TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E4 ‘Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender (Contains Spoilers)

It’s taken me an inordinate amount of time to write this review, mostly because I’m really struggling to get my thoughts together on the episode. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; it certainly has some very comical, absurd and entertaining moments (as all episodes of Rick and Morty do), and the Vindicators themselves are a great send up of tired superhero stereotypes, but every time I get to the end of the episode, it just doesn’t sit right with me…

With the rise in popularity of the superhero genre, it seemed almost inevitable that the writers behind Rick and Morty would dip their toes into these waters, and I for one was incredibly excited to see how they’d turn the world of superheroes upside down in true Rick and Morty style. The episode begins with Morty forcing Rick to respond to a literal call to adventure as they are summoned by The Vindicators (for what Morty believes is their second mission), using his right to ‘every tenth adventure’ as earned back in Meeseeks and Destroy. Morty’s excitement at getting to be part of a superhero team is adorable and endearing, and his obvious disappointment upon finding out that he and Rick were left out of The Vindicators’ actual second adventure due to a ‘personality conflict’ with Rick is almost crushing. It’s no surprise to us, given Rick’s entirely abrasive and unhelpful demeanour, but the thing about Morty is that, although he’s done some pretty terrible things on his adventures with Rick, he more often than not just wants to do right by people, saving them or helping them in some way. The premise of the rest of the episode is an appropriately unpredictable turning-tropes-on-their-heads affair, as the standard superhero super-mission gives way to a horrific series of Saw-esque puzzles and obstacles designed by a blackout drunk Rick. The idea is a very good one, particularly that of Rick being able to defeat The Vindicators’ arch-enemy, one so strong they’d decided to call Rick back into the fold despite thoroughly despising him, (though I have to question whether posing the citizens of Worldender’s planet in posthumous sex positions was a great idea), as well as setting up the incredibly intricate and horrendous “games” and mini roller-coaster ride whilst completely off his face. The characters within The Vindicators’ team are just wonderfully designed and executed. I was utterly mesmerised by Supernova’s gently wafting hair and swirling galactic body and Million Ants’ off-putting wiggling aesthetic is perfectly matched with his deadpan vocal delivery.

The problem, at least for me, is that whilst the joke of us as an audience having never seen the Vindicators before (despite this being their third adventure) is pretty funny, it also means that we don’t know them as Rick and Morty do, and so to us they don’t really seem to have earned the scorn and murder that gets heaped upon them. We’ve seen Rick kill before, several times and in highly disgusting ways, but he’s usually killing ‘bad guys’ or doing it for self preservation. It seems that the Vindicators’ only crimes are taking their time to complete tasks and being heroes in Morty’s eyes; the punishment doesn’t really seem fitting, it just seems incredibly cruel and unnecessarily gross. It’s the first time we’ve really seen the show address Rick’s drinking (the image of him pantsless, asleep on the conference room table in a pool of his own diarrhoea will forever be burned onto my retinas) but nothing really comes of it. Rick is being proven right at every turn; pointing out that the “heroes” aren’t special and even managing to make a simple game of sinking 5 3-pointers with the instruction to “try to make it a point about how selfish you are or something” into an argument that highlights just how selfish they are or something… At the end, Rick is almost praising his too-drunk self as he revels in the massive festival-style party he planned and promptly forgot about. This is the first time when watching Rick and Morty that I’ve felt like he’s crossed a line and gone too far; it was just too extreme with no real lesson, pay-off or comeuppance. All this, plus the almost-emotional Morty/Noob Noob fake out video just left me feeling a bit cold towards Rick. (I do believe, however, that Rick genuinely does care about Morty, but is never keen on showing it, even when he has a perfect opportunity while no-one else is around; wouldn’t want the Mortiest Morty to break an arm jerking himself off, right?!)

All that being said, the thing about the consistently high standard this show hits means that a weak episode of Rick and Morty is still better than most things on telly, and Vindicators 3 does just enough with its comedy, inventiveness, design and performances (Gillian Jacobs is a delight) to prevent it from being too bleak to handle. Rick’s Saw-style games and the accompanying videos were fantastic; I imagine there will be quite a few Hawaiian Ricks at upcoming conventions, and some of the jokes were utterly hilarious. In particular, I was absolutely creasing at; Rick taking the mission seriously, creeping around with a finger gun, “Also, Hawaii” and the whole Israel thing. Also, the post credits sequence promises an abundance of Jerry, which I am 100% game for, as the lack of a B plot/the rest of the Smith family in this episode may not have helped it much. Also, I love Jerry.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@staceysparlour)

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