The third season finale of Rick And Morty aired this weekend, and with it fans are now facing a long wait for more episodes. Season 3 was promised to fans as the darkest season yet, and it certainly lived up to that claim. But letting Rick ‘off the leash’ had the same effect as turning on cheat codes in a video game to overpower yourself: it’s fun for a while, but you need to be reined in now and again to really appreciate the best moments.
Overall this was a strong season, with great off-the-cuff jokes and over-the-top storylines the likes of which the show hasn’t seen before. However, early episodes felt like they sorely missed the presence of Beth and Jerry, and an engaging B-Side storyline. This tone continued for most of the season, and in comparison to previous years, we saw significantly less of the family interacting with each other. When the family is more isolated they can’t bounce off each other as easily, something I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed until it was gone.
On the flip side, we did get treated to some of the series’ best episodes yet in Pickle Rick and The Ricklantis Mixup. The writers know perfectly well how to call back to jokes and storylines in previous episodes, and tease the audience with the prospect of an overall story arc – something viewers are all too ready to analyse and craft theories on. (As Morty outright tells us in the finale, “You’re not gonna have fun if you analyse everything.”)
Rick And Morty is gaining more and more mainstream popularity as time goes on, and a larger audience means more people to please. This year’s episodes were often fast-paced and demanded full attention, which is something the audience needs to be willing to give in order for the show to really work well. Moreso with season 3 than with any other, I found you had to be willing to devote your time to it in order to reap the rewards.
For the last three years we have been introduced to a multitude of memorable characters and long-running gags that have made their way through internet culture and on to t-shirts and posters, and this year gave us the likes of Million Ants Man and Pickle Rick to accompany established popular side characters like Mr. Poopybutthole and Birdperson. (I still miss Ghost In A Jar, personally.) It’s the kind of cartoon that really thrives in today’s digital age, where episodes can be rewatched and smaller jokes or references can be seen on multiple rewatches.
The finale itself gave us some great visuals during the fight between Rick and the President, but none of that ever felt particularly important – it was a lather-rinse-repeat situation of the fight with the sewer rats in the third episode, which was equally fun to watch but ultimately meant nothing. It was the short scenes with Beth trying to figure out if she was a clone (while the audience asked the same questions) that really captivated my attention and had me laughing with intrigue. This theme has followed most of season 3, with small glimpses of a more interesting, complex plot being hidden behind Rick having fun and acting without consequence. The question raised by this constant lure of an overall storyline is, are we ever going to get the pay off we are promised? Or, will we be left analysing things that never needed to be analysed in the first place? The show itself repeatedly stresses the fact that nothing matters, that infinite possibilities exist in infinite dimensions, and this is an easy resolve for any storyline Rick and Morty might ever encounter. The trick is not to overuse it and make fans feel short-changed.
Season 3 allowed the writers to push Rick as far as they wanted and have fun with him. This was probably vital for us to find out what adventures a Rick who has minimal commitments could get up to, but it was just starting to get repetitive come the end of the season. Now, things have neatly come back together, with Beth outright telling us that we can go back to the dynamics of season one albeit a little more streamlined. This fourth wall break was as much a throwaway joke as it was a reassurance to worried fans: we are done with this experiment of Beth and Jerry being separated, and now things are back to normal.
Don’t worry, Jerry. I missed you this season, and I’m looking forward to having you back in the family. Anyone else?