After an introspective season built on the importance of self-realization and reflection, Rick and Morty’s third year ended on a total reset.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty’s entire third season.]
Like in previous episodes this season, the most important arc of “The Rickchurian Candidate” had little to do with Rick or Morty and their anarchic due diligence. It was Beth’s struggle with identifying if she was her genuine self or if she was a clone that Rick brought back from their time on Froopy Land last episode. Beth’s identity crisis — and her decision to seek solace and comfort in the arms of her separated husband, Jerry — is a turning point for the series and one that points back to the show’s very origins.
Rick’s lifestyle is scary for anyone who’s not him. He’s sacrificed so much, so consistently to allow him to lead the lifestyle he wants. His relationship with his family is thwarted, his co-dependency on Morty is nightmarish and he’ll forever be an outsider looking in, unable to bond or connect with those closest to him. In the ninth episode, Rick gave Beth the opportunity to do the same thing; abandon her family and flee into the galactic nothingness without the guilt that he’s had to carry around for years. Beth believes herself to be the real version of herself upon returning with Rick, but as more time passes, she can’t help but question who she is and what she’s doing.
This is the beauty of Rick and Morty. Infinite universes means that anything is possible and nothing really matters. This has been the heart of Rick and Morty’s third season; if nothing matters and anything is possible, then is everything a lie and happiness a fallacy bought into by turning a blind eye?
Beth’s return to Jerry and his inevitable return home, completing the family unit, brings every conversation had this season to an immediate halt. It’s like nothing has changed. All of the therapy, bonding and inescapable dwelling on what’s really important in life is for nought because, at the end of the day, they’d rather live in ignorant bliss.
This is why Rick can never belong to the family unit that he runs away from. He doesn’t want to turn a blind eye and live in a state of constant naivety. Rick’s pledge to nihilism won’t allow him to turn into what Beth, Summer and Morty desperately need — Jerry. Rick wants to be able to connect with his family and prove that they have something in common, which is why he’s so hellbent on jumping through different galaxies with Morty, but he’s not willing to put his intelligence and grasp on reality secondary to their happiness.
The second season ended by giving Rick his most redemptive arc and, although he was brought to prison, he was the ultimate champion of his own decisions. The devastating aspect of Rick and Morty’s third season is that Rick is the loser. He’s lost everything he had and Jerry is the undeniable winner. When Beth comments that it’s a return to the first season, that doesn’t just mean the family unit will resemble what it once was. Beth has seen her father for the true man he is, for the questionable decisions he makes and the stubborn arrogance that makes him incapable of ever growing — and she hates it.
Beth adored her father, choosing to stand by him and cast Jerry out at the beginning of the season. By the end, Beth was ready to embrace the ignorant man she married, happy with her decision to enjoy a safer albeit less aware lifestyle than suffering under the unhappiness that comes with abiding by Rick’s creed.
Rick and Morty’s adventure in the finale, their fight against the president and attempt to solve mass political problems, doesn’t matter. It’s a distraction from the important conversations that are happening at home. It’s perfectly symbolic of their constant jumps into different universes, distracting themselves from the real problems in their lives and relying on one another to curb the sense of loneliness. They’re not the only ones distracting each other, though. Rick and Morty use dangerous missions and time travel to avoid any emotional semblance and Beth ties herself with Jerry to ignore the realities of her life.
Rick and Morty is a show about distractions and its third season did a remarkable job with putting those distractions on hold in an attempt to actually better themselves. The finale proves, however, that we all need distractions in our life. Despite our best attempts to try and confront our biggest fears or problems heads on, we could all use a little bit of forced ignorance or escapism to make it through the day.
Rick and Morty returning to its first season identity may seem like all was for nought, but its a reminder that the fourth season will bring with it a group of people who are ready to choose escapism after heavy confrontation. The reset button has been hit, but it won’t be exactly as it was before. Rick, Morty, Beth, Summer and Jerry have leaned that nothing can ever be the same, but that will never stop them from trying to rewrite the past.