In the course of Rick and Morty airing its most therapeutic season to date, it’s the examination of self that continues to make it shine.
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty season 3, episode 8.]
Last night’s episode, “Morty’s Mind Blowers” was a brilliant one-off that reassured the audience Rick was still a selfish bastard, even if he was trying to make progress on bettering his character. In “Morty’s Mind Blowers,” Morty revisits the memories that Rick erased for him. There are different vials of memories that signify different events. Memories represented by blue vials signified a period where Morty screwed up or experienced something traumatic and wanted to forget it. Red vials are periods where Rick screwed up and wanted Morty to forget it.
As Rick and Morty explore the various memories the latter has had erased over the years, Morty asks the question that has, in some form or another, come to define the season: If memories were erased and past events were ignored, could Morty ever grow as a person? If the bad times and the wrongful periods of our lives are so easy to discard of, can we ever be truly aware of the person we really are?
Rick responds to Morty’s question by brushing off the question and chastising Morty for trying to find an answer in an inconsequential series of non-linear events.
“It’s a freeform anthology,” Rick says. “I’m getting annoyed you’re not hearing that.”
Rick and Morty have never been more intelligent or more self-aware about who they are as people. Their desire to both confront their true selves, insecurities and deepest fears juxtaposed with their most primal urge to not face the consequences of their actions is therapeutic. Rick and Morty is a series about intergalactic travel and existing within multiple dimensions, which can make it difficult to relate to. Having Rick and Morty use the sci-fi aspect of the show to explore what it means to be a human — someone who is deeply flawed and scared of being in their head — is the best half hour of therapy given away for free.
Like any good piece of art, Rick and Morty uses its exploration of self to help us do the same thing. Unlike the show’s two main characters, we can’t forget our memories willingly, but we can run away from them. We can choose to ignore the most painful parts of our past, but we can’t grow as people. The reason memories are so important, as seen in last night’s episode, is because they help define the person we can be. If we learn from our mistakes and the most painful moments of our lives, if we internalize those moments and think about them, deciding to be a better person because of it, then we can start treating our flaws.
Part of being human is accepting that we’re all flawed and will continue to screw up until the day we die. We’ll put ourselves before others, we’ll sacrifice their feelings for our own happiness and we’ll let people down. Rick and Morty is a show about being let down time and time again. It’s a show about the pain that comes with being a human with emotions who deeply loves another human with their own emotions.
Up until this season, it didn’t seem like Rick had any desire to change; to an extent, that hasn’t gone away. What this season has taught us about Rick and Morty, however, is how aware they are of their flaws. It started with the second season finale, when Rick turned himself in to protect his family, and that string of trying to rectify past mistakes has continued all season. Rick is like an addict trying to make amends while not falling into old habits and learning how difficult that can be when confronted by the pain he’s caused others. Whether it’s turning into a pickle to avoid going to therapy or erasing memories to keep his relationship with Morty alive, Rick is terrified of facing his past mistakes and confronting his flaws head-on.
“Morty’s Mind Blowers” is a reminder that all humans run from their problems. It’s the first line of self defense. We don’t want to be hurt, by ourselves or others, so we avoid problems. The episode is also a reminder, however, that we can’t do that and maintain meaningful relationships. Rick has traumatized Morty more times than Morty can remember — literally.
The episode ends without any resolution. Just as Rick and Morty are about to do something reckless, Morty’s sister Summer walks in and saves the both of them, effectively hitting the reset button on everything the duo went through. It’s painful to see Rick and Morty have these life changing moments only to just run away from it all time after time. It’s rare that either of them take responsibility for their actions, but that serves as yet another reminder that beyond the front the two put up, they’re just as sad and flawed as they’ve always been.
There are two more episodes of Rick and Morty in this season and I hope that co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon give them the closure they need. Or, at the very least, give us the closure we need. Rick and Morty will always have a cult of dedicated fans, but we want them to do more than survive; we want them to be happy, especially when we’re so close to seeing Rick and Morty get that ending.
Rick and Morty airs Sundays at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.