This review contains spoilers.
3.1 The Rickshank Redemption
So, maybe you’ve heard…
Here in the US, Rick And Morty aired its season premiere this very April Fools’ night, like fifty times in a row, to boot. It streamed for a few hours on Adult Swim’s website and played on loop on Cartoon Network, in place of all the other scheduled programming. Samurai Jack and Dragon Ball Super fans were upset. But everyone else got a totally awesome Rick And Morty season 3 premiere! And it had pretty much everything I look for from the show.
First off, it was one helluva sci-fi rigmarole smash-em-up. At the end of last season, Rick got imprisoned by the Galactic Federation and they also kind of took over Earth, so a lot of murder and explosions had to happen to get us back to the (almost) status quo. Probably the coolest thing about this episode is just how totally packed with stuff it is. In the span of twenty-three minutes we get to see what life on Earth under Federation rule is like; we get a fake Rick origin story; see how things are going with Morty’s original family back in Cronenberg World; see Rick break out of prison and into the Citadel of Ricks; and then we get to watch like everything blow up.
In classic Rick And Morty fashion, the episode gets to have its cake and make a mockery of it too by committing to giving Rick a tragic origin story with a dead wife for a hilariously long time, enough that I thought there was a small chance they might be serious about it. Introducing Beth’s mom is something fans have always wanted but co-creator Dan Harmon has always been adamant that revealing too much of Rick’s past and turning him into a tragic figure who is how he is because something sad happened to him once would destroy the character. So it’s great fun we get to see that origin story anyway before Rick unmasks it for the nonsense that it is.
Also great is that we apparently did get a glimpse into Rick’s real origin story right before the fake one: his quest to bring back McDonald’s limited-time Mulan Szechuan Chicken McNuggets Dipping Sauce.
Yes, it was once a real thing, by the way…
There’s lots of pitch-perfect character stuff in this episode. Rick, as usual, seems to care about his grandkids, but then he doesn’t, but then he does, but then he doesn’t and only cares about Mulan Szechuan dipping sauce. Summer continues to come into her own as she refuses to accept Rick’s capture and the Galactic Federation’s control. And Morty is the Morty he’s come to be up to this point: though he misses Rick, he’s been hurt by and is distrustful of him and, in a great moment, we learn that, above all, he’s just trying to protect his sister.
On top of everything else, this premiere does a great job of bringing back previous Rick And Morty plot developments, reminding us of the show’s commitment to its persistent multiverse. Rick’s body is still buried in the backyard and, by robbing the corpse of its portal gun, we get an awesome sequence in which Summer and Morty get to see how things have been going for the family Rick and Morty left behind in the world they Cronenberg’d up. This is already more of a callback than season two pulled for its entire run and—on top of all the cool crap and tight storytelling already on display here—I’d say this is easily the best premiere the show’s ever done. Season premieres are tough and season one and two’s were some of the show’s weakest stuff, but this isn’t just a kick-ass premiere, it’s a damn good episode of Rick And Morty in its own right. And I haven’t even mentioned that both Nathan Fillion and Nolan North are in this episode!
What’s neat, too, about this premiere is that it’s basically pulling a reset. Rick is back and the Galactic Federation is no longer in control, so we’re all set to start over with weekly, self-contained, kooky sci-fi adventures. But, at the same time, Jerry and Beth getting divorced (or at least taking the idea of divorce more seriously this time around) is a brand-new development that’s been a long time coming and the tag that brings Tammy and Birdperson (now Phoenix Person) back implies there may be echoes of Rick and Morty’s past showing up to challenge their future. It’s a reset that still nods to the show’s continuity and hints at potentially entirely new character stuff as well, which—considering season two felt a bit too isolated from what came before it—is really exciting!
Rick and Morty Season 3 can’t (for-realsies) premiere soon enough! After all, we’ve still got nine more seasons to go.
See you back here on as-yet-still-unknown-date, Summer 2017!