Written by Alisha Weinberger and Chris Diggins
Review: Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 2, “Rickmancing the Stone”
Polish off your portal guns and tighten your leather chaps!
We chew the fat (or human flesh) over last night’s Mad Max inspired episode of Rick and Morty, “Rickmancing the Stone.” Starting off some time after the chaotic events of “The Rickshank Rickdemption”, episode two reels it in from the larger galactic scope of the series to focus on the emotional turmoil of Beth and Jerry’s divorce and the toll it’s been taking on Morty and especially Summer.
We follow Rick, Summer, and a reluctant Morty into the hyper sexual and hyper violent wastelands of a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, where Rick leaves the Smith siblings to work out their aggression and alienation, all the while staving off a manic Beth’s suspicions and steal a deified chunk of radioactive rock.
Chris and I discuss some of our favorite moments (from not so subtle pop culture parodies to a beloved genetically modified, mutant arm), tapping into the potential of side characters, and the thematic direction the remaining season maybe heading in.
Alisha Weinberger: Wubba dubba dub dub! We’re finally back after nearly four months since the April Fools’ Day surprise. “Rickmancing the Stone” plunges us pretty quick into the action and what seems to be the third season’s story arc of Beth and Jerry’s divorce and Summer’s newfound nihilism. Do you think the episode was worth the wait and how do you feel about the increased inclusion of Summer in Rick and Morty’s adventures? Personally, I’m glad we didn’t get another “Interdimensional Cable” right off the bat, but I’m also relieved it wasn’t just a recap of all the consequences of “Rickshank Rickdemption” either.
Chris Diggins: I think it’s a sign of how unbelievably great Rick and Morty is that I can look at an episode that features Morty learning to process grief through the revenge tale of his genetically modified arm, Summer descending into post-apocalyptic nihilism that evolves into the very banal domesticity she seeks to escape, and the existential crisis of a newly sentient robot, futilely struggling to hold onto his consciousness, and say it lacked that spark of deranged genius that marks the best Rick and Morty episodes. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, or not still better than 95% of TV out there. The season premiere is just a tough act to follow. And to be fair to it, after the intense rollercoaster that was “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” we did need something of a breather that sets up the dynamic for the show going forward, which this episode does admirably.
AW: I’m completely on board. Unlike season one going into two, it’s clear some time has passed since “The Rickshank Rickdemption. It’s a relief that we don’t have to get bogged down in a string of episodes following Beth and Jerry’s on again and off again marriage. I couldn’t help but notice one of the themes of this season maybe Rick actually trying to find some meaning in the universe. Clearly, Rick had no qualms abandoning Summer in the Mad Max dimension, even pointing out to Morty that there are an infinite amount of Summers. Do you think Rick actually stayed for the “Isotope 322” or is this foreshadowing a change in the series’ thematic direction? After all, when existence is pain, and nothing matters, where else can you go but to try to form some semblance of relationships and meaning?
CD: So I agree with you in kind of a roundabout way. That is, I don’t think Rick is going to be looking for meaning, but I do think it’s going to find him. He went to all the trouble to arrange the family dynamic just the way he likes it, and you can debate how much of that comes from genuine affection and how much comes from an intensely, cynical narcissism. But we’re already seeing signs that no matter how hard Rick tries, he can’t force the family to feel the way he wants them to. His rescue of the kids is more about desperately trying to maintain the new Jerry-less balance after their robot replacements threaten to upend it, but even Morty and especially Summer’s new attitudes are starting to shift the balance in more subtle ways. I’m guessing by season’s end, Rick is going to have to confront the fact that as smart as he is, he can’t get his family to do or feel what he wants them to, and that could have some really fascinating implications for his worldview.
AW: Between the various sneak peeks and Summer’s role in this episode, it’s clear we’re going to start seeing the inclusion of other cast members into main plotlines. What was up with that disembodied voice whispering “loser” into Jerry’s ear? Do you think it was just a silly bit, or could this develop into a bizarre B-story? I’m kind of imagining this as the start of Jerry’s descent into his psyche and finally developing some balls, á la Fight Club style. Also, did you catch that great “U-Tö” truck in the background?
CD: I’ve been burned before on assuming that jokes at Jerry’s expense would become plotlines (I once confidently asserted the potential mix-up at the Jerry daycare in Season 2 would be important), so I’ll err on the side of caution and say it was just a hilarious bit. And at this point I’m not sure Jerry has a reservoir of strength in his psyche to even draw upon. The show has pretty extensively plumbed the depths of his cowardice. But yes, I did catch that! I love how much the show packs jokes into every second and every frame. There isn’t a single episode of this show that doesn’t have me laughing almost constantly. What was your favorite bit in this one? As a huge Mad Max fan, I adored all the shots they took at that series, especially the extensive nonsense vocabulary they came up with for just about everything.
AW: I can say with utmost certainty that I will be obnoxiously yelling “My body is chrome, my blood is gasoline” in my most shrill voice for the next week. Also, that bit when Rick is sitting with robot Morty and Summer and command them to “dial back” their emotional response, am I to believe that was a Westworld reference? Also those guards at the wasteland castle were looking a tad on the Game of Thrones side or was it just me? Do you think this a sign of the show reacting to more current pop culture and competing with other blockbuster series?
CD: I mean, we’re talking about a show that once did an entire episode centered on the concept of a The Purge style society that they called out by name, and an episode that was all but explicitly set in the Mad Max universe. So the show has never been shy about wearing its pop culture influences on its sleeves. But now that you mention it, I really hope we do end up seeing their take on Westworld. Given all the darkly hilarious bits they’ve done with robot sentience in the past, I have to imagine it would end up being brilliant. Anything you’re hoping to see them do?
AW: As tempting as it is to want all the various fan theories to come into fruition, it’s probably unlikely. However, I think we’re long overdue for a solid Rick and Beth episode. Even if it’s not an insightful episode into C-137 Rick’s true past and Beth’s mother, Beth has been a relatively two-dimensional character. It would make for a bittersweet dynamic for Beth to finally vocalize her abandonment issues for once, instead of blindly following her father. And after Spencer Grammer’s hilarious performance tonight, I would really look forward to Sarah Chalke having a larger role rather than being relegated to side stories. Speaking of performances, we had a few guest voices, including (but no surprise here) John DiMaggio. But I couldn’t make heads or tales who he was voicing. Did you catch who he was or who the other guest voice actors were?*
CD: The only name I caught in the credits was Laura Bailey, though I’m not sure who she voiced. But I think you did hit on something that’s a pretty essential theme for the show, namely whether people can ever break the cycles they’re trapped in. The show tends to lean pretty heavy on “No,” what with Jerry’s neverending pathetic spiral, and Beth is showing more of the same behavior, even as she severs her unhealthily codependent relationship with Jerry. It seems like she’s deepening her just-as-unhealthy relationship with Rick. And as great as Summer’s heightened prominence has been, she seems to be taking after Rick more than anything. If anyone is going to really upend the status quo, I think it’s going to have to be Morty. He’s the only one who’s shown a real willingness to call Rick out when he goes too far, and it seems like he’s increasingly sick of Rick’s behavior. Combined with his darker impulses (which we get a glimpse of here as he violently works out his anger over his parents’ divorce in the Blood Dome), we might be seeing a real confrontation this season.
AW: I think overall after four months of waiting, we got a solid episode tonight. It took a break from the intergalactic insanity of Rick versus The Federation, but at the same time, I’m relieved that it took this time to explore the more emotional consequences of the premiere episode instead of diving into the random shenanigans of the more “Intergalactic Cable”-like episodes. On top of that we explored some underused characters and got a hilarious performance out of Spencer Grammer. What’s your verdict Chris? Out of 10 schmeckles, how many fleebs would you give “Rickmancing the Stone?”
CD: Hm. I think I’d have to give it 9 plumbuses. It may not quite hit the incredible highs this show is capable of, but it was exactly what they needed at this moment. It shows us where Morty, Summer, and Beth are at after the traumatic events of last episode, and sets up a whole host of potential conflicts and complications that can play out this season. Plus, it was just as consistently hilarious as this show somehow always manages to be. Even an average episode of Rick and Morty is fantastic, and this was quite a bit above average. What about you, Alisha?
AW: I’d say a 9 out of 10 is more than fair, although if only Harmon and Roiland found a way to keep Arm-othy in for a little longer then it would have been a solid 10 out of 10.
CD: Ah, Armothy. Gone from our lives but not from our hearts.
AW: …or our flesh leather.
*Chris later realized Hemorrhage, Summer’s love interest in episode two, is voiced by Joel McHale of Harmon’s beloved former series Community.