Analyzing ‘Rick and Morty’ Season 3 Through Its Family Pairings

It may have been a long wait, but those ten episodes were golden.
By  · Published on October 12th, 2017

It may have been a long wait, but those ten episodes were golden.

In this season of Rick and Morty, we saw the show take a shift to a more serialized approach. What once was a series that felt very episodic in its storytelling now feels a little more pieced together in terms of its overall framework. Well, as pieced together as a season of Rick and Morty can be. And despite it being at its core, a very funny show, season 3 really highlighted some of the darker elements that have been in the show since day one, which make it so unique. While seasons 1 and 2 introduced us to the creative wonder that this universe could bring to us every Sunday night, this most recent season really solidified its place as one of the best TV comedies, or TV shows in general, currently on air. 

Part of the reason this season felt so connected was due to the ongoing character development. The show has always been pretty good about giving each of its characters a deeper level than what we’re seeing on screen. But in terms of uncovering the purpose of these characters and the meaning of their relationships with each other, this season consistently dug into that theme a little further. One way the showrunners went about this was the family dynamic. Between Summer and Jerry, Rick and Beth, and the essence of Rick and Morty’s relationship more specifically, we got a whole lot of family drama. That being said, it all felt earned. And after watching these characters bottle up their problems for two seasons, seeing it all begin to unravel felt satisfying.

Rick and Morty

The premise of the whole show revolves around these two, so it’s only right that there is some conflict between them. Rick and Morty’s relationship is interesting because it works so well without all of the common story tropes that are so often used for a grandpa and his grandson. There’s no deeper revelation behind it. Morty is Morty and Rick is Rick. They care about each other, but they aren’t ever going to change, and Rick taking Morty on adventures doesn’t mean that it’s because Morty is some genius in training. He’s not. But he’s also not just a tool for Rick. As we learned this season, he actually cares about Morty and likes going on adventures with him. As we also saw though, the further and further into their adventures they get, the more of a toll it takes on them physically and emotionally. Still, this iconic duo doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, and now that Morty is finally maturing a little more, he’s more willing to stand up to Rick when he feels its necessary.

Possibly the best moment between them this season was in episode 3 when Morty flips Pickle Rick over and asks him if he turned himself into a pickle so that he could fly or have some special powers. Rick replies, “I wouldn’t be much of a pickle if I could.” I feel like this interaction depicts their relationship in a nutshell. Also, Morty and the squirrels were pretty great too.

Best Rick and Morty episode of the season:  “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” In this episode, we really get insight into Rick’s feelings for Morty as well as how much Morty idolizes Rick and “superhero” figures in general, which really aligns with his teenage boy-ness.

Red Dots

Rick and Beth

Things got dark between Rick and Beth this season. And by dark, I mean weird and complicated. Now that they’re both out of denial and sort of willing to talk with each other to work out their long and messy history, things are making progress. And it looks like Beth is even willing to go on some adventures herself…or is she? We don’t know if she actually took Rick’s offer and allowed him to make her a clone. As Rick pointed out at the end of the season, the parallel between she and him is very strong, which definitely explains Beth’s unhappiness with a life she has felt forced to lead. While we always knew that Beth was smart and had certain negative tendencies, this characterization of her as someone as corrupt or as intelligent as her father, Rick, is extremely interesting and a little unexpected. Going back to Rick and Morty, with a duo like that, it’s easy to skip over Beth in thinking that Morty is Rick’s “heir” of sorts. But then again, Rick is a pretty unreliable narrator, always altering things in the moment to suit his purpose, so that entire connection could have been exaggerated. For story purposes, I’d like to think that it’s not. 

Best Rick and Beth episode of the season: “The ABC’s of Beth” Seeing that Beth entrapped a young friend into this dream-like universe Rick created for her, where there are strange muppet creatures everywhere, is disturbing on so many levels when you really think about it. But a lot of the subtleties in this episode emphasize the kind of caring father Rick was before he left and gave an opening for an actual budding adult father/daughter relationship for them.

Red Dots

Jerry and Summer

Speaking of father/daughter relationships, in the past, these two have always been the depiction of a typical dopey father and a wanna-be rebellious daughter. Between the two of them, there was not much of a nuanced on-screen relationship at least, but this season really established a working relationship between them. Jerry clearly wants his daughter to like him, and Summer definitely wants her father to quit being such an idiot, and both will probably never completely get what they want, but like Rick and Beth, they’re making some progress.

Best Jerry and Summer episode of the season: “The ABC’s of Beth” Jerry has a new alien girlfriend and Summer’s not having it.

Beth and Jerry

We’ve been asking all this time “will they or won’t they?” At the start of the season, we finally got an answer to that question. After being together for so long, Beth finally (and happily) broke up with Jerry. However, by the end of the season, they were back together. Now, the question of whether or not Beth is actually herself when she gets back with Jerry is another story, but for now, assuming that they are back together for sure, it’s hard to know what to think. It’s not really clear whether they should or shouldn’t be together. They really seem like they probably shouldn’t, even though it was hard not to feel sorry for Jerry in the beginning. And I’m not exactly sure where the writers are going with this. It appears they don’t really know either. Then again, this could be as close to reality as this sci-fi comedy cartoon can get. Marriages don’t always work, but it’s not always such an easy choice to make.

Best Beth and Jerry episode of the season: Most likely either “The Rickshank Rickdemption” or “The Rickchurian Mortydate” which are the two episodes where they break up and then where they get back together. It’s a little bit of a ride, but make of it what you will.

Red Dots

Summer and Rick and Morty

Since season 1, we’ve seen Summer go from reluctant to enthusiastic regarding being a part of Rick and Morty’s adventures. Now, it seems like she is an active participant in their missions, jumping in from time to time. The one thing that’s always been likable about Summer’s character is that even though she can be an over-emotional teenage girl, she has more of an edge to her than just that. Her family, though they often misunderstand her, never treat her like a Meg Griffin, which makes her a more digestible character to watch, and a more interesting character to have play an active role in the show. 

Best Summer and Rick and Morty episode of the season: “Morty’s Mind Blowers” Rick always appears to be in control, and when he’s not, Morty usually steps up to the plate. When they’re both too far gone, however, it appears Summer knows exactly what to do. And from her reaction of “I don’t get paid enough for this shit,” apparently she has to do this quite often. She may just be the most capable one of all. 

So aside from all of the ongoing jokes that long-time fans love, such as the return of Bird-person (Phoenix Person) and Morty forever not being able to get a selfie with the president, and some new great jokes, this season of Rick and Morty chose to make “messy families” a strong theme. And it was definitely effective. The writers don’t sugar coat it either or shy away from any problem within the family that is “too dark.” But that’s part of the journey and is what makes these characters jump out of the screen. While on the surface, the show may appear to just be another trivial adult cartoon where ridiculous jokes are made, there is actually a much deeper, more nuanced story to be told. Rick always tells the others that nothing matters like they think it does, but this season of Rick and Morty proved quite the opposite.

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