– By J.W. Fox –
WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW
It is with great sadness that the long wait begins for season 4 of Rick and Morty. The breakout animated show concluded its latest season, restoring the Smith house back to its original preseason 3 condition. Sort of.
With all the weird and gross aliens, parallel universes, and soul-crushing nihilism, season 3 was really about divorce. Yes, you read that right. The subject of most of the season was about each character dealing with Beth and Jerry’s divorce.
The season began with Rick breaking out of prison, but not before ranting about his love of McDonald’s Szechaun Sauce. Fans of the show got the attention of McDonald’s, which tried to reintroduce the sauce recently but underestimated demand. Stories of customer revolts appeared on the news the day of the promotion.
Anyway, back to the show. Rick manages to eliminate two enemies by transporting the Citadel of Ricks to the Galactic Prison sparking a huge battle that leaves both in ruins. The Federation that operated the prison abandons Earth, much to the chagrin of Jerry. Unlike the rest of his family, he thrived as a man living under alien occupation. When the occupiers leave and Rick is hailed a hero, he demands Beth choose between him and Rick. She chose Rick.
And so we get the premise for all of season 3.
As with many divorces, the kids were not happy with the change. The episode Rickmancing the Stone transports Summer and Morty to a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic world where both seem to find their place. Summer joins a road gang and excels as a road warrior. Morty is injected with the DNA of a dead warrior but only his left arm transforms. The arm acts like the serial killer hand in Idle Hands, turning Morty into a brutal prize fighter. The normally meek Morty fights ferociously under the thunder dome, killing men by the dozens.
Both find ways to let out their anger through violent aggression in a parallel universe. In the end, they work through their anger and both come to accept their parents’ divorce. All it took was satisfying their blood lust in hellish wasteland.
The season included a few conventional Rick and Morty adventures as well. Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender and Rest and Ricklaxation were the classic Rick and Morty episodes. In both cases Rick is challenged to admit that he loves Morty and that he is more than just human camouflage.
Vindicators offers an Avengers parody, where Rick bashes Morty’s hero team then challenges them to a Saw style set of psychological puzzles. They fail, showing that while they possess superpowers, they also possess all the flaws and failings of regular people. Morty’s youthful awe and enthusiasm is crushed yet again, as was his hope to hear Rick confess. Rest and Ricklaxation exposed the very worst part of both of their personalities. They go to a spa that removes the negativity from each ones personality. For Rick, well it is obvious: his disdain of anyone other than himself. For Morty, it is his paralyzing fear and total lack of self esteem.
In a surprise, the spa did more than remove Rick’s hate-filled nature; it also removed his feelings for Morty. The reformed Rick shoots Morty and declares he does not care at all for him, despite otherwise being a morally superior Rick. Apparently the spa relaxation program viewed his compassion for Morty as a negative stresser. The reformed Morty gets wealth and women with his supreme confidence. While he refuses to help free the darker side of their nature from the spa’s netherworld, he inadvertently leaves his phone on allowing Rick to trace his location. We are left to wonder if reformed Morty wanted to be destroyed to help dark Morty all along.
This one plays a little like The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was great to see Morty’s potential.
Beth is challenged to confront her divorce in Pickle Rick and the Rickchurian Candidate. During a family therapy session in Pickle Rick, she refuses to acknowledge her blind admiration of her father despite his many flaws. She wants to be like him: smart and completely self-reliant. Only she isn’t as smart as Rick (no one is) and needs her family. Summer and Morty, now reasonably well-adjusted, challenge her but fail to make her see it. It isn’t until Rickchurian Candidate, where she believes she is a clone and that Rick is going to kill her, that she realizes she made the wrong choice.
Jerry’s arc was much, much sadder. As usual, he is incapable of real progress. He betrays Rick in The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy and is called out by the villain, Risotto Groupon. Like in previous episodes, no one sees Jerry as a threat. He is able to launch into heroic action knowing that nobody expects him to succeed but will appreciate the sentiment. Only Risotto does not. Rick doesn’t either.
The constant loser finds a rebound in three-breasted telekinetic alien bounty hunter Kiara but Summer and Morty convince him she is wrong for him. In usual Jerry fashion, he fails to properly break up with her and instead tells her he has to end it because his kids said so. Kiara decides she must eliminate the kids to save the relationship.
Like previous seasons, the show is loaded with parodies and homages. This season, there was Mad Max, Idle Hands, The Avengers, Saw, Fantastic Four, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Stand By Me, Training Day, E.T. and probably a bunch I am forgetting. All done superbly, with awful animation, tons of swearing, and the nihilistic worldview the show has mastered.
Aside from the family dynamic a few other things happened that are either foreshadowing or just teases. We meet a new hero in Jaguar, voiced by Danny Trejo. Birdperson is resurrected as Phoenix Person. Evil Morty (eye-patch wearing villain from Close Rickcounters of the Rick Kind) wins the Presidential Election on the rebuilt Citadel. Mr. Poopybutthole apologized for not being in this season. We all hope to see him again in season 4.
Rick and Morty may be the greatest animated show on television. Now if only they could get them out just a little faster…
J. W. Fox is the Editor of Prescientscifi.com and author of two novels under the pen name Jacob Foxx: The Fifth World and the sequel The Fifth World: The Times That Try Men’s Souls. When he is not reading or writing science fiction, he works as a regulatory affairs consultant for small biotech companies in Raleigh, North Carolina.