by Jeremy Rogers
Warning: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Rick and Morty.
This week’s cold open seems like a throwback to the earlier seasons of the show: Rick is calling Morty to participate in some wacky adventure that looks like it’ll take about 20 minutes to resolve. Afterwards the show picks up with the overarching Season 3 narrative of Beth and Jerry’s divorce.
An interesting fixture of this season that is still being explored is the character development for everyone affected by the divorce. Last week’s “Rickmancing the Stone” was very much Morty and Summer’s episode about how they were coping with their changing family dynamic with only a brief hint that Rick was also not dealing with his emotions in a healthy way. “Pickle Rick” is similarly about Rick and Beth exploring their emotions.
Beth takes the kids to family counseling because Morty wet himself in school, and Summer was caught huffing pottery enamel. Rick turns himself into a pickle to avoid going to the therapy, but that’ll come later. Beth refuses to believe that her father would do this, much the to chagrin of her kids. The tables are turned on her as her frustration with Rick dodging therapy becomes the focus of the family’s session with Dr. Wong.
After some debate, Dr. Wong pretty much outlines Beth’s relationship to her father saying that, among other things, she admires her father for his emotional detachment in part because she cannot detach herself emotionally from a father who does not reciprocate her affection. The scenes with Dr. Wong were very well written, getting to the heart of the emotional issues of the characters to help them realize their situations.
Now for Rick’s part in this episode. The episode starts with Rick disappointing Beth and angering Summer and Morty by turning himself into a pickle to avoid therapy. Because being a pickle leaves Rick without arms or legs, he is unable to stop Beth from taking his “anti-pickle” serum, leaving him stranded in his garage. Soon after Rick is left alone, the family cat jumps onto his workbench and swats Rick into the driveway, where he bakes until rain saves him from a heat death. Unfortunately the rain sweeps Rick into a sewer grate.
Once in the sewers, Rick then uses his tongue to control a dead cockroach’s body as a vehicle for his pickle body. Soon after, Rick constructs a rat suit (made from a decapitated rat) that’s outfitted with several weapons and gadgets. Right as he gets the suit on, Rick takes some pent up frustration out on a pack of sewer rats before getting back to Beth.
Even though the Netflix series Castlevania generated a lot of buzz due to its dark, violent imagery, the resulting sewer fight scene bests the action sequences of the Netflix show and makes for one of the best, goriest animated action scenes of recent memory. The visceral nature of the fight instantly brought to memory the moment the armies of Hell were released onto Wallachia by Vlad Dracula Tepes. However the brutality and quick pace of the action made for one of the Rick and Morty’s best moments so far.
Rick then exits the sewer via the toilet in some Russian compound. This part of the episode felt more like padding than the other sections, partly due to the slowing of the action for Rick to play a cat-and-mouse game with the Russians hunting him. The Russian compound climaxes with an action scene that is fairly tame in comparison to the earlier sewer scene. Eventually Rick makes it to therapy, and after getting his anti-pickle serum, he tries to reconcile with Beth.
There was something metaphorical there in how Rick’s use of science as a crutch to avoid emotionally engaging with his family led to him becoming impotent and helplessly falling into a pit filled with human waste. This seems to hint at Rick’s arc this season: falling from grace because of his science and having to work his way back into his daughter’s life. Maybe this was an intentional inclusion from the creative team or maybe, as Rick said, “Stop digging for hidden layers, and just be impressed.”
All images from Rickipedia
Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 3: "Pickle Rick"
Filled with action and great writing, “Pickle Rick” provides a Rick and Morty experience unlike any episode that came before it. This is a return to form of sorts after last week with action and emotional stakes like never before. If this episode is the earmark for what fans can expect from the rest of Season 3, then this may be the best one yet.