He’s Pickle Riiiiick!
The long-awaited “Pickle Rick” episode of Rick and Morty finally aired, and with it comes a bewildering solo adventure for Rick as the rest of his family go to some much-needed therapy.
Spoilers follow for Rick and Morty’s “Pickle Rick” episode.
In addition to acting out in extremely violent ways in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Morty’s been peeing on desks at school and Summer has been huffing enamel in pottery class. Despite Rick claiming he transformed himself into a pickle “just because,” he actually did it to avoid the family therapy session.
The throwaway line from the promo last week trolling fans resurfaces in the beginning of the episode when Morty grasps for some explanation for Rick being a pickle: “Stop digging for hidden layers and just be impressed.” That meta joke holds throughout the episode, which never even attempts to answer, “Why a pickle?” Fans won’t get any closure on that front, but at least they’re treated to the insanity of Pickle Rick set against a poignant and insightful therapy session.
Pickle Rick inevitably winds up stuck in the nearby sewer after Izzy the cat knocks him off the workbench (even referencing that weird trend of cats being afraid of long, green objects). After using his own pickle juice to lure a cockroach, Rick snaps its neck and is somehow able to pilot it by rubbing its brain (gross). From there, we’re treated to the polished final version of the roughly sketched scene in which Rick kills an army of rats.
What begins as a survivalist tale that should be about Rick’s hubris ultimately leading to his downfall, instead evolves into an insanely violent adventure where Rick builds weapons and armor out of bug and rat bodies and later, office supplies.
Meanwhile, Beth, Morty, and Summer chat with Susan Sarandon’s serenely astute therapist Dr. Wong.
We just sort of go with it when Rick rockets up through a toilet to find himself in a strange paramilitary compound run by Peter Serafinowicz’s generic British villain.
We never really learn what the nature of this paramilitary organization, but the leader claims that Rick’s presence is a “violation of international law.” As Rick scavenges office supplies to set ridiculous traps and build other weaponry, the unnamed villain explains the very fake and vaguely Russian-sounding myth of soleña:
“Some of my men are calling you soleña, ‘The Pickle Man.’ An old wive’s tale. He crawls from bowls of cold soup to steal the dreams of wasteful children.” Sounds about right.
Over in the B-Plot, Beth is intensely skeptical of therapy, treating Dr. Wong with contempt and disdain as Morty and Summer take a firm back seat. Dr. Wong nonetheless is able to accurately diagnose the Smith Family’s issues when directly addressing Beth, and it all stems from Rick’s corrupting influence:
“I think it’s possible that you and your father have a very specific dynamic. I don’t think it’s one that rewards emotion or vulnerability. I think it may punish them. I think it’s possible that dynamic eroded your marriage, and it’s infecting your kids with a tendency to misdirect their feelings.”
Pickle Rick makes it clear that this is 100% true when he finally shows up looking for the serum Beth took that can turn him back into his human form, but not before he has an epic final battle against Danny Trejo as Jaguar.
Pickle Rick’s greatest moment comes when he builds a AA battery-powered laser out spare laser printer parts from a laser printer and battles an acrobatic Jaguar, a foe that eventually becomes an ally to Rick.
Rick and Morty is getting more and more blunt with the internal psychoanalysis of its characters within the show. These are toxic characters living ridiculous, meaningless, and hilarious lives. They know where their issues come from, but they’re all sort of in denial about how negatively Rick’s behavior impacts them, Beth most of all.
Morty and Summer engaging in murder and violence is in no way a healthy way to process their parents’ divorce, but the nature of Rick and Morty by its premise allows them the problematic luxury. In much the same way, Rick explains away his emotional detachment from his daughter by referencing the multiverse:
“To the extent that love is an expression of familiarity over time, my access to infinite timelines precludes the necessity of attachment. In fact, I even abandoned one of my infinite daughters in an alternate version of Earth that was taken over by mutants.”
When Rick does finally make it to therapy, all he offers is a bitter indictment of the entire process as he boldly says he doesn’t respect therapy because science and his brilliance empower him: “Because I’m a scientist, and I invent, transform, create, and destroy for a living, and when I don’t like something about the world, I change it.”
As the four of them ride away from therapy in the car and Rick assumes his human form again, Morty and Summer’s literal cry for help to stay in therapy falls on deaf ears as Rick and Beth make plans to go out drinking.