In a show where characters like Mr. Poopybutthole have built a cult following, it's no surprise that Rick and Morty continues to push the limits of absurdity. Time and time again, show runners Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have punched holes through fan expectation with the same gleeful abandon as Rick when he blasts through the space-time continuum.
However, it turns out that the third episode of Season 3 may be the most ridiculous and meme-worthy yet. Fans went crazy for our first glimpse of Pickle Rick in a trailer for Season 3, and our briny hero certainly didn't disappoint. What could have been a mere throwaway gimmick became a wild ride that featured more cockroach brains, rat genocide and wilfully defiant forms of recycling than anyone could possibly have. In fact, the only way that 'Pickle Rick' could have tasted even more delicious is if it had been dipped in Szechuan sauce.
Pickle Rick cemented himself in the hallowed annals of pop culture faster than the legend of Solenya took hold among the Russian operatives tasked with bringing him down. However, that's not the only reason why the ramifications of this particular Rick and Morty episode will continue to be felt long after the credits rolled.
"Why Do We Think Grandpa Turned Himself Into A Pickle?"
'Pickle Rick' is easily one of the most violent episodes of Rick and Morty yet. Suffice it so say, you haven't lived until you've seen an anthropomorphic pickle rip out a rat's spine. However, this carnage pales in comparison to the damage that Rick has caused his family.
Amidst all of the gruesome death traps and pickle parkour stunts, it's easy to forget the reason why Rick became a pickle in the first place: to avoid the family's therapy session. Fortunately, Dr. Wong doesn't, which is why she continues to veer the discussion towards Rick's absence, despite Beth's protestations.
"I think this pickle incident is a better path than any other to the heart of your family's dysfunction."
Dr. Wong quite literally knows her shit, sensing instantly that divorce isn't at the heart of this family drama. And this is where a show about a deli snack with tiny rat arms gets real.
"Love Is Just A Chemical Reaction That Compels Animals To Breed"
The renewed focus on the family dynamic in Season 3 of Rick and Morty comes to a head in Dr Wong's therapy session, counter-balancing the absurdity of Rick's plight with a painfully real discussion of how Rick has sabotaged his entire family with his selfish behavior.
After the family practice their "I" statements, Pickle Rick finally enters the session, clearly in need of the syringe that Beth has stashed in her bag. Without the serum contained within, Rick will die in his pickle form, which is the only reason why he finally joins the therapy session that he so adeptly avoided at the beginning of the episode.
Rick denies lying about the true nature of the syringe earlier in the episode. Naturally, Dr. Wong then calls him out on this through a surprisingly insightful monologue that lays out all of the problems the Sanchez family have faced in one fell swoop.
"Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness. You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse, and I think it's because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it's your mind within your control."
Wong hits the nail on the head, which is exactly why Rick is so quick to dismiss her assessment. Instead of denying Rick's intelligence, the doctor instead reframes the situation, trying to help him see how his ability to intellectualize almost anything is the problem, not the solution. Just because Rick is so clever that he can turn himself into a pickle doesn't mean that he can just disregard human relationships without consequence.
The fact that Rick continues to live with his family suggests that he does need them and their love to an extent, yet his insistence that they are easily inter-changeable with other versions from alternate realities ultimately corrupts any genuine affection he may feel for them. In the previous episode, 'Rickmancing the Stone', Rick's robotic replicas of the family connected with Beth far better than he ever has, hinting at the psychological damage that his selfish lifestyle has had on those closest to him.
Given what the Sanchez family have been through over the past three seasons (remember that time Morty buried his duplicate from another reality and replaced him?), it's safe to say that the collective psyche of the Sanchez family hasn't emerged unscathed.
What Does Beth Learn From This?
Morty and Summer may have been encouraged to take therapy for pissing at their desk and sniffing enamel respectively, but they understand the impact of Rick's destructive behaviour far better than Beth. But the problem is that neither one of them can stop Rick, and the worst thing is that neither of them really want to. Despite the damage he causes, Rick never fails to keep things interesting.
Beth has fallen hardest for Rick's bullshit, presumably due to the fact that she's still blinkered by the fact the father who abandoned her as a child has returned. In fact, Beth not only condones Rick's exploits, but enables him to further his addiction to "adventuring." She rarely chastizes him, even when she knows her children's wellbeing is being put in jeopardy.
Instead of accepting Wong's insight into her own behavior, Beth rejects the truth of her relationship with Rick in favor of grabbing drinks at Smokey's Tavern. In doing so, Beth also ignores her children's clear need for more therapy in favor of trying to win her father's approval. Yes, Rick does apologize for lying to Beth in the first place, but it's sad that she accepts this hollow gesture so quickly, while laughing off the idea of ever seeing Dr. Wong again.
Why Regular Rick Is The Most Evil Rick Of All
Rick may be able to change his body into a briny snack, but he ultimately lacks the capacity to change himself for the better, despite the help of Dr. Wong's insight. What's most fascinating about this, though, is how the entire point of Rick and Morty in crystallized in that one succinct monologue.
At its most basic level, 'Pickle Rick' revolves around how Rick thinks he's awesome, and how he selfishly uses his intelligence to maximize this awesomeness without worrying about how this could affect others. While many shows applaud the egotistical nature of their male heroes, Dr. Wong breaks down this unhealthy worship of self-absorbed heroes with unnerving clarity. Sure, fans love Rick for the immature and even hurtful things he does to others, celebrating the quirks that turn his family relationships toxic, but at the end of the day, it's important that the show recognizes how this behaviour is unhealthy.
In the absence of a regular Big Bad, it could even be argued that C-137 Rick is the real villain of the show. Yes, there's an Evil Rick out there in the multiverse and the Council of Ricks was set up as an antagonistic force too, but ultimately, there's also a reason why this Council is so afraid of our Rick. After all, Rick's lack of remorse after turning the entire world into blob-like monsters called Cronenbergs certainly isn't the hallmark response of a real hero.
Season 3 of Rick and Morty may have taken so long to write because the writers seem to be taking the show in a bold, new direction. So far, the events of Season 3 seem to have real emotional consequences; consequences which could eventually split the Sanchez family apart. Should we blame Rick's arguably villainous ways, or should we take his advice to stop digging for hidden layers and just be impressed? I'll be squanched if I know.
Who is the real villain in Rick and Morty? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!