In Rick and Morty’s latest adventure alongside the superhero team known as the Vindicators, Rick is his own worst enemy. But really. He is.
The night before a big Vindicators mission to defeat Worldender, Rick gets blackout drunk. Out of spite, contempt, and a little bit of jealousy, Drunk Rick effortlessly eliminates Worldender and his cronies to then set up a complicated, Saw-style series of traps for the Vindicators when they show up the next day. Each of these traps aims at ridiculing and killing the Vindicators.
Yeah, that whole “darkest year of our adventures” trend continues on Rick and Morty.
Rick has no interest in answering a “literal call to adventure” from the galactic-tier of superheroes in the episode’s opening moments, mainly because he’s jealous of the way Morty idolizes these so-called “heroes.” But Morty’s got a punch card that he cashes in so that he gets to choose the adventure (no doubt a holdover from the first time he picked in “Meeseeks and Destroy”). The Vindicators themselves are actually pretty weird:
Aside from some deep character flaws typical on Rick and Morty, Christian Slater’s suave Maximus Renegade Star Soldier and Gillian Jacobs’ seemingly omnipotent Supernova might fit right at home in any thriving superhero cinematic universe. Maximus is indistinguishable from Star-Lord in powers and personality, except he cracks under pressure and is the first to die in Drunk Rick’s game. Supernova has generic space powers and can shoot comets, control matters, fly, etc.
The lesser-tier Vindicator heroes really poke fun at the saturated genre in spectacular fashion: Crocubot, Alan Rails, and Million Ants. One is a crocodile-robot, another is the conductor of a ghost train, and the third is, well, just a million ants controlled by a celestial queen ant.
Rick’s obviously their tech expert. And Morty’s pretty useless as a “hero” even if he does get a cool Vindicators vest to match Maximus Renegade Star Soldier. He’d be a liability against Worldender and his cronies. But when it comes down to understanding and out-thinking Drunk Rick (yes, they actually name this blackout villainous Rick), Morty’s better than Rick himself at solving the ensuing puzzles, which are themselves riddled with insults.
The fact that Rick and Morty could accurately poke fun at the psycho-horror of Saw while also shredding the tired tropes and trends of superhero stories proves that the show is firing on all cylinders in Season 3. Not a single moment or joke is wasted. When Rick says, “They’re a bunch of drama queens that spend an hour talking and 20 minutes jumping around while shit blows up,” he’s talking about the Avengers, Justice League, and Defenders too. But he’s also kind of pissed that they didn’t invite Rick and Morty on the second Vindicators team-up. (This is “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” after all.)
“Vindicators 3” also delivers an emotionally potent arc for Rick and Morty’s dynamic while showing how useful and capable Morty can be. (Morty actually knows how to diffuse a neutrino bomb somehow?) He’s the MVP in these traps, even if almost everyone winds up dead. Over the course of the episode, we implicitly understand Rick’s jealousy of these heroes that Morty idolizes. Rick wants to undermine them because of outright contempt, but it’s also because he wants Morty’s admiration, even if the show would never actually spell that out.
Rick and Morty often thrives in this kind of implied depth, undermining itself at every emotional beat: Fans were enthralled when the Season 3 premiere delivered Rick’s tragic backstory, only to undermine the emotional closure by revealing that it was a memory fabricated by Rick itself. Rick is both hero and villain every episode, and we love him despite his asinine ways, projecting our own personal issues upon him, explaining his character with convoluted fan theories that might explain his incorrigible behavior.
“Vindicators 3” takes us right up to the precipice of emotional closure in much the same way, only to flip our expectation upside down at the last second. Frustrating narrative titillation? Or another top notch episode of Rick and Morty doing its usual thing? It’s actually a bit of both.
Next up, we get the “Rick and Jerry Episode”:
Rick and Morty Season 3 continues Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:30 p.m. Eastern.