Rick and Morty may have aired its best episode of the third season last night, but it wasn’t until the end that things got serious.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty season 3, episode 7.]
At the end of last night’s episode, “The Ricklantis Mixup,” it’s revealed that Evil Morty, a character we were first acquainted with during the show’s first season, has been elected President of the Citadel.
Evil Morty was introduced in “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind,” when Rick is kidnapped by a gaggle of other Ricks. The different versions of Rick inform him that he must stand trial for his various intergalactic crimes. During Rick’s time at the Citadel (and Morty’s attempt to save his grandfather), they discover that C-137 Rick (the series’ original Rick) was framed by an Evil Rick. In an even more soap opera-inspired twist, we learn that version of the character, responsible for the deaths of 27 other Ricks, was being controlled by an evil version of Morty whose sole mission in life is to murder all Ricks in existence.
It’s easy to understand why there would be some concern among the original Rick and Morty that this nefarious and murderous version of Morty is now ruling over the Citadel. After all, the Citadel is a place where all iterations of Rick and Morty are allowed to convene, taking solace in the fact that someone understands the identity crisis they’re going through; even if that someone is just a hundred different versions of the same character. But if the person in charge of the entire citadel is the same untrustworthy character who wants to erase every Rick in existence, that doesn’t exactly abide by the same harmonious rules that helped define the Citadel in the first place.
The inclusion of Evil Morty as more than a one-off character this episode has bigger implications than just a throwback for longtime Rick and Morty fans. Bringing Evil Morty into the mix gives Rick and Morty something outside of their toxic relationship and their family issues to focus on. There’s an actual, physical threat to the very existence of everything Rick has created — and it’s taken Morty’s form.
Like most things in Rick and Morty, the twist is poetic. Rick’s biggest enemy is the grandson who he has an obsessive, toxic relationship with. The only way to save himself and every part that makes up his true personality is to kill the one person that means the most to him. This season has been one of Rick and Morty’s most therapeutic, with each episode designed as a look into Rick and Morty’s deepest insecurities. We only recently learned that Rick and Morty view their relationship to one another as unhealthy and now they’ll have to watch as versions of themselves try to murder one another ... probably.
Bringing the authentic Rick and Morty into the mess of a world the Citadel inhabits is ambitious; it’s the most ambitious narrative arc Roiland and co-creator Dan Harmon have ever tried to do. While impressive, there’s a chance that it will collapse, bringing everything Harmon and Roiland tried to do crashing down with it.
Still, it’s exciting. Rick and Morty has its down moments, but the show has always exceeded expectations for what it could be. This leap into the unknown and the level of self-awareness Roiland and Harmon want to explore is both nerve-wracking and tingle-inducing, leaving us hopeful about what this could do for the show.
Referencing Evil Morty would have been fine as a joke; a treat for those who have been watching from the beginning. Turning Evil Morty into a character that will make Rick and Morty face their worst fears, biggest insecurities and push forward is enthralling storytelling. There are only a few more episodes left this season and it’s clear this will become a focal point in the coming weeks. If Harmon and Roiland pace themselves, these next few episodes could come to define Rick and Morty.
Rick and Morty airs Sundays at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.