I have finally seen the much hyped “Pickle Rick” episode of Rick & Morty. In it, Rick turns himself into a pickle (non-anthropomorphic except for his face) in order to get out of going to therapy with his daughter and the kids. He finds himself swept down a drain, using his mouth to tear neural tissue from live rats and build himself an exoskeleton, fighting a vaguely Eastern European crime syndicate thingie, and then back to the hated therapy he was trying to avoid.
There are a lot of strong emotional beats in “Pickle Rick.” I would even say there are moments of genius. But the episode—the third one of Season Three—marked a turning point for me in terms of the series as a whole. And it wasn’t a particularly good one. Let me explain.
There are two extended sequences of Pickle Rick doing a bit of the ultraviolence in the episode. The first is with the rats in the sewer. Nobody likes rats, right? (OK, full disclosure—domesticated rats are adorable. Sewer rats? The jury is still out) So when Rick literally tears them apart—and they are presented as quite vicious and at odds with his continued existence—it’s pretty cool.
It’s Rick doing what Rick does—the ultraviolence and genius scientific maneuvers. And parkour.
Then he emerges from the sewer and out of the toilet of some sort of Euro-Mafia compound, filled with sinister men with slicked-back hair, suits, and automatic weapons. And, much like the earlier sequence with the rats, he does the ultraviolence. He turns them into hamburger. He makes little to no attempt to minimize the deaths, but heartily pursues every last one.
Neither ultraviolence scene should freak us out or tell us something about Rick that we didn’t know before. He’s been this way since the very first episode, when he tells Morty to keep firing at the aliens because “They’re just robots”—and when that turns out to be a lie it’s “They’re bureaucrats. I don’t respect them.”
There’s been also plenty of Rick-sponsored carnage in episodes like “Total Rickall” and “Look Who’s Purging Now.” No big whoop, and the vast majority of these deaths (though certainly not all of them) were real douches and totally deserved it.
But about 1/3 into the “Rick Against The Mafia” scene in “Pickle Rick”…
You know what, let’s back up and go back to the rat scene again. I watched that entire thing and was like: “that’s fucking genius.” I had a fucking high watching that scene.
And then about 1/3 into the “Rick Against The Mafia” scene…I just was like “I’m out.”
That was the very first thing that came to mind. I just wasn’t enjoying this anymore. I wasn’t even being disgusted with Rick in terms of what might have been intended per the context of the episode—mainly, that Rick is a self-centered prick who won’t go to therapy with his family even though he constantly puts them in danger.
No, I think I was just literally *done*.
And I think I was *done* because no matter how much it was contextualized that Rick was that self-centered prick who should not be praised for his actions…I couldn’t help but feel that there was a part of this episode that was just basking in “Rickness” for “Rick’s sake.”
It’s like when South Park started, Cartman was a pathetic asshole. But his assholery started to be perceived as “cool.” And then the series started to capitalize on that—”Assholery As Coolness”—to the detriment of the character himself and the plots (which started becoming very Cartman-centric even when it almost didn’t make any fucking sense to so other than overkill of a popular character).
And the same argument could be made—and has—about the character of Homer in The Simpsons.
Part of this sort of repulsion to this sequence in “Pickle Rick,” I think, also has to do with how much this episode was hyped in the media—especially the “Pickle Rick” thing.
We had “Tiny Rick!”—and that was a pretty funny name/”catchprase.” And now, “Pickle Rick!” It’s the latest phenomenon in pop-culture and it hasn’t even aired yet…”PICKLE RICK!”
And I’ve seen this sort of thing plague another Dan Harmon show, Community—there was the famous paintball episode…and then another paintball episode…and now a trilogy…and then there is Inspector Spacetime…and now more Inspector Spacetime…and so on and so on. These cool things I initially “discovered” the first time around suddenly became codified and commercialized and milked to death—the reason I loved them the first time lost in the process.
That third season of Community was brilliant…but it was there that I could also see clearly the cracks that would lead to a very (VERY) mediocre last three seasons and eventually cancellation.
Not saying the same thing about Rick & Morty. It was just one scene in one episode. It most likely means nothing. But I had to just say it, and get it out of my system.
There. I’ve said it.