by Ryan Fine
Warning: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of the show.
It’s been almost four months since the surprise airing of the Rick and Morty season three premiere on April Fools Day (and nearly two long years since season two ended), but as of this past Sunday, fans can finally rest easy knowing that the third season is fully underway. And luckily for this show’s rabid fanbase, the first in this string of nine new episodes is packed with as much cleverness and dry humor as we’ve come to expect.
The cold open of “Rickmancing the Stone” contains a few necessary refreshers on the wheels that started spinning in “The Rickshank Rickdemption”. Morty is finally fed up with Rick’s manipulation tactics, which have now caused the hardly shocking divorce of Beth and Jerry. Meanwhile Summer, who is dealing with her parents’ split in a much less healthy way than she wants to admit, is suddenly cold and violent in a way we’ve never seen from her before.
Summer is eager to get away when Jerry comes to say goodbye to the kids, so she half-heartedly comes up with an excuse for Rick to transport her and Morty to someplace far away. Like many Rick and Morty alternate universes, the place where they end up is a direct parody of another cinematic universe, and this time the target in question is Mad Max. The parallels are almost impossible to miss. Right at the start, a high-speed battle is taking place on tricked-out desert vehicles, and later a direct reference is made to the Thunderdome (or rather, the “Blood Dome”) from the 1985 installment of the films.
It doesn’t take long for Rick to reveal his motivations for coming to this post-apocalyptic timeline. After Summer fends off the group of fighters behind them, Rick happens across a substance called Isotope 322, which he says is so powerful that “makes Isotope 465 look like Isotope 317”. However, apart from this vague description, it’s never really made clear what makes this compound so special, and the “big reveal” that it conducts electricity is the most disappointing part of the episode. Is that really enough to justify Rick’s obsession with the stuff? Doesn’t he have any wires back home he can play with?
Apart from this letdown and a couple other instances where Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon expect our suspension of disbelief to be a bit too forgiving, “Rickmancing the Stone” is a reliably solid addition to the Rick and Morty canon, with its most fascinating element being Summer’s character development. The divorce of her parents has affected her to the point where she is at best irritable and passive-aggressive, and at worst a bloodthirsty maniac. She isn’t shaken at all when pushed to kill people in disturbing and creative ways, and even her romantic side plot is no less nihilistic.
Overall, the parts of this episode that contribute to the plot of Rick and Morty as a whole are much more interesting than the parts that are self-contained within the episode. The robots Rick builds in an attempt to replace Summer and Morty are a hilarious exception, while Morty’s murderous new arm is decently entertaining but by no means unique. The real magnetic pull of “Rickmancing the Stone” is the simple fact that Rick and Morty is back once again. There’s no Mr. Meeseeks, no intergalactic singing competitions, or anything else that would make it truly stand out in this show’s impressive back catalogue. So while this pseudo-premiere is great as a release of anticipation and a setting of scenery for later episodes, it hopefully won’t end up being a highlight of the new season.
All images from Rickipedia
Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 2: "Rickmancing the Stone"
Though it may be a step back from the season premiere, “Rickmancing the Stone” provides enough entertainment to whet fans’ appetites for the season that has finally begun in earnest. The inherent ridiculousness of the show is hardly toned down at all despite the addition of one of the most down to earth story arcs in the show’s history, and even though it doesn’t flesh out its ideas nearly as much as it could have, it manages to make time for enough classic 'Rick and Morty' absurdism to make it worth the watch.