Rick and Morty, S03E06-E07:
“Rest and Ricklaxation /
The Ricklantis Mixup”

Rick and Morty, S03E06-E07:
“Rest and Ricklaxation /
The Ricklantis Mixup”

Two of Rick and Morty‘s Most Conceptual Episodes Ever Get Right at the Heart of the Main Characters

 

“Rest and Ricklaxation”

 

“Rest and Ricklaxation” offers up a version of Rick and Morty (the characters) that we’ve never seen before, all the better for us to appreciate what makes them who they truly are. It’s some dense, heady material, which makes its enjoyability – and hilarity – all the more astounding.

Rating: 9/11

 

No other episode of Rick and Morty that I can think of has reminded me more of Community than “Rest and Ricklaxation.” Much like that show’s meta-dissection of its characters and the roles they play in each others’ lives, this episode takes a look at what defines Rick and Morty. Or at least, what defines them at their most toxic and whether they’d be better off without those traits.

For anyone who’s been paying attention, these character’s worst tendencies shouldn’t be a shock. Rick is a self-aggrandising, abusive arsehole and Morty is a weak-willed, insecure skin sack. And – though these aspects may be inseparable from the characters as they’re written – this episode finds an appropriate sci-fi cheat to suddenly rid them both of their least desirable characteristics. After one too many space-faring adventures full of close calls and near-death experiences, Rick decides he and Morty need a vacation. Whilst chilling at an intergalactic day spa, each of them experiences a full-body detoxification, in which every negative facet of their being is extracted.

(Adult Swim)

Except, in a cruel twist, these removed toxins are themselves sentient beings. Coated in a slimy green patina of plain awfulness, toxic Rick and Morty behave as you would imagine the shittiest iterations of these characters would. Rick constantly restates his own brilliance with an escalating stream of vulgarity that borders on mania, berating Morty for his cowardice and general uselessness. Morty, for his part, agrees with every horrible thing Rick says about him and, when that’s not enough, provides even more ammunition for all the reasons he sucks.

Meanwhile, regular Rick and Morty, now living toxin-free, are more harmonious than they’ve ever been. They listen to a random song that they both enjoy, acknowledge each other’s most destructive impulses and Morty actually tells Rick that he loves him. It’s fuckin’ weird, no doubt, but the juxtaposition alone between the healthy Rick and Morty and the toxic versions is good for a lot of laughs. Case in point, the smash cut from Morty saying “I love you” to toxic Rick’s frantic “Yeah, motherfucker! Yeah, get it! Get some!” is hilarious.

However, it’s more the depth of this entire concept than the humour mined from it that stands out, and it’s a concept that brings to mind the Darkest Timeline from Community‘s third season. Sprouting from “Remedial Chaos Theory”, one of the show’s greatest episodes, the Darkest Timeline is the one in which Troy leaves the room to get the pizza during a dinner party and chaos ensues. Because the entire episode hinges on the differing results of each member of the study group leaving to get the pizza, the implication here is that Troy is the most necessary to the group. In another less drastic but just as telling timeline, Abed leaves to get pizza and everyone winds up not talking to one another. Finally, in the actual timeline at the end of the episode, Jeff leaves and everyone unwinds to The Police’s “Roxanne”.

(Adult Swim)

In short, the show sets up an organic situation where one character at at time can be removed from the group dynamic, at which point their specific function is determined based on what befalls the others in their absence. But because there are really only two main characters in Rick and Morty, it’s not that interesting to seem them separated from each other. Instead, it makes more sense to remove certain facets of their personality and see how that affects their character. Adding one final layer of complexity, it’s later revealed that what Rick and Morty lose in their detoxification aren’t their objectively worst traits but, rather, the parts of themselves that they personally consider to be the least healthy.

Because it’s such a particular and kinda complex idea, the dialogue this episode – which is always whip smart and lightning fast – is doubly dense this time around. In “Pickle Rick“, a lot of the jokes were either visual riffs on action movie tropes or gags dealing with the Smith adults’ unwillingness to better themselves; it was funny, yeah, but none too complex. Even in “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender“, all you needed to know to understand the humour was that Rick is a petty drunk, plus maybe a passing familiarity with the Saw franchise.

So Rick’s confrontation with the toxic version of himself near the episode’s end gets a little heady. In short, it confirms the dual nature of Rick, how he regards both his boorishness and his irrational emotional connections to be equally disruptive to becoming his best self.

It’s the sort of realisation that seems designed to combat the fears of some of the show’s fans that Rick’s nihilism and dickishness are becoming too pronounced. If nothing else, it shows how inextricably linked his most distasteful features are to his affection for his family. Plus, it once again provides him with the opportunity to salvage his relationship with his grandson, despite what may be his “better” judgement.

 

Quotes & Random Thoughts

 

  • This week, on Second Rickpressions: I don’t know if this is embarrassing or just a sign of my virtuous living, but on my second viewing when Morty asked Rick if he’s familiar with “Ben Wa technology”, I had to look it up. Then I giggled for, like, thirty seconds.

 

  • Keeping in line with the casual bukake reference from Season 1, the teenage girls at Morty’s high school continue to employ some pretty filthy sex talk. To wit, Tricia’s holding out for “that docking kind of love… like penis in the foreskin kind of love” and caps the episode off extolling the virtues of being peed on (“Oh my God, yum!“).

 

  • Those were some super heavy reproductive references at the tail end of that opening adventure. If I had to pick, the engorged vaginal crevice that Rick and Morty fly through was definitely the most graphically ambitious and wildly fuckin’ disturbing.

 

  • So, I remember mentioning a couple weeks back that little else on television this year had devastated me as much as the brief glimpse into Jerry’s sad sack “life”. Well, apparently the Rick and Morty writing staff heard me and promptly handed someone their beer, because watching the titular characters break down over the shared trauma of their six-day sojourn to the Abadango Cluster was emotionally fucking shredding. Morty bursting into heaving, manic tears as Rick let forward a bloodcurdling scream was more than I was prepared to experience this week, let alone when followed by Morty’s exasperated plea of “Why do you keep doing this to us?!

 

  • “I think my voice is annoying.” “It is, and it’s also your best quality!”

 

  • “Normally I would come down on any kind of disruption, but it seems to represent a positive change for your character.”

 

  • The knowingly gratuitous fight scene between the Ricks was, as always, full of insanely clever details. The idea of a dart gun that you can shoot into a host body to reintegrate yourself is as funny as it is unsettling.

 

  • Morty going all Wolf of Wall Street without his insecurity to reign him in feels so right.

 

“The Ricklantis Mixup”

 

“The Ricklantis Mixup” may well be Rick and Morty‘s finest hour. It’s as sprawling and ambitious as any episode of a twenty minute show could ever stand to be, exploring a world made up entirely of Ricks and Mortys and the consequences of their existence. It is a fucking marvel.

Rating: 11/11

 

I’ve tried to write the opening sentence to this review five times now. Nothing I’ve come up with so far seems adequate. My analytical mind is cowering like a limbless kitten in the face of “The Ricklantis Mixup”, undoubtedly the greatest episode of TV this year and one of the most towering achievements of any show I’ve ever seen.

In this dark, complex and overwhelming episode of Rick and Morty, we’re given a glimpse into the inner workings of the Citadel of Ricks. Since our main Rick rampaged through it back in the season premiere, it has been repaired and now functions as a society filled with all manner of Ricks and Mortys. And so, over twenty of the most densely packed minutes you’ll ever witness on television, we follow the exploits of a select few of these characters.

(Adult Swim)

A Cop Rick and a Cop Morty, on their first day as partners, investigate a convenience store robbery perpetrated by a gang of Mortys. An Assembly Worker Rick snaps and attacks his boss, resulting in a hostage situation during which he demands freedom from his life of monotony. Four Student Mortys from a Morty Training Academy go off on a coming-of-age adventure to explore the outer reaches of the Citadel. And an unusually charismatic Politician Morty runs for President of the Citadel. The manner in which each of these stories play out and intersect is astounding. Despite the limited time available, this episode’s scope and payoffs are comparable to hyperlink cinema films like MagnoliaSyriana and Cloud Atlas, movies where actions reverberate across the world and people’s lives bleed into one another much as they do here.

But even beyond that level of ambition, each character is an opportunity for the episode to examine the implications of a world like this, while presenting a scathing reflection of our own society. If the cornerstone of sci-fi is holding up a warped mirror to our lives and watching it slowly crack, then this is the first time Rick and Morty has committed to letting that mirror shatter, leaving nothing but dark, empty space between us and itself. And though it’s not particularly subtle, drawing on so many signifiers of the real world and injecting them into this framework yields endless creative rewards, especially on the basis of disparity between classes and racial division in America.

For instance, Mortys are essentially second-class citizens in the Citadel. Cab drivers don’t stop for them, the media creates whatever narrative they find more convenient when reporting on them – usually resorting to infantilising them – and any Mortys who live in busted-up neighbourhoods without Ricks are regarded as little more than animals. This last view is most especially held by the Cop Morty, who berates his Cop Rick partner’s less bigoted attitude. Online perception has already drawn comparisons between this storyline and Training Day but, really, it’s a more general crooked cop vs. straight cop tale, just with our titular characters thrown into the mix.

(Adult Swim)

Elsewhere, Assembly Worker Rick decries the emptiness of his existence, a rousing shout for freedom and happiness that, when paired with the parallels of the real world, is stomach ache-inducing. He can’t stand the fact that he’s one of a million Ricks, all with equal IQs and capabilities, and yet he’s placed below so many of them financially and in social standing. To compound his frustration, the factory where he works mass produces snacks that are flavoured with a chemical derived from the brain of a man named Simple Rick. Reliving the same happy memory with his young daughter over and over again in a simulation, Simple Rick’s happiness is extracted and infused with edible sweets. It’s the very idea of living a lie for the benefit of others taken to the extreme, and Assembly Worker Rick is fuckin’ sick of it.

There’s equal ground to cover in the Student Mortys’ and Politician Morty’s adventures, but let’s just settle the point right here and now that not a lot of this is very much “fun”, at least in the traditional sense. The joke quota takes a noticeable dip this episode, as is necessary in order to properly establish and then dissect this society. There are still some great one-liners and, as always, the animation is packed with sight gags in both the fore and background. But a good deal of the humour here is pitch black, of the kind when one of the many Mortytown Morty’s “Aw jeez”es his way into having a gun shoved down his throat.

There’s not a lot of blame allocated one way or another in this episode, as the show is much more content to sit back and take in the mass of injustices that plague this world. The Mortys of Mortytown could stand in for any group of minorities who turn to crime – or are always suspected as criminals anyway – when they are shunned by society. The Assembly Worker Rick is any person who has ever had a crippling moment of clarity that their life has gone complacently but drastically off course. The Student Mortys… well, yeah, they’re straight outta Stand By Me, but it’s a surprisingly touching homage to that movie. Not to mention, it’s remarkable how quickly a palpable bond between these four boys forms when we spend less than eight minutes with them in total.

(Adult Swim)

Then things are even further complicated by Politician Morty. As a stand in for any outsider candidate who wins office, you can honestly take your pick of who he more firmly represents. Does his popularity with the downtrodden and urge to unite the Citadel make him an Obama-esque figure? Maybe, but then his noble ambitions being immediately undermined by the reveal that he is, in fact, the Evil Morty from Season 1 certainly sways more towards… well, not Obama, at the least. Like a lot of Rick and Morty, the tension exists between exhausting every possible viewpoint while still leaving us unsure what to think and feel on the whole.

Much like “Rest and Ricklaxation” and “Vindicators 3” – or, really, any of the show’s very best episodes – “The Ricklantis Mixup” succeeds so much because it never strays too far from who these characters are. Even when telling four wildly different stories, we can’t help but be drawn back to what it means for every Rick and every Morty involved. Assembly Worker Rick falls victim to the very simulation he frees the Simple Rick from, trapped in a loop of his own liberation in the service of confectionery. Slick Morty, of the students, throws himself into a garbage disposal unit rather than face life as a gimmicky twist on the standard Morty.

Most affecting of all is Cop Morty and Cop Rick’s resolution. With a gun to the head of Big Morty, Cop Morty is told by Cop Rick that he’ll shoot him if he kills the criminal kingpin. Suddenly, the hardened Cop Morty breaks down, weeping and calling Cop Rick “Grandpa Rick”, begging him to be taken away from the Citadel and get to live as a regular kid. It’s a colossal knife straight to the gut, which twists in place when it turns out to be fake: Cop Morty still shoots Big Morty and is killed in turn by Cop Rick. In an episode packed with ambiguity and implacable people, this moment stands as a sad testament to it all. After all the bloodshed and class warfare, we’re left with a frightened boy, way in over his head and crying out to his grandpa to save him. And of course, it’s not enough.

 

Quotes & Random Thoughts

 

  • This week, on Second Rickpressions: Seriously, there are so many ways in which that final moment between Cop Rick and Cop Morty can be read. The first time I watched, I just immediately took it on face value as Cop Morty being overwhelmed by the situation and reverting back to standard Morty mode, but on second viewing it’s clearly a ploy to catch Cop Rick off his guard, right? I mean, it’s definitely a callback to one of the Mortytown Loco Mortys pulling the same trick earlier but, still, does that mean there isn’t some buried sincerity to it? If Cop Rick had reacted differently to Cop Morty’s pleas, would things have wound up better? Or was Cop Rick right to see through the subterfuge straight away? Also, will I ever sleep again with that moment imprinted on my soul?

 

  • So, here’s a silly confession: I made a point of mentioning a few episodes ago that Rick’s potential death takes on a lot more weight when you consider that he killed all the other Ricks in “The Rickshank Redemption“. So for the first minute or so here, I was like, “Wait, there are still more Ricks out there…?” To which I then realised of fuckin’ course there are, because there are infinite universes filled with infinite Ricks, and it was only the Council of Ricks that our Rick destroyed. ‘Cause I’m an idiot.

 

  • Oh yeah, so: as per the episode’s title, our original versions of Rick and Morty barely appear this episode, apart from briefly in the cold open and in the end tag. They spent some time in Atlantis getting some “mermaid puss”. Morty seems thrilled. Good for him.

 

  • The squabbling between the news reporter D716 and his scarred clones D716-B and D716-C is a great running gag: “God, that fucking guy.”

 

  • Oh, Tall Morty. Poor Tall Morty.

 

  • “Just four normal Mortys.” “Normal…?” “Put it in your blog!”

 

  • The detail of the Mortytown Locos having a crib in their house “to make you feel bad” is impossibly devastating.

 

  • Fat Morty: “…I thought I was left handed Morty.”

 

  • Just as a little side note, this is the first 11/11 we’ve ever given out to a new episode of television. That ranking is specifically designed to be given out once a year per discipline (once for TV, once for films, once for albums etc.). In other words, it’s basically impossible for me to imagine another episode of TV this year being as good as this. Your move, The Deuce.

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