You know a show is in a good place when people are comparing episodes, week after week, to see how they stack up against each other. And for Rick and Morty fans, the bar was set pretty high after last week’s batshit crazy adventures of Pickle Rick. So to follow it up, the show decided to introduce a team of superheroes and let Rick go on a bender. Which is a solid plan, really.
Rick and Morty has always had an interesting relationship with the concept of continuity. Unlike a lot of cartoons, events that happen on the show leave lasting impacts — even if they aren’t always felt or even referenced until a while later (e.g. that time Rick and Morty Cronenberged their planet and relocated to a new reality in which their doppelgängers had just died, then buried the bodies in the back yard and took their places, only for Morty to later tell his “sister” about it as a way of helping her put things in perspective). In this episode, Morty pulls his “I get to choose every tenth adventure” card, in reference to a season one episode, and forces Rick to respond to a literal call to adventure from the Vindicators. It turns out that the superhero group (a sort of mash-up of the Avengers, the Justice League, and the Guardians of the Galaxy) has worked with Rick and Morty before, presumably off-camera (unless I’ve been drinking like Rick and just don’t remember). Because the Vindicators are Morty’s heroes, he is stoked to have a chance at doing a team-up sequel with them — only to discover that this adventure is actually the third in a trilogy, as the group previously assembled a second time without inviting Rick and Morty. Because, you know, Rick is a drunk asshole.
The fact that the show is in its third season and is just now coming around to the idea of Rick Sanchez as a literal superhero is sort of amazing. Think about it — past episodes have given Rick a chance to show off the sort of super-science that comic book heroes are made of. He’s designed robotic weapon-suits à la Iron Man. He’s shrunk his grandson down and sent him to a theme park he build in some dude’s organs, which is like something Hank Pym would do if he were fun (or drunk). Hell, there are so many alternate reality versions of Reed Richards that they formed their own Council at one point — kinda like the Council of Ricks. So the idea of Rick being recruited to a superhero peacekeeping force makes total sense. He isn’t just a really smart guy, he is basically THE smartest guy, and can leverage his brain to fight villains just as effectively as a walking talking pile of a million ants or a dude who summons ghost trains (both actual members of the Vindicators, bee tee dubs). Or at least he could, if he wanted to. But that would require caring about what happens in the universe, and we already know that Rick essentially doesn’t. So he is largely unmoved by the current plight that is forcing the Vindicators back into action with a man they don’t really like and his awkward grandson: namely a villain named World-Ender.
Morty continues his trend of not putting up with Rick’s crap, and lets him know how much it bothers him that this team of heroes that he idolizes doesn’t care for them in return. Maybe it bothers Rick that he isn’t Morty’s hero, or just that Morty looks up to a group of people Rick thinks are thoroughly pointless, but either way Rick decides to portal out of the headquarters and get completely hammered while Morty heads to bed.
The next morning the team discovers Rick passed out in the conference room in a pile of his own diarrhea, so they tell their janitor Noob Noob to stay behind and clean it up while they carry Rick’s unconscious body off to face World-Ender. Who is already dead, along with all of his minions. Because Rick didn’t just get blackout drunk the night before — he singlehandedly wiped out the threat that the Vindicators had assembled, and then instituted his own twisted Saw-like puzzles and traps to test them. In one fell swoop he proved that he is both the better hero AND the bigger villain, all while too drunk to remember doing it.
What follows is a sequence that seemingly proves everyone’s points. The Vindicators fail to work together and start to air their dirty laundry as they slowly die off, proving that they aren’t worth the hero worship Morty bestowed on them. And while Rick may have been right about the team, it doesn’t mean that he deserves any credit. He is forced to witness Morty solve each puzzle and disarm each trap because he knows the ways Rick’s alcoholic mind works (namely ranting about Israel and building neutrino bombs that may or may not actually explode). I wouldn’t call it a wake-up call for Rick, but it certainly opens his eyes to just how much Morty does for him when he is incapacitated. Because even blackout drunk Rick is a threat.
But for a moment it all seems like it might be worth it, because the final puzzle asks the Vindicators to place the one thing they have that Rick cares about on a platform. Morty says the answer is nothing, because Rick doesn’t care about the Vindicators (or, really, anything at all). But Rick, now sober, says the answer might actually be Morty. You know, if his drunk mind was afraid of losing his grandson for some reason. He’s not saying, he’s just saying. So Morty gets on the platform, and it accepts him, and what follows is a lovely speech from last night’s wasted Rick via video screen, all about how much he cares for him.
Too bad it wasn’t actually meant for Morty at all, but for Noob Noob.
Anyway, the episode ends with a massive party Rick also organized while wasted, complete with a rap performance by Logic, all to celebrate the fact that he took care of World-Ender by himself. And while it doesn’t necessarily live up to the high bar that last week’s episode set, both in terms of psychological honesty and insane rat exoskeleton-driven action, it does return us to the bread and butter of the Rick and Morty series: the adventures of a dangerously addicted and brilliant individual and the lasting damage he is likely doing to his grandson.