Rick and Morty season 3 episode 1 review: The Rickshank Redemption
It was the April Fools day, so most of us thought it was a joke at first when they said the season premiere for Rick and Morty dropped on the Adult Swim website and played on loop on Cartoon Network for a few hours in place of Samurai Jack and Dragon Ball Super, but in a typical Rick and Morty fashion, it turned out to be a reverse joke, and boy did it make us happy. The review below contains some spoilers.
We left Rick last in chains, willingly imprisoned in a maximum security prison after he turned himself in to save Morty and their family. The episode sneakily throws us off by opening with Rick and the family dining at Shoney’s after he seemingly escaped the prison, but we soon find it’s but a projection in his mind. What follows is a 23-minute-long hectic craziness that we all love the show for – it is full on continuity, character development, insane sci-fi adventures and mind-boggling narratives.
This show has given us many episodes that run for twenty minutes, but the amount of story told and things that happen would easily fit into an hour-long HBO production or other similar series. If it was any other show, it would feel crammed and rushed, but in Rick and Morty it works, and no one would have it any other way. This premiere basically tells several storylines – parallel Earth under the galactic rule, Morty’s original family life, and Rick’s prison break-out and Citadel break-in.
An interesting thing to point out is that the episode pokes fun at the idea of Rick having a tragic backstory and revealing it. While Rick is no doubt a tragic character, the showrunner Dan Harmon has said several times that revealing too much of Rick’s backstory would inevitably ruin the character. As a side note, that’s exactly how Christopher Nolan created his Joker in The Dark Knight. This episodes tricks us into believing (what’s with all the tricking in this episode? Must be that time of the year) that the secret tragic backstory of Rick is him losing his wife and child, as so many male protagonists have done in the past. However, the show makes fun of this idea as Rick reveals it’s in fact a fake memory. And that’s absolutely fine; in a sense it is character development in itself.
The Rick we see in this premiere is the Rick we know – a morally ambiguous man who both cares and doesn’t care for his family, and in the end just decides to care for something else entirely; this time, it’s McDonald’s limited Mulan Szechuan McNugget sauce that was available for a short time in the late 90s as a promotion for Disney’s Mulan. As far as I’m concerned, it’s as good a thing as any to fight for – Rick even exclaims at the end of the episode that he’ll continue to look for the sauce even if it takes him nine seasons, which almost looks like a shout-out to Community‘s #sixseasonsandamovie, but hey, don’t take my word for it, I might only be speaking as a die-hard Community fan here.
The other storylines the episode goes through gives us character development with other characters as well. We see Morty stand up for himself in a way by shooting Rick (albeit with a fake gun) after him, his sister and even her alternate Rick captor ridicule him for being stupid. After seeing Morty being berated for two seasons, there was a certain kind of pleasure in watching that scene. Moreover, we see that Morty cares a lot for his sister and would do anything to protect her. Speaking of, Summer also shines through, by refusing to accept the Galactic Federations and their control over Earth. Finally, Jerry takes a stand for himself too as he files divorce with Beth, but the narrative decides not to stand in Jerry’s favour on this one (or ever, really).
A post-credits scene shows us Birdperson returning, now as Phoenix Person, which suggests interesting future plot developments and a hopeful extension of the show’s continuity. Exciting stuff all around.
The season premiere of Rick and Morty is an absolute delight to watch – and not only because of ridiculous humour, space adventures, sci-fi goodness and continuous character development, but also because of its many throwbacks to the previous seasons, including alternate Rick’s corpse in the backyard, the portal gun and the Cronenberg world. It’s a damn shame we have to wait until an unspecified date in Summer to get the rest of the season because if they can keep up what they started in this premiere, it may well be the best season of Rick and Morty yet.
Image credit: Adult Swim