Rick and Morty S3 E3: ‘Pickle Rick’ — In all the multiverse, only Susan Sarandon is can go toe-to-toe with Rick Sanchez
This is normally where I’d put a spoiler warning or a quick synopsis, but at this point it’s become quite clear what this episode is about; Rick turns himself into a pickle and hilarity ensues. Even long before the April Fools’ Day premiere, and even longer before a July release date was announced, Roiland and Harmon’s creative team gave fans a sneak peek at a crude animatic of Pickle Rick eviscerating some rats. As shockingly and delightfully violent as it was initially, between the various promos, the memes, the proverbial shitposting, and everybody and their grandmother yelling “PICKLE RIIIICK!,” it just started beating a dead horse.
However, it was the frivolity and nonsense that complimented the series’ most beautifully animated and written episodes by far.
Rick and Morty is anything but short on character design and world building, but ‘Pickle Rick’ truly showed its animation and editing chops. In the opening, after it has been established Rick has turned himself into the pickle and the Smith family leaves him to his own briny devices to attend family therapy, he accidently rolls out onto the hot driveway, slowly shriveling under the heat of the sun, or as Rick poetically phrased it as the intergalactic genius equivalent of “dying on the toilet”. The fate of the universe’s greatest mind is dreadfully and comedically accentuated by a wide aerial shot, a simple but great visual joke that repeats itself throughout the episode. Action sequences were aplenty, going beyond the rat evisceration scene. From Pickle Rick bouncing and rocketing along sewer pipes to shooting a laser cannon through faces like a stack of dominoes, kudos to the animation team as this episode probably had the most frames per scene this entire episode. But it wasn’t Rick duking it out á la John Wick with Danny Trejo where the writing shined.
For once, it felt as if Rick’s plotline felt like the B-story, yet still complimented the main plotline of the Smiths going to a counselor. As we discussed in last week’s review of ‘Rickmancing the Stone,’ Beth’s codependent, toxic admiration for her father is finally coming to light. Even though it’s scathingly obvious that Rick turned himself into a pickle to avoid therapy and lacks any substantial sympathy for his family’s psyche, Beth is in utter denial. The hard cuts between Rick’s nonsensical rampage and sad state of his family therapy session don’t help the situation either. Ultimately, no matter how much Beth or Rick disparage Dr. Wong’s (Susan Sarandon) profession, it took an outside observer to realize Rick’s adventure into mortal danger was truly a choice of his own. Despite all of Rick’s genius, he will never escape his own self-imposed boredom, that is so celebrated as intelligence, and much rather die in an international prison because he turned into a pickle covered in sewage and feces, than face the responsibilities of the here and now.
What could have turned into just another rehashing of the same jokes from the ‘Tiny Rick’ episode, ‘Pickle Rick’ is another insight into the nihilistic and cynical world of Rick and Morty. Despite the many heartwarming moments of the series, even Rick’s few vocations of love and affection for his family, he is still addicted to boredom while rejecting the individualistic love of his family in the face of an unforgiving, infinite universe. The Smith family is simply stuck in an endless cycle of toxicity. Rick’s adventures, with or without Morty, are as much of a frivolous distraction and security blanket from reality as staring at your phone endlessly or a motivational poster in a cubicle.
But most importantly, we all got to hear the sultry voice of Susan Sarandon say things from “Why do we think grandpa turned himself into a pickle?” to “wiping my ass.”