Season 3 of Rick and Morty has ended, and that means another multi-year sabbatical as Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland and Starburn Industries takes their time in producing the next season. Before we start wondering what the next season will bring us, let's take a moment to talk about a less-than-stellar finish to the third season — Rick gets into a pissing match with the President of the United States (as voiced by Keith David). For anyone else this could be a great matchup, but not for the smartest man in the multiverse.
Rick Versus The President
Rick and Morty are sick of being used as lame errand boys for the president and things quickly get out of hand. As hilarious as it is to see Rick get into ultra-violent fights using his super science to creatively dismember the opposition, there was one crucial thing that was missing from this little escapade.
Rick needs to be facing off against a worthy opponent, someone we as the audience want to see beat down. The perfect example of this is in the first season episode “Something Ricked This Way Comes,” where Rick is pitted against the literal Devil, a perfect manifestation of mystical wish fulfillment we're used to seeing in The Monkey’s Paw, Twilight Zone, and of course, Needful Things. It’s a trope that’s always relevant, and a narrative that never quite goes away.
Rick Versus The Devil
So, seeing Rick pitted against a literal manifestation of the trope and getting into a petty business competition where he almost forces the devil to commit suicide is amazing. It’s the kind of cathartic release audiences love to see because it’s almost never seen in a more traditional media setup. Normally, we’re supposed to watch our heroes struggle against such an overwhelming power. With Rick on the scene, we get to watch as the Devil gets his.
Rick Versus Zeep
Then we have Rick pitted against (essentially) himself in "The Ricks Must Be Crazy." He’s facing off against someone about as intelligent and capable with the same kind of substance abuse problems. The only thing that saves Rick is his willingness to be completely and utterly ruthless, and his experience as a violent terrorist. These are great match-ups.
It’s not like Rick and Morty is some kind of Shonen manga battle series where we’re waiting to see who he faces off against next. However, Dan Harmon loves him some crazy violence, and given Rick’s predilection towards super science, we get some of the most amusing fight scenes ever seen in western animation.
The problem is we know Rick is the smartest man in the universe. We’ve seen him single-handedly destroy the galactic federation and the Interdimensional Council of Ricks. He can’t even be stopped by himself. Seeing how unquestionably unbeatable Rick is, if we’re going to see him throw down with someone to for any kind of thrill or comedic value, it needs to be against someone or something that can pose a threat. As amusing as it is to see him get in a pissing competition with the President — who tries to use every secret government project the United States has — we know the President is never going to win.
The problem is that pretty much all of the tech the United States pulls out is probably stuff that was reversed engineered either from the Galactic Federation’s brief stay on Earth or from stuff Rick handed over when he was feeling magnanimous. There’s the gigantic transporter that needs to be airlifted in, the shrinking pills that cause cancer, or the soldiers with cloaking technology that Rick can totally see. It’s like watching a British Mark V, one of the clunky old tanks from World War I, go up against an M1 Abrams. Sure, they both have armor and cannons, but it’s absolutely no contest.
One of the most appealing things about Rick is that while the audience will never be capable of mimicking his scientific feats, we can vicariously live through him. Rick is an unlikeable likable character. He has very few redeeming qualities, but because he is not fettered by the constrictions of conventional etiquette or morality, he can say and do things we’d never get away with, which is what makes him so entertaining to watch. However, that’s only entertaining if he’s pitted against an actual challenge, or if Rick is somehow handicapped, either by circumstance or to prove that he’s still better even when he’s deliberately hamstrung himself.
Why Pickle Rick Works
Look at the "Pickle Rick" episode. Rick is massively disadvantaged. Normally, he would have torn through everything without breaking a sweat, so half of the episode’s fun is seeing the self-inflicted misery he puts himself through just to avoid family therapy. The other half is seeing him overcome his pickle disability to conquer a sewer filled with vicious rats and an embassy filled with canon fodder worthy of a '90s action movie. None of that would work if he wasn’t a pickle.
There are times when we do want to see Rick just plow his way through a problem, but it’s always set up as such. For instance, we see Rick’s complete control over pretty much the entire apocalyptic wasteland in "Rickmancing the Stone" or the complete lack of concern he has for the planet's destruction in "Get Schwifty," and we know that this is an unfair setup.
Rick Versus The Vindicators
Look at the episode with the Vindicators. The idea of Dan Harmon highlighting everything he hates about the corporate mess that is the modern superhero cinematic universe should have been a great moment of catharsis for him and the audience. Yet, all of the Vindicators are dumb straw men designed to easily be knocked down. It’s such a huge disappointment since the idea of Rick facing off against an alcoholic Tony Stark/Peter Quill quip machine is what dreams are made of.
That’s one of the reasons why the finale falls flat in comparison to previous Rick and Morty finales. We’ve seen Rick death matches before — which are fine for mid-season episodes — but given the impossibly high standard Rick and Morty has set for itself in terms of great finales, seeing Rick beat on the president, who has no possible way to compete, just feels well below what the show is capable of.
It's fun to watch Rick be the smartest guy in the room with the best one-liners and zingers, but it gets old if it's at the perpetual expense of someone who will never be able to match him. Hopefully whenever Season 4 comes around Dan Harmon will either give us less Rick fights or at least give Rick someone (or something) worth fighting.
Who do you think could posse a threat to Rick? Lets us know in the comments below.