Arielle Van Deraa, Photo Editor
On Sunday, October 1, the season finale of the third season of Rick and Morty aired. This season was highly anticipated, and set records for viewership, becoming the highest-rated show in Adult Swim history. The season kicked off with a surprise premiere on April 1, bringing back the beloved show after a year-and-a-half long hiatus.
This season was the strongest yet, combining the comedy the show is famous for as well as intense plots that kept viewers watching. Rick and Morty manages to combine comedy, high-stakes sci-fi rigamarole, and character development that hits close to home in one weird, incredible package.
Rick and Morty revolves around Rick Sanchez, a genius mad scientist, and his adventures with his grandson, Morty Smith, a kind but easily distressed adolescent boy. In the season opener, Rick escaped from space prison, took down an evil space regime, caused the divorce of his daughter, Beth, and her husband, Jerry, and replaced Jerry as the “de facto patriarch” of the family.
Rick delivered a long speech, similar to the one he gave in the Pilot, that quite succinctly outlined the changes he expected this season. He explains to Morty that they have adventures to go on, “Just you and me and sometimes your sister and sometimes your mom but NEVER your dad! You wanna know why Morty? Because he CROSSED me!” He tells Morty that this will be the darkest year of their adventures, and because he’s now a hero, Morty will have to do whatever he says. He also informed Morty that he’s “driven by finding that McNugget Sauce,” inadvertently causing a craze for the Schezwan sauce that we reported on last year.
It set the season’s tone as one characterized by Rick, now hero-worshipped by his daughter and granddaughter, manically dragging Morty all over the galaxy without a single attachment to anyone. Or, at least, it tried to.
Everything that Rick emphasized in his speech at the beginning of the season turned out to be wrong. Rick, who up until this season had barely been shown to care about anyone, proved that the only thing he is truly driven by is his family; more specifically, by Morty. Morty himself has noticeably changed from the nervous, helpless, stuttering boy we met in the Pilot, but this season held the most character development for him yet.
Episode two was centered around Morty and his sister, Summer, taking out the frustrations of their parents’ divorce by living as post-apocalyptic scavengers for a few weeks. Rick, in a rare moment of wisdom, convinces the kids that you can’t run away from your problems- not even in a postnuclear apocalyptic wasteland.
Episode three involved Rick turning himself into a pickle (which spawned many Internet jokes) in order to avoid family therapy. The episode contrasted scenes of Beth, Summer, and Morty at family therapy with scenes of Rick violently murdering insects, rats, and eventually people in an absurdly gory sequence that was over the top, even for this show. This is how Rick runs away from his problems. The therapist later notes that Rick has disdain for maintenance, of himself or his relationships, because “there’s no way to do it so wrong that you might die.”
Episode four made fun of longrunning Marvel movie franchises by showing us only the last in a trilogy of “The Vindicators”’ adventures- point being that we didn’t need to see the first two, because the plot was so predictable.
In the fifth episode, Rick breaks one of his self-imposed rules from his rant at the beginning of the season- he takes Jerry, who he despises, on an adventure at the request of Morty.
The sixth episode was one of the most noteworthy of the season, if only for the light it shed on the characters of both Rick and Morty. The two go to a spa that removes their “toxins”- personality traits that they view as toxic- and essentially splits them into two. For Rick, his toxic self includes his God complex and his temper, but while his love for his family remains in his healthy self, his attachment to Morty is removed. Morty’s toxic self is terrified and self-hating, but retains his conscious. The episode is an interesting glimpse into how the characters view themselves and the world around them, and raises some interesting questions about how character development will proceed in the future.
Episode seven was unquestionably the most powerful of the season, and possibly even of the series. In the first season, it was revealed that versions of Rick from many different dimensions had banded together to create the Citadel of Ricks- a planet inhabited solely by different versions of Rick and Morty. Our Rick, who is referred to as “c-137”, his dimension’s name, holds a strong hatred of all governments, including this one. He and Morty have a couple of run-ins with the Citadel of Ricks throughout this series, but in this episode we leave c-137 Rick and Morty entirely and focus on a day in the life on the Citadel of Ricks. The episode is funny, but notably darker in tone. It follows several different Ricks and Mortys as they go about their lives- as factory workers, police officers, politicians and schoolboys. The episode is haunting for reasons I don’t want to spoil here, and shows us the universal depth of Rick and Morty’s relationship, to a disturbing degree.
Rick and Morty is known for its Intergalactic Cable episodes, in which the voice actors improvise short hilarious sketches, and the eighth episode served as a replacement for the beloved formula. Named “Morty’s Mindblowers,” it introduces memories that Morty asked to be removed- and shows Rick’s manipulative tendency to remove any memories of Morty’s that portray Rick in a negative light, even something as petty as Morty winning at checkers.
The ninth episode focused around Beth and Rick’s relationship, one that was decidedly glossed over in earlier seasons. Rick left Beth’s mother when Beth was young, leading to Beth’s abandonment issues and ultimately her early pregnancy with Summer and struggle with alcoholism. Thankfully this episode leaves us with a little resolution, as Beth comes to terms with her identity as her genius father’s daughter.
Finally, the season finale, which in this author’s opinion was a huge letdown. After a strong season, and plenty of character development, this episode may have been strong if it were in the middle of the season, but as a finale it was a disappointment.
The episode’s vague plot follows Rick fighting the President of the United States in order to get Morty a selfie with him- a wish Morty had vaguely harbored since season two, but one he quickly gave up on once he saw just how far Rick was willing to go to get Morty that selfie. Rick becomes crazed over the idea, and Morty- uncharacteristically, in my opinion- straight up abandons him.
Once he learns that Morty has deserted him, all motivation is sapped out of Rick. It’s depressing to watch, especially because the beginning of the episode showed him and Morty getting along as well as they ever have; trading comebacks, adventuring, and playing Minecraft. Rick and Morty is at its strongest when its titular characters are getting along, and it was heartbreaking to watch as Rick lost his standing with his family.
The episode ended with the family sharing a laugh at Rick’s expense as Rick glared at them. While it was mildly satisfying to see Rick taken down a peg or two, it was ultimately overridden by the discontent that comes when Rick and Morty, dynamic duo, aren’t getting along. We were left with no resolution. In short, it simply didn’t feel like a season finale, especially since we will doubtlessly have to wait years to see any sort of resolution.
If any good came of this episode, however, it proved once and for all that Rick cares about Morty above all else. He gave up his way of life- his pride, his status in his family, possibly even his reckless adventuring- just so he could stay with Morty, specifically the Morty from his dimension. For all his talk about how Morty is replaceable, it is evident after this season that Rick is firmly attached to c-137 and will not leave him under any circumstances. After all, he could have left, and travelled to a new dimension, and took up with a new Morty and a new family that respects him. He’s left his family before, and he could do it again; the only difference is that this time, he wouldn’t have this Morty with him. That’s the only reason he stays.
Though we will doubtlessly have to wait quite a while for the next season, I personally can’t wait to see what the change in dynamic will mean for our favorite space-faring, dimension-hopping duo. I can only hope that season four will see further character development, continuation of the overarching plot points, and, most importantly, the reconciliation of Rick and Morty.