TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E1 ‘The Rickshank Rickdemption’ (Contains Spoilers)

Like every other fan of Rick and Morty on this entire planet, the last 18 months have been a nigh on torturous affair of waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. We’d all hoped that Mr Poopy Butthole would be wrong in his prediction of series 3 returning to us in “like, a year, year and a half…or longer!” in the post-credits scene from The Wedding Squanchers. Luckily, ‘The Rickshank Rickdemption’ is absolutely, completely, 100% worth the wait.

It’s a testament to the popularity of the show and the tenacity of it’s fan base that this episode actually dropped with no warning whatsoever, streaming on a loop on the Adult Swim website on April Fool’s Day, and boy were we treated to a slice of fried gold!

Picking up where series 2 left off, the show opens with an hilarious fake out joke that suggests that we’ll never see how Rick managed to escape from maximum security Federation jail, as he and the Smith family are enjoying a meal at Shoney’s. It’s only when Rick asks Jerry to “Get out of the booth, take all your clothes off and fold yourself 12 times” that we realise all is not as it seems. It turns out the Federation have Rick in a ‘brainalyzer’; a machine which they intend to use to access Rick’s memories and take his equation for inter-dimensional travel. Of course, Rick isn’t going to make it easy for them, distracting them at every turn by conjuring farting butts and taking trips down Memory Lane to a 1998 McDonald’s in order to relive the taste of that glorious Mulan tie-in McNugget sauce… One of the stand out qualities of Rick and Morty, to me, is it’s casting direction, often employing powerhouses of voice acting to say the silliest things, and this episode is no different; if there’s ever a time that I don’t laugh at voice acting legend Maurice LaMarche stating “He may have manifested some kind of butt”, then pop me with a laser because I’ve been replaced by an alien parasite. Nathan Fillion joins the cast as Cornvelious Daniel, the Gromflomite charged with entering Rick’s brain to find the portal gun technology, imbuing the character with his usual joyful silliness, tinged with just enough menace that we know big things are at stake.

Meanwhile, back on the recently Federationalised (I’m going to pretend that’s a real word) Earth, the Smith family are adjusting to life without Rick. Jerry is finally thriving in the job he was assigned by the Federation, whereas Beth is crushed by her father’s apparent betrayal (and also the fact that she is now “a horse surgeon in a world controlled by aliens whose medicine keeps horses healthy forever”). She’s drinking again, and clearly unhappy. Summer is desperate to find some way to help Rick (not least because the weird alien calendar has made her 47 now) but Morty is not so keen, stressing to Summer that Rick bails on everyone all the time, even abandoning his real family to a world of Cronenbergian nightmares. It’s interesting to see the roles reversed here; and Morty’s almost callous attitude towards Rick (even going so far as to shoot him later in the episode) makes for an intriguing set up for the rest of the series.

Back in Rick’s brain we’re being treated to what could be but probably isn’t Rick’s origin story. I actually really like that we don’t fully know what makes Rick tick, and are left theorising as to how much, if any, of this ‘memory’ of Rick inventing his portal gun is real. It’s here that we realise that Rick has been playing a game this entire time, with his intent not only to be captured in order to bring down the Federation, but also to get rid of the Council of Ricks at the same time. After tricking the Gromflomites into releasing him from the brainalyzer into the body of Cornvelious, Rick bounces into the body of another Rick (part of the Seal Team Ricks sent to kill him before any Rick secrets are revealed to the Federation) and promptly escapes to the Citadel of Ricks, transports it directly into a Federation ship, then finally brings down the Federation by completely crashing its economy. Whether this is exactly what Rick intended to happen the moment he chose to hand himself in or not remains to be seen (I like to think it was a happy ending to a terrible situation, otherwise maybe Rick isn’t as noble or caring as series 2 was building him up to be), but it’s glorious to watch his plan come together. It flows wonderfully; if I had a hat on I would take it off to the writers of this episode, as it managed to defy expectations whilst remaining as fast-paced, action-packed and hilarious as Rick and Morty should be.

I’d be remiss not to talk about how amazing Summer is in the episode; the scene in which she digs into the grave of her ‘real’ grandfather during a storm is beautifully storyboarded and animated. The determination with which Summer wants to save Rick, even after seeing the ruined Cronenberg reality that Morty comes from (and the ‘Hunger Games’ Summer that resides there), is commendable and a lovely show of how Summer has grown over the previous two seasons. Summer started out as a typical teen girl, worrying over boys and glued to her mobile phone; that she has chosen to place her heart in the hands of her manipulative and arsehole-ish grandfather just shows the grasp that Roiland & Harmon have on the oft-irrational basis of relationships, particularly within a family unit.

The bombshell dropped on us at the end of the episode, that Jerry is going to “spend some time…divorced” is a difficult one for me to really wrap my head around. On the one hand, storyline-wise it makes total sense; we’ve seen enough of Beth & Jerry biting each others heads off then hanging onto each other by a thread that their story needed to move forward. They needed to become a functional parental unit or part ways, that much has been clear for a while. My worry is that whilst this could provide some fascinating family dynamics from here, it could also mean much less Jerry, and I am so not down with that. This is partly due to that fact that I just love how almost entirely useless and mostly harmless Jerry is (I almost cried laughing at his “Willem Defoe” moment in this episode), but also because Jerry is, and always has been, right about Rick. He’s a bad influence on the family; he causes chaos and brings danger to their lives. He lets them down and often belittles them. At the end of this episode, Rick rather disturbingly tells Morty, in a wonderful rant reminiscent of the pilot’s “100 years” rant (but with waaaaay more Szechuan sauce), that he has gotten rid of Jerry on purpose in a bid to replace him as the alpha male of the family. It seems that Morty may be leaning towards Jerry’s point of view that Rick maybe isn’t all that, and I’m very interested to see where that takes us.

Overall, this episode was a classic slice of Rick and Morty greatness; jam-packed with humour (both of the brilliantly quick-witted to the hilarious butt-related kind), amazing sci-fi hijinks and the kind of fantastic writing we’ve come to expect of the show. It left off series 2 at the tippety-top of mine (and many other people’s) lists of Best TV EVER, and, from this first episode, it shows no signs of dropping any time soon. Welcome back, Rick and Morty. We missed you.

Rating: 4.8 /5

Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StaceysParlour)

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