, as they’re both stories sold by rich men in protected areas who have become the targets of an unstoppable killing machine. Maybe one of the office supplies that Rick collected as weaponry was a pencil. I hear those are very good at killing.

What comes next

: Everyone successfully picked up on Christian Slater in the promo before me, but now that I do know he’s in it, I’m really excited to see how he’ll fit in - this season has seen a really impressive uptick in the number of big-name actors lending their voices (after Joel McHale’s guest spot last episode, this one offered us Danny Trejo, Susan Sarandon and Peter Serafinowicz alone).

As for the Vindicators concept? It looks like we’re getting something of a superhero spoof here. Given how last episode leaned on Mad Max and this one threw Die Hard and John Wick into a blender, it’s questionable whether we need another genre pastiche now. Then again, if any show can do it, it’s Rick & Morty. I’m not too worried.

Laura: Before I get to next week, I want to express my desire to see Jaguar again. Okay? Okay. Now - for next week! The Vindicators! Rick’s supposed to be at his drunkest! Morty is fanboying over some hotshot superhero! And Christian Slater is there! The excitement has no end!

Milo: The show has been on top form with its guest casting this week and to have Christian Slater follow up Danny Trejo is excellent, I can’t wait to see how he does. I’m a sucker for superhero-related stuff so I’m interested to see how this plays out given the show’s excellent track record of parodying stuff that we’ve seen so far.

Abi: Hello, was that Christian Slater I heard in the promo? I’m honestly just incredibly excited for any shenanigans this show throws at the audience because they’re all absolutely bananas conceptually but somehow they just work. I’m totally excited for drunk Rick and a superhero parody though. Man, I love this show.
It's superhero Christian Slater!

Thanks for reading our third roundtable review! Rick and Morty season three continues this Sunday at 11.30pm ET on Adult Swim. We'll have a review of episode four, Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender, for you next week.