When Rick promised the show’s darkest season at the end of the season 3 premiere, I expected it to be a reaction to an indignant Morty and little more. Well, I was off the money there – this season has really been pushing the boat out in that respect. The latest episode, ‘Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender,’ starts out promising a spoof of superhero movies, but winds up taking some very dark turns indeed.
Our episode begins with Rick and Morty trying to catch some alien creatures when they receive a ‘literal call to adventure’ from the Vindicators, a superhero team that protect the galaxy. Despite his obvious hatred of the group, Rick goes along when Morty invokes his right to choose every tenth adventure (a nice callback). The group – comprised of a floating star woman, a ghost train conductor, a sentient colony of ants, a robo-crocodile and a dashing Star Lord-type – are ready to deal with Worldender. The danger – well, it’s in the name.
Rick clashes with the group, and gets drunk, leaving diarrhoea over the briefing room table. That turns out to be the least of the issues, however, when the Vindicators embark on their mission and find Worldender already butchered. The greater evil responsible for this death – why, it’s drunk Rick. He leaves a series of death traps for the team, designed to break them apart, in what Morty notes is essentially a Saw rip-off.
After proving the futility of these heroes, and destroying the line between good and evil, what else matters?
There are two themes at play – first is the obvious superhero parody, complete with some suitably tragic backstories and lame powers (which Rick rips on mercilessly, much to the delight of Noob Noob the janitor). The second is the more interesting part of the episode, though, and that is the relationship between Rick and Morty. Morty idolises the team in a way that he doesn’t Rick (in this episode, he deals with drunk Rick’s machinations in an almost fed-up manner), and it is Rick’s jealousy that drives him here.
I felt that the ending was building to a reveal that Rick really does in fact care for Morty, and it seemed to go that way, until it revealed that the one thing the Vindicators had that Rick really prized with Noob Noob – you laugh at a man’s one-liners, you earn his respect. And then, we end with a party – after proving the futility of these heroes, and destroying the line between good and evil, what else matters?
‘Vindicators 3’ was a very different turn from last week’s ‘Pickle Rick,’ but a no-less amusing one (with a very out-of-nowhere reference to Israel being a comic highlight), although it continues to dig into Rick’s psyche. Its exploration of what hides behind his nihilistic exterior is the interesting theme running through this season, and I’m very intrigued to see where it will head next.
‘They’re the first line of defence against evil. They’re the guardians of the unguarded.’ ‘They’re the writers of their own press releases, Morty.’ – Rick is unimpressed with the Vindicators.
‘So your origin is what? You fell into a vat of redundancy?’ – Rick is also unimpressed with Crocubot.
‘Just make it about yourself or something.’ – The drunker he gets, the more drunk Rick can’t be bothered with his own trials. And yet, the Vindicators do exactly what he asks – Rick wins again.
Even though all of the Vindicators were comically half-baked superheroes, I was quite partial to Million Ants. He seemed a useful team member, he was developed and made part of a real human conflict, and his eventual death was the most shocking and saddening. I know that it’s asking a lot for a show to do that for a side character in 20 minutes without detracting too heavily from the story, so kudos Rick and Morty.
Turns out that Gearhead is a massive creep. He uses the Vindicators vest he picked up at the end of the episode to try and pick up some gear college girls – his plans are foiled, however, by an alien terrorist attack. He puts on a brave face as he runs away from the trouble, destroying his body in the process. Oh Gearhead, you dirty dog.