Ever since Adult Swim's new season of Rick and Morty started up again, there have been grumblings among the fanbase that it's the weakest installment thus far. Rather than the high-octane sci-fi rigmarole coupled with clever introspective commentary seen previously, Season 3 has, as some have argued, been more about ridiculous set pieces and developing side-characters. Reddit chatrooms were abuzz with titles like "The Reason Why Rick and Morty Season 3 Sucks So Far," with fans complaining that despite liking the premiere, "...it has become just episodes focused way too much on the divorce of the parents and the disfunctionality the family instead of the adventures."
While I didn't jump on the hate-train early on, I did start to wonder if episodes like "Rest and Ricklaxation" weren't just riding it all a little too easy. It's fair to say that every season has its low points (i.e. "Look Who's Purging Now?"), they're normally a much more lone-issue or late in the airing. But Season 3 felt like it was running on fumes early on, and that was not healthy for such a promising new show.
But then they dropped a bomb on us this week with an episode titled "The Ricklantis Mixup." We have to completely re-contextualize everything Season 3 has given us so far. Now I'm back to drinking the Kool-Aid and believing Harmon and Roiland are mad geniuses.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for this week's episode.
As I mentioned, one of the biggest criticisms of Season 3 is the way that it's dragged on, putting less focus on the titular pair and more emphasis on fleshing out the relationships between other family members to each other and the main cast. As some Redditors have noted, "we haven't seen the back and forth between Rick and Morty that much. Which is basically what season 1 and 2 were with exceptions here and there." We saw this with the heavily Summer-focused "Rickmancing the Stone," to the way that Beth has taken a more prominent role in several episodes including "Pickle Rick" and the B-plot of "The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy," and how even the latter of those hinges its main story entirely around Rick and Jerry's relationship — a story many of the fans thought was completely dead at the beginning of the season.
But now that we know the truth of "The Ricklantis Mixup" — that it was actually called "Tales from the Citadel," and focused on the multiverse of Ricks and Mortys still living there — there's a new reason to be building on these familial relationships. It all hinges on that major detail of the Citadel.
That's right, in the Citadel, all we have are Ricks and Mortys — no Jerrys, no Beths, not even a Bird Person from another dimension. All the Ricks and Mortys on the Citadel have no attachments to anyone other than to their multiverse counterparts. For ages, they've claimed that it makes them strong, it's what kept them separate from the Galactic Federation. But now that Evil Morty has not only slipped into their ranks, but become their leader, we see just how easily manipulated this homogeneous society really is.
And that's why focusing on Rick C-137's family, our Rick's family, is so vital to this season. By ensuring that Rick and Morty deal with their problems and build lasting bonds to something other than themselves, they ensure that they are inoculated to the threat Evil Morty poses to all their parallel identities. The fate that befell each of the other multitudinous Ricks and Mortys happened because they had nowhere else to go: they lost all hope or put what little they had in their greed, as we saw in the likes of the Rookie Officer and Candy Shop Rick. They're cogs in a machine, willing to be used or unable to get out.
Yet we know that the detached super-scientist has had to rebuild those connections to his daughter and her now-ex-husband throughout the last few episodes, and admitted in "Rest and Ricklaxation" that even though he views it as a weakness, he really does care about his Morty.
But what do you think? Did this episode make up for all the rest? Tell us in the comments!