[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Rick and Morty” Season 3, Episode 2, “Rickmancing the Stone.”]
When “Rick and Morty” premiered back in April with a surprise episode that only a small group of marketing people at Adult Swim knew was coming, it treated fans who had waited since the end of Season 2 with an episode that mainly delivered on some greatest hits. Aliens had captured Rick, hellbent on stealing a secret from his subconscious. Meanwhile, life back on Earth had descended into total chaos. The last shot was even a mirror of the “100 years Rick and Morty” monologue from the end of the show’s pilot.
So how do you follow that up and get audiences excited for what the rest of Season 3 has to offer? Apparently the answer is Badass Summer. It took descending into an all-out “Mad Max: Fury Road” battle for wasteland supremacy, but it looks like the show’s central duo now has a capable third member.
As far as plot goes, this is one of the lightest “Rick and Morty” episodes in a while. After resituating all of the show’s characters in the first episode of the season, before booting Jerry out of the house, this was a chance for the show to riff on one of the biggest movies made during its hiatus while also sneaking in a not-so-subtle allegory to a family slowly being torn apart.
With this dimension’s Immortan Joe being offed in the first five minutes (thanks to a shotgun blast of the skull from newly-minted Furiosa-in-training Summer), this world of chrome is lorded over by the appropriately named Hemorrhage. In their respective ways, the trio of Earth outsiders all have to find different ways to adapt and survive, but the most shocking change is Morty’s sentient arm.
Poor Morty has experienced his fair share of unexpected horrors over the past few seasons. The show’s most terrifying ordeals often have to do with Morty’s body being forced into things that he has no control over. So it’s a fresh bit of mercy to see him not only be able to use this as an unlikely partnership (calling his left bicep Armothy is the most Morty thing he’s done so far this season), but to see it give him an avenue for therapy.
In case you missed the parallels between the Blood Dome and the changing family dynamics back on Earth, the show has Morty literally punch those ideas home. “Rick and Morty” has always been super self-referential. But those touches work better in the context of putting an episode together — Rick’s “We’ll be right back” is a textbook meta-act break. But it’s not quite as satisfying when the show lays out its themes so blatantly, even for the sake of a joke.
Playing with the idea of a “Mad Max” dimension isn’t wildly innovative, but as “Rick and Morty” has shown time and again, these episode-length parodies are never just mapping one pre-existing story onto the greater Sanchez-verse. The Armothy sendoff as a bizarre “‘E.T.’ by way of Cronenberg” moment and Robot Morty’s “A.I.”-adjacent, Mom-inspired desire to be human help sprinkle in a little bit of the warped sci-fi that powers the series’ best episodes.
And once again, “Rick and Morty” goes back to its strongest joke: banality. Whether it’s Jerry standing on the driveway, pausing to hear the wind whisper insults or eventually turning dystopia into a burgeoning suburb, the show so often finds the best way to take something extraordinary and intensify its most boring element. In a society where language is stripped down to fundamental noises (Summer rightly calls out “Boom-boom” for being totally ridiculous), it makes absolute sense that they would call the BloodDome something that basic.
As cynical as the show can get sometimes (of course they would turn Hemorrhage into a couch potato three weeks after introducing the concept of electricity), it saves a really sweet moment for the end, as Jerry and Summer reconnect. It’s a strange ending for an episode that features ponds of spurting blood and deadly pursuits across the desert. But if a little more emotional understanding comes along with Summer’s bigger role in the season, we are all for it.
Obscure Reference of the Week: “Save it for the SemanticsDome, E.B. White!”
Only Rick would insult an interdimensional foe with a reference to the co-author of “The Elements of Style.” (Well, him and the “Sick burn!” guy, apparently.) Grammar humor: very in right now.
Guest Star Recon: Joel McHale didn’t seem like a natural fit for Hemorrhage, but then the helmet came off. Some of McHale’s best work has tapped into that stream-of-consciousness neuroses — that rapid-fire rant is a nice contrast to the equally entertaining Rick ramblings. And Summer’s recycling-obsessed next-door neighbor on the new Isotope-322-powered block? Naturally, that’s Tony Hale.
“Rick and Morty” Season 3 airs Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.