'Rick and Morty' Season 3 Blu-ray Review: From Pickle Rick to Evil Morty, Peak TV

The Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray doesn't skimp on special features. Every episode has a commentary track, the "Pickle Rick" episode has three (including one with Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss). You can watch every episode in its storyboarded animatic form. There are mini-documentaries, including a look into the recording booth process, the Rick and Morty origin story and promo-style videos for every episode, featuring the episode's writer and the show's producers. Plus, the Blu-ray comes with a download code for digital copies of the episodes. It's perfect for anyone who studies animation or TV writing, or if you're still attached enough to physical media to want something on your shelf. And unlike sporadically available streams or buying each episode a la carte, the Rick and Morty doubles as a cohesive work. It's the best vantage point from which to consider the season as a whole.

Rick and Morty Season 3 opens big with "The Rickshank Redemption," an episode that not only frees Rick from Galactic Federation prison, but also destroys two galactic-scale threats, including the Citadel of Ricks, a transdimensional space station populated by Ricks and Mortys from alternate universes and institutionally arrayed against "our" Rick, Rick C-137. It's an episode of cosmic scope, like Avengers: Infinity War told in 22 minutes. There's a full season's worth of material here, all wiped away by the episode's end—a declaration of intent punctuated by Rick's now infamous Szechuan sauce rant. "The Rickshank Redemption" topples the show's slow-built continuity, then wipes it all away.

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"I'll go out and I'll find some more of that 'Mulan' Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce, Morty. Because that's what this is all about Morty. That's my one-armed man. I'm not driven by avenging my dead family, Morty, that was fake." Adult Swim

In that newly cleared space, Rick and Morty Season 3 puts it characters under microscopic scrutiny, continuing to explore the darkness in their psyches as in Season 2, and radically altering the family, overthrowing Rick and empowering Morty, Summer and Beth (Jerry, the cosmic loser, returns to the family, but could hardly be called empowered). Without breaking from its strictly episodic, sitcom formula, right down to the b-plots, Rick & Morty Season 3 cleanses Beth of her father hang-ups, matures Morty into something more than a whiner and reunites the family, this time with Rick at the bottom of the social pecking order. In ten episodes, Rick and Morty deconstructs its characters and rebuilds them, having resolved the sitcom characters' typically unchanging internal tensions.

Season 3 declares its intentions in the season's third episode, "Pickle Rick." Beginning with an absurdist flourish—Rick turning himself into a pickle—"Pickle Rick" ends in a therapist's office. Having pitted a laser-armed pickle against an embassy full of crime lords, "Pickle Rick" ups the stakes in the most shocking way possible, drawing it back down to a simple confrontation between Rick and a psychiatrist. Dr. Wong's (Susan Sarandon) deconstruction of Rick couldn't be more explicitly aimed at both Rick and Rick and Morty viewers who see him as the show's hero. Her assertion is both simple and radically against the show's grain up to this point: nihilism and emotional distance isn't the necessary outcome of coming to terms with a meaningless universe. From this foundation, Season 3 leads its characters through an emotional gauntlet, to come out the other end more secure in themselves.

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"Rick and Morty" Season 3 Blu-ray Adult Swim

This was sometimes handled without much subtlety. "The ABCs of Beth," in which Beth realizes she's not the emotional captive of her father, but instead his successor, turned on a near jokeless conversation between father and daughter. Beth's discovery of the Rick inside herself failed to emerge from the same perfect synthesis of clever sci-fi and emotional growth as the pulpy "Rest and Ricklation," which split Rick and Morty into good and toxic halves of their complete self. Other episodes, particularly "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender" settled on recurring themes, like Morty learning, once again, not to stake his own wellbeing on role models who will inevitably disappoint.

But while there are low points in Rick and Morty Season 3, there really isn't a single bad episode. Even second-tier episodes have memorable moments, like the living arm Armothy's flashback to the destruction of his village in "Rickmancing the Stone" or the fight between Rick and the president in "The Rickchurian Mortydate."

Rick and Morty Season 3 also balanced character-scrutinizing episodes like "The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy" alongside others of astounding scope and complexity. Where the season premiere has all the grandiosity of a summer blockbuster, the seventh episode, "The Ricklantis Mixup," condenses the sprawling ensemble prestige flick, recreating Nashville or Do the Right Thing with only the multifarious Ricks and Mortys living life on the reconstructed Citadel. While "Pickle Rick" may have soaked up most of the memes and attention, "The Ricklantis Mixup" is the series' greatest accomplishment so far. Separate plots—a disgruntled factory worker Rick stands off against the police, a Morty politician runs an underdog campaign against the Rick establishment—coalesce into a sinister examination of how a powerful political mood, in this case a quasi-fascist one, can arise seemingly overnight and transform the entire moral order of a society.

There were originally 14 episodes planned for Rick and Morty Season 3, which means the finale, "The Rickchurian Mortydate," wasn't originally intended to cap the season. A world-hopping feud with the President of the United States is relatively low stakes for Rick and Morty, but by the end it feels less like a culmination of dangers, like at the end of Season 2, and more like Rick's final tantrum.

After pushing his place in the world to a breaking point, Rick is left with a stark choice between starting over again in a new dimension or committing to a family he no longer completely controls. There is no earth-shattering cliffhanger or Season 4 tease, just the denouement befitting a show so radically changed from its first to last episode.

With Rick and Morty Season 4 trapped in a far-flung future — contract negotiations are ongoing, so it can't even be described as "in production"—the third season will be the series' final word for a few years. With galactic-scale action, powerfully changed characters and the distant threat of Evil Morty's political rise, Rick and Morty Season 3 sets up a lot of new possibilities for the show moving forward. More Rick and Morty seems inevitable, but in fully interrogating its characters, bringing them each through the conflicts that had defined them since the first season, Rick and Morty Season 3 would be an excellent way to end.

Rick and Morty Season 3 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD May 15.

'Rick and Morty' Season 3 Blu-ray Review: From Pickle Rick to Evil Morty, Peak TV | Gaming