Rick and Morty, S03E04:
“Vindicators 3 – Return of Worldender”

Rick and Morty, S03E04:
“Vindicators 3 – Return of Worldender”

Rick and Morty Goes Hard, Dark and Hilarious in One of the Best Episodes of TV This Year


In the middle of a bastardised pastiche to both The Avengers and the Saw movies, “Vindicators 3” earns its place in the canon of Rick and Morty’s greatest episodes. Explosively funny with an undercurrent of tragedy, it hits that uniquely sad, uproarious sweet spot of this show at its best.

Rating: 10.5/11


For its titular characters, every episode of Rick and Morty is a compromise. Morty gets to whip around time and space at the drop of a schmeckle, but he has to endure Rick’s surly drunkenness and tendency to suck the fun out of everything. Meanwhile, Rick is afforded a reliable companion in Morty (and sometimes Summer), but is frustrated by his grandson’s desire to be such a fucking do-gooder. This cosmic divide between what each of them is looking to gain from their adventures is what defines the show, and never more so than in “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender.”

Yes, you read that correctly: this is the third time the fabled Vindicators have assembled, even though we didn’t witness the first one and Rick and Morty themselves weren’t invited the second time around. That’s because the Vindicators – a pissfunny parody of The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy – find Rick’s boorish intellect and general arseholishness to be more trouble than he’s worth. But now, with ostensible antagonist Worldender back to “end more than just worlds”, they find they have no choice but to ask him and Morty along for the ride. And as anyone who knows Rick Sanchez will tell you, calling on him as a last resort is like setting your genitals on fire to get rid of a nasty case of pubic lice. It’ll work, yeah, but is it really worth it?

(Adult Swim)

So, first of all, can we talk about these Vindicators and the fucking flawless voice cast that has been gathered to play them? Frequent R&M collaborator Tom Kenny (otherwise known as SpongeBob, The Ice King or Squanchy) is Million Ants, a sentient mound of ants that can sense things others can basically just see in front of them; he’s kinda like Groot, I guess. Maurice LaMarche (Abradolf Lincler) appears as Crocubot, a creature of half-cyborg and half-crocodile origin that, as Rick comments, probably “fell into a vat of redundancy.”

Next up, Lance Reddick – known for The Wire and perhaps the funniest ever spot on The Eric Andre Show – voices Alan Rails, a traumatised train conductor who can summon a literal ghost train using his enormous phantom whistle (and before you ask, yes, he is overcompensating). At long last, we have an appearance from Gillian Jacobs (Britta from Community) as Supernova, an all-powerful cosmic being who was once married to Alan but is now carrying on a secret affair with Million Ants. And finally, Christian Slater – who I have long considered to have the most innately douchebaggy voice in Hollywood – gets to play the perfect character from my perspective: Vance Maximus Renegade Star Soldier, an obvious blowhard that everyone else finds charming, for some inscrutable reason.

Of course, Morty idolises these people (especially Vance) for the very same reason Rick can’t stand them: they’ve found a noble purpose to drive their pursuits. Whether it’s sleeping with a stadium-sized group of unified redheads or selling weapons to assassins for Blips and Chitz money, Rick’s typical endeavours always revolve around his own needs. Morty craves more; he wants to find meaning in his intergalactic quests, which is tough when Rick’s there every second of the way to assure him that everything they do is essentially meaningless.

(Adult Swim)

Which all tracks nicely into the plot of this episode: pissy about how self-righteous the Vindicators are, a drunken Rick kills Worldender and replaces him as this episode’s villain, setting up a series of sadistic trials akin to the Saw series. Following on from last season’s “Look Who’s Purging Now”, it’s the second time the show has taken a hacky horror movie concept and churned a great episode out of it. That said, the team dynamic and internal squabbling really makes it more of a piece with Season 1’s “Anatomy Park”, where Rick shrunk Morty and sent him on a voyage inside a drunken mall Santa.

So, throughout the episode, we’re treated to pre-recorded videos of the most pants-shittingly intoxicated version of Rick, instructing the Vindicators on the deadly tests he’s set up for them. But Rick’s not doing this just because he’s an arsehole. I mean, make no mistake, he is an arsehole, but his motives become pretty clear after he rants about the lameness of the Vindicators nonstop for the entire episode, focusing specifically on Morty’s respect for them. “Oh my God, you’re jealous!” Morty realises, and of course Rick is. How could he not be, when he’s the one who introduced Morty to this world and yet it’s a group of vest-wearing, overly stylised but ultimately one dimensional superheroes that reap the benefits? Why doesn’t Morty cherish Rick the same way he does the Vindicators?

Of course, this very circumstance proves why Morty has such a toxic relationship with his grandpa. Because when Rick has a problem – especially when it triggers one of his super-limited emotional responses – he doesn’t address it like a normal person. Instead, he takes passive aggression to the extreme and goes full on Saw-mode, revealing how shallow and kinda morally ambiguous the Vindicators are in the process. Vance bolts at the first sign of real danger, but not before insulting Morty by referring to him as a “special needs kid.” Crocubot, before his demise, reveals that the Vindicators destroyed an entire planet in order to deal with an evil shapeshifter residing there. And Million Ants, Supernova and Alan Rails prove that they’re not evolved enough to avoid squabbling over a sordid love triangle, leading to the death of Rails.

(Adult Swim)

Before everyone else can die though, Morty is able to solve Rick’s final test: what is it the Vindicators have that Rick will never have? Morty’s initial thought is that it might literally be nothing, but when Rick interjects with a coy “…it could be Morty…”, a smug grin appears on Morty’s face. He stands on the platform and is lowered onto a rocketship car on a rail, whizzing past handcrafted aliens and otherworldly locations. Rick not only spent his drunken night designing death traps, he also made one last great adventure for Morty, knowing that his love for the Vindicators would eventually rip them apart.

It’s just about the most touching moment of the whole show, and it was really hitting me pretty hard… until Rick’s final video reveals that all of this wasn’t for Morty at all. It was for Noob-Noob. NOOB-NOOB! The janitor from earlier in the episode who recognised Rick’s great insults against the Vindicators, that’s who Rick did all of this for (which is doubly ironic and twisted, considering it was Rick drunkenly shitting all over the Vindicator’s conference room that prevented Noob-Noob from joining them on the adventure). Needless to say, Morty’s grin and all-too-sudden teary-eyed swoon is halted in its tracks, replaced by a disbelieving frown. “Motherfucker“, he says sadly, though none too shocked. Really, what more did he expect?

But, you know what? I’m actually gonna be optimistic about this one, no matter how hilariously dark that reveal is. Yes, it turns out that drunk Rick spends more time caring about the guy he doesn’t even know who gave him props that one time than his own grandson, but that’s when he’s blasted out of his mind. It’s only when he’s sober that he could even imagine that maybe, just maybe, the thing he cherishes above all is his grandson. I mean, just look at the way they keep talking shit as Supernova starts mind-strangling them to death near the end of the episode. These two belong together, even when they don’t particularly like one another, they can’t help be on a similar wavelength.

Plus, there might be something to Morty’s final realisation that, “I’m pretty sure we don’t need Vindicators.” It’s a lesson hard-learned, for sure, but perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea to disabuse Morty of his blind idolatry, of both the Vindicators and Rick himself. Everyone’s gonna let you down eventually, and it’s best to know that and live accordingly. It’s a brutal, unfeeling ethos from the heart of a brutal, unfeeling man, but isn’t it safest to know where you stand if you’re gonna be spending all your time with that sort of person? And to not let others fool you into thinking they’re any better? Especially if, every once in a while, it’ll make sense to think that your grandpa actually gives a shit about you. Even if just for a second.


Quotes & Random Thoughts


  • This week, on Second Rickpressions: There’s no specific joke I can remember missing the first time around, but I can’t fucking believe I didn’t pick that that was Britta as Supernova! Amazing work, as always, by Gillian Jacobs.


  • “I refuse to answer a literal call to adventure, Morty. Let it go to voicemail!”


  • “You might wanna freeze some sperm, Morty…”


  • Noob-Noob’s props to Rick’s zings (“Goddamn!“) made me snort water out my nose. And I wasn’t drinking any water.


  • “I was also late due to my drinking and mentioned it to zero applause.” So yeah, one of the most obvious parallels between Rick and Vance is that both are drinkers. Although, as Vance says, he engages in “sexy drinking, not this psycho trailer park shit” that is more Rick’s M.O.


  • “Did he say he never forgets a kid?”


  • The mention of Lady Katana, Calypso and Diablo Verde having perished in the previous adventure is a fantastic meta joke at the lack of diversity on display in the Vindicators.


  • “Rick says that good and bad are artificial constructs.” “Yeah, well, [glances over at a diarrhea covered Rick] I get the feeling he kinda needs that to be the case.”


  • That insanely convoluted device Rick uses to dismantle the turrets – which absorbs bullets and reintegrates them into four separate discs which form symbiotic receptacles that fit over the turret nozzle – represents the show’s visual creativity at its very best. Seriously, I could rail on and on about the writing and thematic resonance of every episode, but the animators deserve all credit for being able to come up with such stupidly ingenious stuff week after week for Rick to bust out.


  • “Oooh, real scared, real fucking on alert over here(!)” There are a lot of different versions of Rick to choose from, but blatantly sarcastic Rick may very well be the funniest.


  • Rick’s different costumes throughout his videos – from a Sherlock Holmes hat to a Hawaiian shirt that he’s at odds to explain the significance of – are fantastic.


  • BoJack Horseman did a pretty great bit on the Israel and Palestine conflict two years back but Rick and Morty just topped it, with that topic being the one thing Rick actually finds himself concerned to have brought up when he’s so drunk.


  • Supernova conceived a baby with Million Ants but… it, uuuh, did not go well.


  • “Morty, you’re the “drunk Rick” expert.” That’s probably the saddest thing you could ever say to the grandkid of an alcoholic. Still kinda funny, though.


  • The Gear Head tag is appropriately silly and chuckle-worthy. “So, are you girls in Gear College, ooooor…?”

3 Replies to “Rick and Morty, S03E04:
“Vindicators 3 – Return of Worldender”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *