I don’t like Rick and Morty season three.
I remember when I first discovered Rick and Morty. I watched the episodes online and I loved them the way that I love a lot of Adult Swim shows (or at least, 25% of Adult Swim shows, they’re a bit hit-and-miss). I binge-watched season one, I binge-watched season two and I loved every minute of it.
Or did I?
If I were a professional reviewer/critic/summarizer, I would rate every cartoon I watched by approximately how much of every episode I found myself enjoying. For approximately every percentage that I didn’t like for whatever reason (a joke that fell flat, a little soapbox moment that someone shoehorned in, a ‘sad’ moment that didn’t feel sad, a moment that fills time and nothing else, etc.) I would remove a percentage from my overall score. If I didn’t enjoy about 35% of an episode, I would give the episode a score of 65%. On that note, I probably would give most modern games that I’ve played extremely low scores if I rated them the same way.
What I’m basically saying is that Rick and Morty in the first season would have averaged a score of about 70% per episode, and season two would have averaged about 75%-80%. The scores would be definitely higher than most cartoons, but that basically means that there are things that I don’t like about the episodes and the series as a whole.
The biggest issue that I have with Rick and Morty is the meta-humor in the show. The problem with meta-humor that isn’t always talked about is how dependent it is on how the audience is experiencing a work of art. For instance, the Psycho Mantis bit in Metal Gear Solid is based on a player playing the game with a Playstation memory card and a Playstation controller with a working rumble function, the problem is that most players these days are playing the game on their PC, so the meta-humor not only falls flat, but it breaks the immersion. Similarly, in Rick and Morty a good portion of the meta-humor falls flat because the jokes are related to watching the episodes on television with commercial breaks in between segments, when most people stream the episodes online without commercial breaks. Nothing breaks my immersion quicker than Rick announcing “we’ll be back after these messages!” and then no commercials appear. This isn’t a problem exclusive to Rick and Morty (there’s an episode of South Park entirely built on these ‘cut-to-commercial’ meta-jokes), but it is a problem that modern-day cartoons sometimes seem frustratingly oblivious to.
The other issue that I have with Rick and Morty is the character of Rick Sanchez. In Sealab 2021 a number of characters were nihilistic, childish, incredibly intelligent and self-serving. One of the jokes in the series has a character talking about the history of lead piping and why PB is lead on the periodic table of the elements. Most episodes would have these characters die before the end of the episodes because they got on the nerves of other characters with their intelligence, their selfishness, and/or their destructive tendencies. Rick Sanchez seems like the kind of character who would have fit right in with the crew on the show, and would have been killed just as frequently.
At first I enjoyed the novelty of Rick’s character, an old man who goes on wacky adventures with his grandson, gets into fights and repeatedly insults people with his witty remarks. The problem I have is the same problem I have with Family Guy; at some point it started taking itself more seriously and started tackling heavier subject matter (like the straight-faced suicide attempt, and the existential crisis stuff). The genie won’t go back in the bottle, once you dedicate entire episodes to showcase how depressed Rick is and how close he is to committing suicide, you can’t have the next episode carry on as if nothing had happened. Also, as Seth Macfarlane continually fails to realize, once you have created an entirely serious episode where you deliver a serious message in a serious way, you can no longer hide behind the “It’s just a cartoon! You shouldn’t take it seriously!” You also can’t use that argument that you shouldn’t take a cartoon seriously when that cartoon is financing your entire life and providing numerous people with careers, which is why flash cartoons made by guys in their basements and posted for free viewing online aren’t under as much scrutiny.
I got off-track there, and I already know that someone is preparing an argument to prove that my opinion is wrong. I figure at this point I might as well explain why I don’t like season three specifically rather than why I don’t like the series as a whole. I do like the series, I just think that it could be better because there are aspects of it that I don’t like.
The moment that turned me off season three occurred in the very first episode when Rick escaped from prison. The only reason why he escaped is because the aliens hooked him up to a virtual reality program to interrogate him, because he is apparently the smartest man in the entire galaxy. I refuse to believe that Rick is the smartest man in the galaxy, and I refuse to believe that the aliens would go through the trouble of using a virtual reality machine to interrogate him when other methods would be much more effective. In Star Trek: The Next generation, Picard was tortured and lasted for a very long time without breaking. The crucial moment in the episode occurred when Picard had lost all hope and was about to break, then he was rescued just before he was completely broken. This was the moment when I truly fell in love with Patrick Stewart’s character because it was the moment where he ceased to be a mary-sue character (tragic past, improbable set of skills, occasional moments where he breaks down, cries and attempts suicide only to be perfectly fine a few minutes later) and transformed into a completely human character. Rick being in prison and interrogated could have provided a similar moment, but it went in entirely the opposite direction and for the first time in the series I developed a dislike of Rick’s character that I still feel. I don’t want to watch Rick-centric episodes anymore because I no longer like the arrogant jack-ass mary-sue that Rick is and has always been but started to piss me off after the first episode of season three.
So, of course, Rick not only escaped the prison, but he brought down the entire federation, freed everyone from servitude, and brought down the council of Ricks. Fucking hell, this reminds me of when Dr. Strange defeated The Beyonders after they literally killed every cosmic entity and every remotely powerful character in the Marvel universe, or when Superman absorbed the rays of the sun for thousands of years and became a godlike being who solved every problem in the universe. As both men and women will be willing to tell you, at some point you should be ashamed at exposing your enormous penis and/or enormous breasts. Ideally, the point where you should be ashamed at exposing your enormous penis is when the damn thing is 50 feet long and therefore way too big to have sex or go to the bathroom without employing a team of helpers. Oftentimes, a workable 12-inch penis is more useful and impactful than a 50-foot penis.
The next episode essentially featured a rehash of the same ‘robot-develops-human-feelings-and-questions-his-existence’ joke that was used just enough times in other episodes to make it unnecessary and a little dull when it was used this time. The joke was also pretty drawn-out, which made it even less enjoyable. Also, for the first time watching Rick and Morty, I watched an entire episode without laughing once. I didn’t hate the episode, I just found it incredibly boring.
The third episode featured Rick turning himself into a pickle. If I was pissed off at Rick before for being an irritating mary-sue, you can bet I was pissed off when I saw this episode. The poop-eating-therapist also felt very forced, and very unfunny. Really, did they need to have the family go to a therapist who helps people who eat poop? Why couldn’t they have just gone to a normal therapist? Why did even the act of going to therapy have to have a joke stapled onto it? Forced joviality is one of my biggest pet peeves in any form of entertainment, and the poop therapist and ‘Piiiiicccckkkkkllleee RIIIIIIIICCCKKK” was one of the worst cases of it that I have ever seen. I hated the Pickle Rick episode, and so far it’s the only episode of the show that I can say that about.
I hope that season three gets better and that I can love the series again, but if episode five doesn’t change my mind about the series going downhill, then I’ll probably stop watching the show.