That was unexpected.
While it genuinely still feels like an April Fools prank, the first episode of Rick and Morty’s highly anticipated third season really was released on Adult Swim Saturday night with little warning. The very idea of it had fans hesitant, given that it would be one hell of a joke to release even a part of the episode only to do a fake out-because that’s definitely happened before. However, this does fit in line with the joke/anti-joke method Rick and Morty is known for. “Is this actually the joke” could easily be the mission statement of this show, and “The Rickshank Rickdemption” is basically a reinforcement of this idea. It is also one of the best half hours of television I’ve seen in a long time.
Spoilers for the third season of Rick and Morty are ahead.
Hilariously, the best joke of the episode might be the first one, which finds the family in a diner listening to Rick recanting his grand escape from the Galactic Federation prison he was placed in at the end of season two’s finale. It’s immediately clear that the creative team knows exactly what people are expecting, immediately asking via Rick if anyone would even be interested in seeing his actual escape. Thankfully for us all, this episode decided to play with literally every expectation, as Rick quickly sees through the illusion, naturally by torturing Jerry. As it turns out, Rick is still in the prison, trapped in a “brainalyzer,” being interrogated by a member of the Federation (a perfectly deployed Nathan Fillion.) The Federation is actually after Rick’s portal gun technology, which might be the real reason he was trapped by Tammy. Despite a threat that the brainalyzer will fry his brain, Rick isn’t playing ball, revealing he’s very much in control by “creating a butt.” Yes, this show still finds time for fart jokes.
Meanwhile, in the not-so-much-a-B-plot this time, we find the rest of Rick’s family back at home on Earth following the Federation take over. Jerry has been given a job doing, well, something, but has gotten six promotions (and being paid in pills) while Beth is out of work entirely as the Federation can basically prolong the life of horses forever. Naturally this combined with Rick’s perceived abandonment has sent Beth further down her alcoholic spiral. Summer is convinced that Rick wouldn’t put up with this and is at odds with her parents. Morty, on the other hand, seems completely defeated about the entire situation until Summer decides she’s going to try to find some sort of way to help Rick in his lab, and he’s entirely against that proposal, for some reason.Already, we’ve reached a turning point for the show as a whole, as these two plots basically run simultaneously from here and overlap in ways contradictory to the structure of the rest of the series. This isn’t a bad move, and honestly is one fitting of the situation, but it does force the comedy to do double duty. Gratefully, this never once gets lost in the mix. Rick is forced to take his interrogator to the memories of the moment he creates the portal gun, but hijacks the trip to make a brief stop at a circa 1998 McDonalds to order as much of the promotional szechuan sauce that was made to promote Disney’s Mulan. More that later, and yes, it’s important. From there, Rick does in fact travel to his memory of the portal gun’s creation, juxtaposed with the ongoing plot of Morty and Summer.
This time around, Morty takes on the role normally held by Rick as tries to dissuade Summer from her plans by condescendingly revealing the truth around her-that Rick likely doesn’t actually care, and she’s not even the first Summer to be abandoned by Rick. This leads into a return to the Season one episode “Rick Potion No. 9,” where many consider the show truly found its footing. For those who don’t remember, that episode ended with the world left as “Cronenberg” creations and Rick and Morty replaced a pair in another universe that had died. Summer digs up the graves of her Rick and Morty and find that this Rick still has his portal gun. Morty decides he’s gonna make like Rick and force Summer to see the truth, they are confronted by a Federation robot and forced to flee to the Cronenberg universe.
Back with Rick, we get to see the story of the portal gun. Originally, Rick was working on a teleportation device (literally the gun from Valve’s Portal games) but was visited by another universe’s Rick with the portal gun we know. It appears the Ricks go throughout the multiverse, enabling each other with the technology. Our Rick is offered the tech, in order to join the rest of the Ricks in their power, but he rejected the technology. Once the other Rick leaves with a vague threat, we see our Rick’s motivation: his wife and daughter (Morty and Summer’s mom.) Rick tells her that he’s quitting the field, and they decided to get ice cream.
Yes, that’s going exactly where it sounds like it’s going.
Morty and Summer show up in the Cronenberg universe and find Morty’s original family, now the last survivors of this world. They take the two back to the ruined family home, where Summer finally has to somewhat confront the reality of Rick’s actions. But as they go to leave, this Jerry reveals he stole the portal gun and destroys it as it “smells of Rick.” They then go for Summer for the same reason, except several Ricks appear and freeze the would-be attackers. These Ricks are from the Council of Ricks (another callback) and responded to the gun’s destruction. Summer tells them where their Rick is before Morty can stop her, and the Council of Ricks take them prisoner and dispatch “Seal Team Rick” to stop Rick from revealing their secrets.
In Rick’s memory, as he gets in the car and waits for his family, the visiting Rick drops a bomb on them, killing his wife and daughter before his eyes. Our Rick, having to rewatch the scene, collapses as his interrogator realizes the power of the szechuan sauce’s flavor. Rick, enraged by the events, completes the math for the portal gun and is believed to chase after the Rick who killed his family. The interrogator takes down the written math, and that’s when the biggest joke goes off. Rick reveals that the entire chain of events was made up, and he just put a virus in the brainalyzer, allowing him to hijack both the machine and his captor’s body, leaving them behind to be wasted away. Rick wakes up in the alien’s body with the Federation none the wiser (though, it seems Rick’s alcoholism carries from body to body) and when asked why Rick Sanchez would give himself up, Alien Rick hints that it might be because he knew the facility he’d be taken to would have the highest security clearance available-and of course that’s when Seal Team Rick shows up. Seal Team Rick kills the body of our Rick and the aliens around, but our Rick manages to hook back up to the brainalyzer and hijack another Rick’s body and takes out the remainder of the team. Lacking the ability to just walk through the facility, Rick finds out from one of the team members that his Morty and Summer are with the Council, and escapes on their ship.
Summer and Morty are brought before the Council, leading Morty to complain about their legal support just being another Morty. They are give a chance to save themselves by renouncing Rick. Summer refuses, but believes Morty already has. Except he really hasn’t, and in a gut-punch of events, explains to Summer that the entire time, Morty has been trying to prevent Summer from living like he does-someone who has had the whole of reality laid bare and found that they matter so little. Likening his grandfather to a “demon, or a fucked up god,” we see just how the past two seasons have impacted Morty and left him more like Rick, to the point where he even demeans another Morty just moments before.
Speaking of Rick, he’s arrived at the Council base and hijacked another Rick capable of accessing the facility’s main teleporter. He uses it to teleport directly back into the prison, blasting it open and leading to the most surreal space battle you’ll probably see this year. And it is awesome. Various Ricks and Mortys enter battle with alien species throughout the series and it is something else. Our Rick manages to body swap all the way to the Council and starts knocking them off, giving Morty a gun just in case. A standoff begins between Rick and the Leader, with the Leader holding Summer hostage. We get a pretty amazing showdown of intellect, as both Ricks try to talk down to one another, but Morty intervienes, trying to save his sister. Of course, this just leads to everyone calling him an idiot for messing up the plan, over and over. This is where Morty snaps entirely and shoots Rick in the head. Turns out, Rick planned for that, as Morty’s gun had a note on it with that very instruction. Morty definitely didn’t read that note.
Before they can escape, Rick is still insistent on finishing his plan, and they all access the level he was trying to get to before in the prison. Rick reveals he plans on destroying the government, and how he does it is so amazing, I refuse to spoil it here. Needless to say, the Federation is decimated and flees, including off of Earth, where Jerry crawls his way back home to Beth in the chaos. Rick, Morty, and Summer also return via portal gun. Normally in shows, this is where we get the status quo back and the series can resume. Except again, this entire episode is about beating expectations. Instead, Jerry puts his foot down, demanding that Beth choose between keeping her father at home, or their marriage. Surprisingly, Beth chooses the former, and it looks like, at least for now, Jerry’s on his way out. Naturally, this leaves Morty distraught and in need of some alone time, except Rick has something to say about that.
See, Rick apparently planned everything out from the moment Tammy’s trap was set in season two, and everything that has happened since was a plan to not only remove the government as an obstacle, but Jerry as well. They had crossed Rick, and they had to go. Now, Rick is the de facto head of the house, and the stage is set for even more Rick and Morty adventures. And what exactly were Jerry and the Federation in the way of?
Rick’s quest for McDonald’s Mulan szechuan sauce. This has been the point of Rick’s various endeavors the entire time.
It’s almost too ridiculous to believe, as Rick rants and raves above a terrified Morty, that this is really the joke that’s being told. It might not be, since apparently at least that part of Rick’s memory wasn’t a fake out. Except, that’s really the point of Rick and Morty, the idea that at the end of the day, all of this is in service of a joke that almost goes too far. It is surreal, and it is brilliant. I don’t know if Rick really lost his actual family, or if he really just needs a sauce fix, and I’m not sure that it really matters. That’s one hell of a joke, even not on April Fool’s Day.
- I didn’t want to talk about it, but there is a scene after the credits, and we can definitely expect all this to not be over yet.
- At this point, no matter what his backstory, there is just no way this is the Rick of C-137 that we’re following, right?
- Since things like brand new religions didn’t stick, expect Morty’s town to remain unchanged by all these events.
- God help the poor social media intern running the McDonald’s accounts this weekend.
- Rick’s portal gun memory is set between where he was on 9/11 and his favorite sports blooper. In the case of 9/11, Rick was on the phone. If you listen closely, you can hear Rick talking about the attack being used as pretext to take away freedoms.