By Hermes and Aristophanes
Today’s discussion of Rick and Morty contains spoilers for the entirety of Season 3. Reader discretion is advised.
Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity, grammar and style.
Hermes (Herm): Now that Season 3 of Rick and Morty is complete, and we’ve had some time to sit down and collect our thoughts, I wanted to launch a post-mortem discussion. This season was undoubtedly the most ambitious we’ve seen from the series showrunners, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, representing some of their best work yet.
For reference, here’s a list of the episodes in Season 3:
- The Rickshank Rickdemption
- Rickmancing the Stone
- Pickle Rick
- Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender
- The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy
- Rest and Ricklaxation
- The Ricklantis Mixup
- Morty’s Mind Blowers
- The ABCs of Beth
- The Rickchurian Mortydate
What do you think deviated from their typical formula that worked very well?
Aristophanes (Ari): So, we’ve definitely talked in our other chats about how the creators have tried to keep Rick and Morty from growing stale, as has happened to other adult comedies like The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park. The show is expanding in many different directions — some of which work, some of which don’t.
For me, the best parts of Season 3 involved deep character building. I really enjoyed the Jerry-centric and Beth-centric episodes, Episodes 5 and 9. I also enjoyed Episode 6, “Rest and Ricklaxation,” for how it developed the central Rick-Morty relationship. Now that we’ve been with these characters for a while, we have the chance to really delve into what makes each of them tick. Season 3 beats the two previous seasons by far, in that regard.
Herm: I think all of that is pretty reasonable. Character development is something a comedy saves for later seasons after finding its footing, humor and particular audience.
In this season, the show took some risks. Some of them paid off, but it’s OK some of them didn’t. I think having a Rick-Jerry relationship-building episode was critical. In early stages of the show, Adult Swim executives did not like Morty because he basically was Rick’s punching bag. The creators considered that when making “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy.” Jerry was criticized in a similar fashion, but in that episode he grew a backbone, which was huge.
The show is also having a large impact on pop culture, which we saw with audience reactions to Pickle Rick and the McDonald’s Szechuan sauce joke from the season premiere.
Ari: That’s all true. I want to mention another thing before we move on: How much deeper we got to know Rick, himself, during this season. I’m thinking primarily of the end of “Pickle Rick,” where the family, minus Jerry, is in counseling. The therapist has a monologue in which she digs into Rick by detailing his insecurities. It was a pivotal moment.
Something we didn’t see very much in earlier seasons, and, heck, even in the premiere of this season, is a Rick that is vulnerable. But throughout Season 3, Rick’s weaknesses — if you want to call them that — became more apparent. We saw how he cares much more about Morty than he outwardly admits in “Rest and Ricklaxation.” We saw how he cares much more about Jerry than he seems to admit in “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy.” And we saw how much he cares about Beth in her episode, “The ABCs of Beth,” when he offers to create an identical clone so that she can be free to live her life happily and away from the family, if she chooses.
To top it all off, Rick faced his ultimate defeat in the season finale, when, having barely beaten the president of the United States in a high-tech fight, he travels to the cabin where the rest of the family has been staying. All of them — Beth, Jerry, Summer and Morty — stand up to Rick. Rick has to step down and accept that, after he basically threw Jerry out in the season premiere, his own family has overruled him. Jerry is back, and we learn that Rick doesn’t control his family as much as he thinks he does.
Herm: I won’t entirely disagree with Rick’s vulnerability. Rick has let his guard down before, but he usually invalidates this immediately, often through sarcasm or other humor. For example, in the first season finale, “Ricksy Business,” he says his new catchphrase is “I love my grandkids,” but he invalidates the comment when he then says it’s actually “I don’t give a fuck!” He redirects the conversation by breaking the fourth wall, telling the creators to roll the credits. Even earlier in that episode, Birdperson tells Morty that Rick is not all he seems, which he does by revealing the true meaning of “wubba lubba dub dub” — “I am in great pain, please help me.”
However, there were two instances where we saw Rick as truly vulnerable, but the momement wasn’t invalidated, both in Season 2. The first occured when Unity broke up with him in “Autoerotic Assimilation,” and the second was evidenced by how he supported Birdperson’s marriage in “The Wedding Squanchers.” In both of these instances, Rick gets screwed over by the people who care about him.
So while yes, Rick shows vulnerability in Season 3, it’s not an entirely new phenomenon. Though, as you mentioned, it’s definitely a new step for his family to directly confront him — especially the character whose name is synonymous with “boring moron.” I appreciated when characters this season who were seemingly less likely to interact with Rick actually stepped up to confront him. We got this with Dr. Wong, whose job it is to do so, and the president.
Ari: You have an interesting theory about the show you’ve mentioned before, which is that Rick is actually aware he’s inside a TV show, something you base on how he often breaks the fourth wall in a way other characters don’t. But something I caught in the final episode of this season was that Beth also broke the fourth wall, which I think is a first for a non-Rick character. When the family is in the cabin, she mentions how things are going to be “just like Season 1” now that everyone is back together.
Here’s my theory: Beth, like Rick, is aware that she’s in a TV show. Also, that’s the real Beth, not a clone.
Herm: Before the show came out, the writers decided they would give Rick something they would never directly reveal to the audience, and I am pretty convinced it’s the fact Rick is aware he is in a television show. However, I don’t completely buy that Beth is suddenly self-aware, as well — because she is a clone.
Rick created the new clone Beth, so he knows it’s not really her; when the original Beth returns, the clone will be discarded. Therefore, he is more likely to say things to this Beth he might not say to the actual Beth. Clone Beth has all the memories of the original Beth, but original Beth might not have every memory the clone has. Plus, we learned Rick can and does manipulate the memories of his family members in the eighth episode, “Morty’s Mind Blowers.”
Ari: You know, I hate to back down so easily, but what you just said is fairly convincing. Now I’m not sure. On the upside, if the wait for Season 4 is as long as the one for Season 3, I’ll have plenty of time to think it over.
Herm: Since you brought it up, any guess on how long it’ll take this time around? In the final post-credits scene of this season, Mr. Poopybutthole was definitely making fun of how long it took to relase Season 3.
Ari: I predict a year to a year and a half. I’m leaning closer to it being a shorter wait than it was between Season 2 and Season 3. I think the creators regret taking so long. But, at the end of the day, I prefer to get 10 quality episodes later than 10 mediocre episodes that come out sooner.
Herm: I definitely think it will be a shorter wait, as well. They are in a unique place where fans will stick around even if it takes 97 MORE YEARS, MORTY! I WANT THAT MCNUGGET SAUCE, MORTY!!
But even if they can take 97 years, I don’t think that is something they should take advantage of. I think late 2018 or early 2019 would be pretty reasonable.
And what was one joke for me becomes our next topic point. McDonald’s is bringing back the Szechuan sauce for one day only, this Saturday, October 7. Are you going to try it? What are your thoughts?
Ari: Wait, it’s seriously only one day?
Herm: Yes. It is supposedly in honor of their new chicken tenders, but it’s obviously for Rick and Morty fans.
Ari: Ok, canceling my plans. Sorry friends and family, but I WANT THAT SZECHUAN SAUCE, MORTY!
Herm: Sorry, deadmau5.
Ari: I don’t get the reference.
Herm: Then read up. Deadmau5 bought a packet of the Szechuan sauce over the summer for $15,000.
Ari: I remember seeing those auctions, but, really, he bought that? That’s crazy.
Herm: Bruh, if I had that kind of money and part of the proceeds were going to charity, I would, too.
Ari: I’d buy a yacht, but you do you.
Herm: Anyway, it’s a one-day only event, and I am going to make sure I get that Szechuan sauce. I want that McNugget sauce, Morty!
Ari: Make sure to get extras, then ration throughout the year.
I do want to add, though: This is really great viral marketing. I know McDonald’s isn’t saying this is connected to Rick and Morty, but come on, it totally is.
Herm: Look at this campaign poster. It’s obvious Roiland’s art style influenced it. Plus, one character looks like Duck With Muscles from “Total Rickall.”
Ari: Adult Swim and McDonald’s should make an official agreement on this. It’s a no-brainer. They’d both win. Also, that poster is incredible. It’s very, very Rick-and-Morty-esque.
Herm: I will say the sauce is being given away at limited locations. You can look them up. Also, they’re clearly looking into a portal in that poster. I’m guessing McDonald’s could not use exact replicas without jumping through legal hoops.
Ari: That’s immediately what I thought, as well. Must be a legal issue.
Herm: Here’s the copy:
Complex, Impulsive, Determined
“Whatever it takes.”
Szechuan Sauce fans are typically incredibly motivated, born winners that combine a sweet disposition with a slow burning heat. When these people set goals (or make outright demands), they tend to achieve them. Sometimes, their impulsivity can get them into all sorts of hijinks, but their mad genius is their portal out of trouble. They truly put the “I WANT THAT SZECHUAN SAUCE” in “Buttermilk Crispy Tenders.”
Ari: There’s no doubt. Zero.
Herm: The “buttermilk crispy tenders” is clearly Justin Roiland’s handwriting.
Ari: Aw, there’s no location near me! Oh well.
Herm: We’re going to start wrapping up, but before we do, I want to ask which episode of the season was your favorite and why.
Ari: Definitely “The Ricklantis Mixup,” although the character-centric episodes I mentioned at the beginning of this chat I’d rank highly, as well. That episode was just so zany and unexpected, but also poignant and funny. And I really like stories of broad scope that cover many interconnecting plots and characters, especially when they’re done really well with tight pacing. This episode just pulled it off.
Herm: I agree “The Ricklantis Mixup” has a strong case to be the best episode in show history, partially because of how all the interconnected plots worked well together. It felt like a full-length movie in spite of the fact it was 23 minutes.
Ari: It did. It represents the type of risks other shows often aren’t willing to take. I want to see more risk-taking like that in Season 4.
Herm: My favorite episode this year was “Pickle Rick,” which I believe had a much stronger impact on pop culture than “The Ricklantis Mixup.” The episode took the most badass character, Rick, and turned him into a pickle. What’s more, Rick was undeniably proud of it! There was a nice contrast between the intense action scenes and the counseling sessions, as well.
I appreciated the point where Dr. Wong, a woman, calls Rick out on his actions, as it is something we hadn’t really seen before from the show. Sure, Summer might stand up to Rick, but Rick can’t really deflect Dr. Wong the way he can Summer. Also, Mr. Goldenfold eating poop and the family’s disturbed reaction to it was both unexpected and hilarious. But it makes sense when you’ve been living in a sewer for so long.
Ari: I did really like that episode, for many of the same reasons you mentioned. Dr. Wong’s shutdown was pretty shocking! I did not expect her character to play so crucial a role, but did anyone really expect a strip-mall psychologist to confront the smartest man in the universe the way she did?
Herm: Exactly my point! At first, she seemed like she’d be this boring, monotone therapist, but she was totally chill with the fact Rick is an interdimensional, intergalactic scientist.
Ari: I also appreciated the car ride home, when Rick and Beth decided to let everything go — and go out and get a drink. Summer and Morty were just so exasperated. It was funny. Plus, I like the Beth-Rick relationship. I’m glad we saw more of it this season.
Herm: I was going to say, it laid the foundation for the whole Beth-Rick arc.
Ari: Can I give my No. 2 pick?
Herm: Yes! I was going to give mine at some point, too.
Ari: I’m going with “Rest and Ricklaxation.” The episode revolved around the most important relationship in the entire show: The relationship between Rick and Morty, themselves. We learned so much more about these two characters than we knew before. We discovered what holds Morty back, and why a Rick with toxic components actually cares more about his grandson than a Rick who’s detoxified. Most important, the central message was consistent and thoughtful: Our own limitations make us who we are, and without them, we might be even worse off.
Herm: “Is this crudité fresh from the garden?”
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the episode, I did appreciate the major character development that took place between Rick and Morty. We learned much more about them than we ever have in a single episode.
Ari: I love Wall Street Morty.
Herm: I actually aspire to be like Wall Street Morty.
Ari: That’s…. probably not the message you’re supposed to get from the episode.
Herm: I was going to add: but not be a psychopath. I aspire to match his general confidence, as well as the success that comes from it.
Ari: I enjoyed something else, which was a bit of a small detail, but was still important. After several weeks, the detoxified Wall Street Morty was actually willing to be re-toxified. He realized his limitations were part of himself, and, without them, he was a completely different person.
Herm: It’s as if Donald Trump the man were Donald Trump the brand.
Ari: Please, please, let’s stick to television here, shall we?
Herm: I’m just saying! But you are right about that, as well.
I think my honorable mention goes to “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy,” and for similar reasons. We’ve probably discussed most of these points, but I loved the Rick-Jerry development, especially since Morty begged Rick to spend time with him. We saw Jerry like never before — like Rick in “Pickle Rick,” called out on some of his negative qualities. Rick and Jerry had a mutual respect for each other for the first time.
Best new character of the seaon goes to Noob-Noob. His presence alone was almost enough for me to give my second pick to “Vindicators 3.”
Ari: Noob-Noob has to be related to Mr. Poopybutthole.
Herm: Or at least be from a similar planet or dimension.
Ari: Honestly, I thought he was Mr. Poopybutthole when he first appeared.
Herm: I wish.
Ari: The episode would’ve worked either way.
Herm: If you had one episode you didn’t like, what is it and why?
Ari: Perfect timing! I’m going with “Vindicators 3.” It was OK, and I did appreciate Noob-Noob, as well as the twist involving Rick’s love for him at the end. Otherwise, it was a fairly straightforward episode that was a bit boring.
Herm: I also liked that episode because it was a Morty-led adventure. Even before the episode came out I began to wonder when Morty was going to get to pick another adventure, like the bet he made with Rick in the first season’s “Meeseeks and Destory.”
Ari: So I’m guessing “Vindicators 3” isn’t your least favorite episode, then?
Herm: Mine is probably “The ABCs of Beth.” The humor was just so over-the-top and all we saw is that Beth is a terrible person.
Ari: I understand the criticism about Beth’s character change. Even though I liked that episode, her maniacal behavior as a child was an abrupt reveal that should have been apparent, or at least hinted at, in the episodes we’ve seen before. It came out of nowhere, which makes me think it’s a bit retcon-ish.
Although, I did enjoy the over-the-top humor! I’m a disgusting person, I know.
Herm: I sometimes do as well, but this was just too much. Never would I have thought incest and bestiality would be key points of an episode.
Ari: Now we know Hermes’ comedic limits.
I’d figure a Greek god would be more accepting of incest.
Herm: My name’s not Bacchus.
Ari: But what do I know? I’m just a poet.
Herm: I have one final question: How does this season stack up against the others?
Ari: That is a great question. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get to this. I was thinking about this earlier while going back through the episode lists of the other seasons. I actually think Season 3 is the best yet. The other seasons had great episodes, as well, but I think they had a larger number of poor episodes, and when they did have bad episodes, they were much worse than the bad episodes in Season 3. I’m looking at you, “Something Ricked This Way Comes.”
Herm: Really? I liked that episode. But I agree this is the best season we’ve seen yet, even if, admittedly, some of my least favorite episodes have happened in this season. I still respect episodes I don’t like because many are simply trying new ideas. I liked this season because the creators recognized their success and tried even harder to maintain artistic integrity behind the writing of each episode.
Also, to give you some credit, Dan Harmon allegedly said “Vindicators 3” would be the worst episode in show history.
Ari: I’ll sleep well at night knowing Dan Harmon is on my side. ■