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“Rick and Morty”: Welcome to the darkest year

| Thursday, April 6, 2017

rick and morty bannerCristina Interiano

Unpredictability and chaos have always been critical components of “Rick and Morty.” From the myriad instances of fourth wall breaking, the occasional completely (and noticeably) ad-libbed scenes to the complex inter-dimensional hijinks, the show has never been easy to predict.

I suppose, then, I should not have been surprised when the show creators decided to pull a reverse April Fools Day prank by actually releasing the premiere of the much-anticipated third season for free streaming. The rest of season three won’t come out until this summer, but if “The Rickshank Redemption” is any indication, fans have a lot to look forward to.

The episode picks up where the show left us at the end of season two. Mad scientist Rick is still in prison, leaving his family to deal with the aftermath of his actions. The Federation has colonized Earth, forcing humans under the yoke of a strange, oppressive alien government, much to the chagrin of every major character other than Jerry, the classic lovable but idiotic dad. Jerry’s wife Beth desperately wants her father Rick back, as he has abandoned her once before. The children, Morty and Summer, end up being the non-Rick characters with the most agency – per usual – as they actually seek out their grandfather.

None of this strikes as particularly surprising. Much of the plot could have been intuited based on the ending of the last season. However, when the show turns to the dark innards of Rick’s mind as he is being interrogated by his captors, the absolute absurd and unpredictable nature of the show resurfaces. The revelation of a dark backstory that could finally explain why Rick’s numb and nihilistic character gets tossed to the side as a mere ploy to escape prison. Newly freed, Rick saves his grandchildren (naturally, they’re in over their heads). He goes on to collapse the Federation economy in a hilarious moment which cleverly parodies the concept of an economy backed by itself.

By the end of the episode, most of the Rick and Morty universe has returned to the status quo. The Federation has left Earth and the Smith family is reunited (minus Jerry), and Rick and Morty are primed to go on more wacky adventures. The episode ends in a hilarious yet terrifying rant from Rick to Morty in which Rick reveals his true motivations. He planned everything that had transpired so he could become the de-facto leader of the family, by ousting Jerry who crossed him in the past. Even his benevolent act of saving Morty and Summer was merely so he would be accepted back into the family, or so Rick claims.

Most importantly, Rick finally reveals his true driving force in life and a major plot arc for the rest of the series. He intends to locate the Szechuan dipping sauce that McDonald’s offered as limited edition tie-in to the movie “Mulan” in 1998. Rick claims that his endeavor may take nine more seasons and 97 years, but he will get his hands on that McNugget sauce.

Now, I can hardly predict where this whirlwind of a show is headed, but something tells me that it won’t actually focus on obtaining a limited edition dipping sauce for another nine seasons. One of Rick’s other mid-rant claims might point closer to the truth: He tells Morty that the pair is in for “the darkest year of their adventures yet.”

Judging by the subject matter of this episode alone, I think that might be right on the mark. Despite being an episodic animated comedy, “Rick and Morty” has always had a certain continuity in its characters. Morty, in particular, bears the scars of the duo’s dangerous escapades and their sometimes deadly consequences. This underlying tension has only increased as the series has progressed and is sure to become a more tangible factor going forward.

We’ll have to wait until summer to see how it all plays out. In the meantime, let’s try to get that delicious McDonald’s Szechuan sauce to come back.

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