Season 3 continues to punch out fantastic humour with deep emotional content.
It should be no surprise by now to fans of Rick and Morty that Rick sees himself as the ultimate nihilist. He claims to believe that everything in life is meaningless and to have no attachments, especially emotional ones, to anything.
Of course, we’ve seen over the course of two and half seasons that this isn’t completely true. We’re constantly getting teased with ideas of Rick caring about his family, only to have that rug pulled out from under our hopeful feet time and time again.
That blurry line between what Rick’s true motivations are stands as one of the biggest hooks of the series (along with the all the brilliant dialogue and poop jokes). Rick is so determined not to let anyone see any of emotional connections he may have and we are so determined to believe there’s more to him than just being a cold and calculated genius scientist who only cares for himself.
There are heaps of examples of Rick’s genuine care for his family. Think of when he’s captured in ‘Close Encounters of the Rick Kind’ and sheds a tear as his life is played on a screen in front of him. Think of the self-sacrifices he’s willing to make in ‘A Rickle of Time’ to save Morty and in ‘The Wedding Squanchers’ to save the whole family.
‘Vindicators 3’ is all about continued exploration of these themes.
Rick starts off with all his usual mockery, making fun of each of the Vindicators, which is actually pretty funny (“So your origin is what, you fell into a vat of redundancy?”).
We see plenty of examples of his nihilistic beliefs coming to the fore. He’s hugely amused that the Vindicators left him and Morty out of their last adventure, had three of their heroes die as a result and still needed to bring them back this time. We also hear Morty mention that ‘Rick says good and evil are artificial constructs.’ That’s actually not a bad point, by the way.
In the end, the thing that sets Rick off to sabotage the whole venture and put the Vindicators through a series of ‘Saw’-like challenges is hurt and jealousy. He’s deeply hurt that Morty’s heroes are the Vindicators and not Rick. In the early days of the show, Morty used to look up to Rick but he’s experienced enough with Rick’s selfishness to realise what a flawed human being he is.
Rick is pretty upset by this, but instead of doing some self-reflection work, he gets completely wasted and goes about tearing down the Vindicators to show Morty just how flawed and awful they are as well (“Drunk Rick’s point is that none of you are very special or different. That’s always his point”).
Even though Rick is right about the Vindicators, Morty points out that “when you’re an asshole, it doesn’t matter how right you are, no one wants to give you the satisfaction.” Even though he’s destroyed the Vindicators’ hero-status in Morty’s eyes, he’s done nothing to redeem himself and lift up his own value.
By the end, even though he’s been through this spiel with Rick before (“Too many Rick, too many!”), Morty starts to catch on to Rick’s jealousy. He is willing to forgive him and even smirks at the idea that his admiration of the Vindicators is the one thing that Rick values them for. But of course, it isn’t him what Rick is appreciating here.
For as much as Rick cares about his family, he also has a soft spot for the little guy.
Noob Noob, who looks, talks and sounds an awful lot like Mr. Poopy Butthole, wants to be a full fledged member of the Vindicators but is left behind to clean up Rick’s diarrhoea. He isn’t afraid to side with the less popular Rick when he makes his jokes, even if he isn’t the popular guy in the room.
Rick’s emotions seem to come out when he’s drunk (as well as some bizzare ranting about Israel apparently), and when he’s sober, he’s back to being the closed-off, nihilist asshole who pretends not to care about anyone. Even when confronted with his shortcomings in Pickle Rick, his response was to… go get a drink.
This was another brilliant Rick and Morty episode that carefully trotted the balance between great humour, making fun of superheroes (they’re a bunch of drama queens that spend an hour talking and twenty minutes jumping around while shit blows up) and exploring the emotions and philosophies that guide the interactions between Rick and his family.