So, Rick turned himself into a pickle to get out of family therapy. We’ve all been there.
It almost sounds like a bet, right? Like everyone was setting around in the writers’ room and they came up with the dumbest possible storyline—and then some poor bastard had to make an episode out of it. But that’s the hook, at least at the start. Rick turns himself into a (mostly) inanimate object and then has to use his genius to figure a way out of the situation. Two seasons and change into the show and we already trust the folks involved to know whatever happens next will make enough sense to be satisfying. Bad writing takes potentially good concepts and turns them into shit. Good writing takes seemingly idiotic concepts and turns them into, well, pickles. It’s a fun journey for everyone.
A fun journey that doesn’t quite manage to cover for the aching emptiness at its heart. As mentioned, Rick isn’t just goofing around; he’s doing his best to avoid going to counseling with Beth, Summer, and Morty. So while he’s adapting to events at lightning speed, the rest of the family (minus Jerry) is sitting down with Dr. Wong (Susan Sarandon!) to talk about their problems. It turns out, and this is going to shock you, that a lot of their problems revolve around Rick.
But whatever, what really matters is Pickle Rick, bitches! PICKLE RICK! Things are a bit rough at first, because Rick is a pickle and Beth took the syringe full of the precious goo that would change him back into a human. The family cat (Izzy, who I’m not sure we’ve really seen before?) is scared of Pickle Rick because, per YouTube videos, cats think pickles and cucumbers are snakes. So the cat knocks Rick out into the driveway, where a sudden rainstorm sends him floating out into the road, down a drain, and into the sewers. There are cockroaches in the sewers, and Rick manages to kill one with his mouth, and use the thing’s brains and limbs to build himself a body suit.
After spending a few minutes establishing the initial helplessness of being a pickle, “Pickle Rick” doesn’t belabor the point. Instead of a steady escalation, as soon as Rick gets some arms and legs and a cutaway, he’s able to build elaborate machines of death and wipe out the entire rat population of the sewer. If you don’t like rats, you are definitely in luck here, because Rick kills a lot of them. He also kills a lot of European body guards (I don’t think the country of the embassy is ever specifically established, which is part of the joke) with lasers and death traps and explosions. Pickle Rick is not fucking around.
Honestly, he’s so good at this, and yet seemingly incapable of making a new version of the serum that will change him back into human form, you kind of wonder why he bothered in the first place. All he had to do was sit down for an hour therapy session with Dr. Wong, who seems to know her shit (ha ha), and nobody had to die for it. Instead he lays waste to hundreds, endangers his own life in the process, and leaves his daughter and grandchildren to once again struggle with the knowledge that a person they care about who’s supposed to care about them can’t be bothered to spare 60 minutes of his time to help them feel a little better about how he’s fucked up their lives.
No, wait, sorry, losing the thread here. Pickle Rick! Jaguar! Anyway, Pickle Rick shoots himself out of a toilet into afore-mentioned unspecified embassy and really goes to town on the place. The head of the Embassy (who is British, so you know he’s evil) releases a badass named Jaguar to go after Rick, and after a hardcore fight—which ends with them both having to patch themselves up—it looks like Pickle Rick killed Jaguar and is coming after the British guy next. The British guy shoots the only guards left on the compound and heads to the roof, but it turns out that Pickle Rick and Jaguar are actually working together, and Pickle Rick helps Jaguar get his revenge by blowing up the entire compound and the British guy with it, can you fucking believe that?
Although in the end Rick winds up at Dr. Wong’s after all, because he needs that serum, and it’s really weird how his entirely philosophy of life (a philosophy he reiterates once again, because as annoyed as he always sounds when he does it, there seems to be little Rick enjoys more than grumpily telling everyone how he’s too smart to give a shit about anything) also puts him in a position of never having to do any of the hard and painful work of being a human around other humans. Like, to the point where he’d willingly abandon his daughter to a world full of Cronenbergs just because it’s easier to treat every connection in your life like an endless series of revolving doors, each one the same as the last, and no one person meaning more than any other. But you’d think that Rick, being a super genius, would also realize the ultimate futility and despair of living a life where all you have left is distraction, and that nihilism, while intermittently awesome, is really just a series of cul-de-sacs which always put you right back where you started.
Even more, you’d think the very fact that Rick is still living with any version of his family would suggest that on some level he does recognize a basic need for those relationships, and yet even with that, his insistence on viewing them as interchangeable spare parts will ultimately serve to corrupt any legitimate affection or sense of home he might feel. It’s almost as though the main reason he avoided going to therapy wasn’t because he thought it was stupid or meaningless, but because he’s smart enough to know that Dr. Wong—who also helps people stop eating shit—is right; that being a super genius capable of turning himself into a pickle and then turning that pickle into an unstoppable killing machine doesn’t remove the need for “repairing, maintaining, and cleaning.” It just ignores it. And then you can be the most powerful man in the universe and still have an angry, despairing daughter, a granddaughter who huffs pottery enamel, and a grandson who pisses himself in class.
But hey, Pickle Rick, right? …Right?
- Dr. Wong helping people with their coprophagia is a very good joke.
- Morty: “Can you move? Can you fly?” Rick: “Wouldn’t be much of a pickle if I did.”
- Danny Trejo does the voice of Jaguar, and Peter Serafinowicz is the evil British guy. The show is going all out with the voice casts this season.
- Beth: “Well, Dr. Wong—by the way, racist name…”
- “That’s because to me, you aren’t special.” -Rick, to a rat
- The post-credits sequence has Jaguar paying back his debt by saving Rick and Morty from the villainous Concerto. So that’s where that scene in the opening credits comes from, if anyone asks.
- “Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning, is it’s not an adventure.” —Dr. Wong (I dig it when this show backs a little away from full despair. Although it was surprisingly sad hearing both Summer and Morty ask about going back to Dr. Wong as Beth and Rick ignore them.)