The latest Rick and Morty is a classic case of the show’s narrative misdirection, and it winds up as one of the strongest episodes in Season 3 for it. We also finally learn what Evil Morty’s been up to all this time.
Remember that time Rick Sanchez transferred his consciousness into a younger clone of himself, all so he could infiltrate his grandchildren’s school to root out a vampire? You might not because “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez” resolved all that off-screen, instead focusing mostly on Tiny Rick’s popularity at school.
“The Ricklantis Mixup” works in a similar fashion. While the main Rick and Morty go to Atlantis, we instead get “Tales from the Citadel.” The show checks in with all the Ricks and Mortys still living on the Citadel that Rick C-137 damaged in the Season 3 premiere. The Council of Ricks might be gone, but there are still thousands of others that call the place home. It’s in a fraught state of political turmoil brought on by the power vacuum. We get a series of short stories interwoven, and it shows a deeply troubling threat looming on the horizon.
It’s almost a shame that we don’t actually get to see Atlantis — which Rick calls “a fun, fresh, self-contained adventure” — but we learn at the episode’s end that Rick and Morty had an awesome time and hooked up with mermaids along the way. Nice.
But with “Tales from the Citadel,” Rick and Morty dives into its more serialized mythos to deliver an oddly unsettling collection of stories featuring a dizzying array of Ricks and Mortys. Most of it is just good fun, going all-in on the vast multiverse of Rick and Morty variants. Each story is as nihilistic and violent as the last, owning up to this being a continually dark season.
Whereas past episodes did little to further the ongoing Rick and Morty narrative, “The Ricklantis Mixup” establishes some important events that will no doubt influence how the last few episodes of Season 3 play out.
One Rick at the Citadel is a disgruntled factory worker on an assembly line that produces a wafer cookie laced with Simple Rick’s personal satisfaction. By the episode’s end, Cool Rick gets an undeserved promotion, so Worker Rick goes on a killing spree and holds Simple Rick hostage. Of course, Simple Rick winds up dead.
In true Rick and Morty fashion, the Willy Wonka-looking boss of the factory teases Worker Rick with freedom only to then tranquilize him as the new resource for the candy bars. Anybody can “taste the freedom” of that Rick.
In a Hogwarts-esque boarding school for orphaned Mortys — or more accurately, just Mortys without Ricks — a small group of Morty friends go in search of a wishing well just before graduation, when they’ll be assigned new Ricks.
Their quest is lighthearted and fun, but Slick Morty struggles to remain optimistic. He even commits suicide in the end just before the rest of the group realizes that the magical “wishing well” is actually just a garbage shoot.
Perhaps the episode’s most compelling plot comes from a chubby, grumpy Morty who’s a crooked cop. Most Mortys reject the Rick-controlled, established government, but this one has effectively sold out. As such, he’s angry, jaded, and more than willing to kill and/or accept bribes. He’d feel right at home in True Detective.
This Morty’s new partner is a do-gooder, rookie Rick who’s obsessed with following the rules. Their story unfolds like a dark crime drama. There are bribes, Morty gangs, drugs, murder, and even a Morty crime boss in a weird strip club establishment by and for Mortys.
When riding through a bad Morty neighborhood, he says, “Mortys are raised to be sidekicks. Without a side to kick, they just start kickin’.”
These mostly disconnected stories serve a greater purpose to paint a picture of the political climate on the Citadel, one in the midst of a gripping election.
In the first ever democratic election, a single Morty runs against a handful of Ricks, but over time we come to realize that it’s not just any Morty. It’s never explicitly stated that this Morty is the same Evil Morty from “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind,” but it’s basically confirmed as certain in the end.
Whereas the Council of Ricks were driven by their egos towards disorganized chaos, Evil Morty represents a new kind of villainy for the show, one of cold, calculated focus.
It’s fitting in a way that as President Morty seizes control from a leadership council of Ricks — killing many of them in the process — we see many of these characters dead and drifting through space. He’s a sinister character, and it seems like he can match any Rick in brilliance along with being totally sinister. What’s his next move?
Rick and Morty went to a spa last week, and this week they went on a fun vacation to the lost city of Atlantis. But now that Evil Morty is in power, shit’s about to go down.
Rick and Morty Season 3 airs Sundays on Adult Swim at 11:30 p.m. Eastern.