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What the fRick Happened?: A Review of Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty concluded its third season on Oct. 1.

Back after 18 suspenseful months, the third season of Rick and Morty transcended both expectations and universes. An American sitcom with an impressive 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Rick and Morty follows the convoluted lives of the Sanchez family; Morty, an insecure 14 year-old, accompanies Rick, his genius grandfather, on galactic missions while his sister Summer, his mother Beth, and his father Jerry battle their own non-alien demons. While each episode seems to be its own separate adventure, the brilliance of Rick and Morty is revealed in the subtle hints that unify the seemingly independent adventures in ways we have yet to uncover. In a comical context where alien interactions and universe-hopping is the norm, creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon weave in philosophical themes, most notably the tension between existentialism and nihilism. A balance between the blithe and the heavy is perfected in this year’s season.

Rick and Morty’s second season left the story on a rather dismal note with the death of Birdperson, Rick’s surrender to and arrest by the Galactic Federation, and Earth’s alien occupation. Our beloved duo returns this season with psychedelic plot twists, and mysteries begin to unravel—until, of course, they get twisted again. Rick escapes the galactic prison and collapses the Federation, while Beth divorces Jerry when he presents an ultimatum that causes her to choose between him and Rick. Throughout the series, Summer and Morty struggle with their parent’s divorce but find solace in their adventures with Rick in a Mad Max-esque version of Earth, as well as a family therapy session. Rick and Morty continue to venture through space, joining the Vindicators (intergalactic superheroes) in one episode, testing an alien detox machine in another, and even meddling with erased memories in “Morty’s Mind Blowers.” The attention is diverted from Summer and Morty when Jerry is taken on a pity-trip at Morty’s request and Beth reenters Froopyland, a fantasy world Rick created for young Beth, to rescue her childhood friend Tommy.

The artistry of Rick and Morty comes not from its mind-blowing plots but its ability to convey humane conflicts and elements -- such as insecurity, love, and guilt -- in a fantastical context. For instance, in the final scenes of “Pickle Rick,” Dr. Wong, the family psychiatrist, gives insight into Rick’s enigmatic character. Rick’s unfathomable intelligence is a recurring theme in the series, especially as a force he and everyone recognizes to be both his liberation and an inescapable curse. Dr. Wong’s confrontation of Rick highlights ongoing philosophical themes, such as the link between intelligence and nihilism, loneliness and genius, as well as the practicality, or lack thereof, of boundless knowledge. The sophistication of conversation that occurs on and off the screen is what differentiates Rick and Morty from being merely an entertaining cartoon.

Another recurring mystery is the possibility of love in Rick, someone who has seemingly replaced all compassion with brain cells long ago. In past episodes, Rick justifies his countless rescues of Morty with practicality or efficacy, showing disgust at the idea of love his actions may suggest. Yet, the truth about Rick’s questionable love for his family seeps through in season three through hints dropped by Toxic Rick and the existence of Froopyland. In “Rest and Ricklaxation,” Rick saves the toxicated world by endangering Toxic Morty, aware that Toxic Rick, an entity that contains all his unfavorable traits, would save his own Morty. It is evident through his success that Rick’s love for Morty, while existent, is something he sees as a weakness in himself. Similarly, in “The ABC’s of Beth” Rick reveals his buried love for Beth. Despite blaming the things he made for Beth on her wild and evil desires, there is something undeniably heartfelt about the existence of a childhood world created by her father.

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room of season three. In “The Ricklantis Mixup,” the real Rick and Morty’s adventure to the underwater world of Atlantis occurs offscreen while the viewer is taken to the Citadel of Ricks. Evil Morty re-emerges since his last appearance in the season one finale as the newly-elected President. Having risen to presidency through feigned sincerity and drastic measures to change Citadel laws, Evil Morty has a wicked agenda awaiting us in season four.

The charm of Rick and Morty’s third season boils down to several things: the unprecedented creativity of the plot, its ability to effortlessly convey heavy philosophies through dark humor, and the tasteful but rare combination of intellect and cartoon. While ‘confusing’ does not adequately characterize the mind-warping aspect of Rick and Morty’s adventures, their twisted elements mystify and stimulate the audience, rather than baffle us to the point of no return. Rick and Morty’s thrills in season three may have ended, but there is much to untangle as we anticipate season four.

PC: The Independent

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