First, a disclaimer: If you’re looking for a place to start with “Rick and Morty,” the greatest place will always be the pilot. From the jokes about Rick’s inherent distrust of bureaucracy to the immortal closing monologue, it’s the truest litmus test of whether even the most skeptical of first-time viewers are liable to get hooked.
With only a few episodes left in Season 3, however, people on the Internet who keep seeing these two interdimensional explorers pop up in memes (and an increasing number of think pieces) might now be curious about the show. And Sunday night’s episode “Morty’s Mind Blowers” isn’t a bad place to pick up either.
It’s certainly not the best episode of the season. (That honor goes to “The Ricklantis Mixup,” an episode most decidedly not best for beginners.) But as an encapsulation of the show’s episode-to-episode strengths, there are far worse entry points into the series.
For the uninitiated and die-hards alike, a few thoughts on this ideal episode for minting new fans.
The show tells complete stories in a very short amount of time.
As we pointed out in our “Morty’s Mind Blowers” review, one of the great strengths of Rick and Morty is its ability to immediately establish a new universe. Thirty seconds into the episode, it’s established the danger of this latest adventure, introduced an enigmatic, goth-like villain and broached the ultimate philosophical wall of knowing, well, everything. “Rick and Morty” has refined the cold open into its own art form, cutting to the thematic and narrative heart of each episode quicker than most other shows have the luxury of doing. And then it proceeds to pull that same trick a handful more times with each successive Morty memory.
Morty’s life is a constant, waking nightmare.
Even if the only horrific trials that Morty faced on this show were the ones visited upon him during school hours, there would be enough psychological scar tissue for eons of therapy. There’s something about Harry Herpson High School that seems to work as a magnet for tragedy, and the unfortunate end of Mr. Lunes is just the latest installment.
But my goodness, that demonic worm thing. In a series that’s no stranger to gore and violence and general human ickiness, that slimy devil slowly exiting and retracting into Morty’s body is one of the more unsettling sequences the show’s ever devised. “Rick and Morty” will make you laugh, but you better be ready for some semi-regular revulsion, too.
Rick and Morty are often blind to the consequences their actions have on worlds they leave behind.
Yes, the truth tortoise opening is funny because it’s an animal that looks like a handheld Simon game disappearing down a pink portal to…somewhere. But the show persists at such a breakneck speed that Rick and Morty aren’t always able to consider the ramifications that their survival has on the beings that they leave in their wake. Maybe the guy chasing them in the opening was an innocent bystander, caught in the crosshairs of some intergalactic truth war. The disposable nature of Rick’s many conquests is an important baseline to understand, especially when in episodes like “The Ricklantis Mixup” (or, on a slightly smaller scale, “The Wedding Squanchers” and “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”), Rick’s past carelessness truly comes back to haunt him.
There’s never a hard reset.
Even for the two characters (or more, depending on whether Summer or Jerry or Beth get in the mix too) at the center of the story, them returning home is far from a guarantee of a return to normalcy. Sometimes, the neighborhood is under galactic control. Other times, they have to bury themselves. Heck, even the crack across the driveway is a lasting testament to the idea that, even on a subconscious psychological level, this house has seen some things. Summer’s farewell smirk is a reminder that, for as many sequences as these characters can delete from their subconscious, they’re still the sum of their traumas, even if the next episode finds them all gathered around the dining room table like nothing happened.
It’s fun to see cracks in the Rick persona.
In Season 3 alone, Rick’s been drugged, detoxified, brined, and now stripped of all memory. The show has spent two seasons establishing the bedrock Rick traits, but it’s even more entertaining when the show strips them away from him. The quicker that a new viewer can get used to anticipating different Rick Variants, the easier it is to comprehend the consequences of when he strays from his usual self. And even as a fundamental understanding of who Rick is, the light switch mishap leading to a warehouse of living beings in hypersleep is as diabolical a crash course as you can find.
Oh, the inside TV jokes.
“Rick and Morty” has always had a giddy self-referential streak, calling attention to its own existence as a TV show. (Easily the best incarnation of this trend: the “Roll credits!” ending to Season 1.) “Morty’s Mind Blowers” may have taken that effort to new heights, with Rick second-guessing his own approach like a network giving notes. With references to the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of “The Simpsons” or a sly nod to the “Community” episode that filled its clip show with previously unseen moments, it’s a show that isn’t afraid to undercut its own occasional self-seriousness.
These are a pair of incredibly complex voice performances.
IndieWire’s Zack Sharf did a great job of articulating the immense contributions that co-creator Justin Roiland makes as the voice of both Rick and Morty. “Morty’s Mind Blowers” offered up plenty more examples of how these characters are more than just a handful of vocal tics. With Morty alone, there’s the indignance that his family won’t believe him about the moon man, the impassioned defense of poor Beebo’s life, and the general screams of terror that have been part of the character’s DNA ever since he was writhing on the floor of the garage. In just a few lines, he even gets across the euphoria and the jarring aftermath of experiencing True Level in a way that the on-screen visuals simply can’t.
The villains are never who you expect them to be.
“Squirrels are secretly diabolical agents bent on global destruction” by itself isn’t necessarily the best joke, but coupled with Rick’s terror and absolute certainty that self-awareness has led to the collapse of all social order is what made this a “Morty’s Mind Blowers” highlight. In the outer reaches of the multiverse or in quiet, calm suburbia, “Rick and Morty” is constantly toying with who the true face of evil is. Sometimes it’s an unassuming high school student, other times it’s an imposing alien beast. But it’s a lot funnier when it’s a hoard of woodland rodents.
Read More: Every Episode of ‘Rick and Morty,’ Ranked
The show doesn’t rest on one kind of humor.
“Morty’s Mind Blowers” may have been this season’s “Interdimensional Cable” substitute, but that doesn’t mean the episode went by without a few nods to its predecessor. When Rick and Morty wake up from their Protocol 4 brainwipes, the TV is playing an episode of “House Hunters.” Only, in this version, people are stalking sentient two-story buildings as prey. Wordplay, cultural references, and even the situational mishaps of misinterpreting a very specific kind of torture were all played for laughs. “Rick and Morty” rarely ends up one note because it’s playing a few different songs all at once.
It asks way more questions than it answers.
Why exactly did Morty want that purifier device? What else is lurking down beyond the glimpse of alien hell? WHAT WAS THE TORTOISE SAYING IN REVERSE? Occasionally, “Rick and Morty” will circle back and pick up on the myriad of story threads that it gleefully tosses aside shortly after their introduction. But sequences like Morty’s mega-download of shameful memories at the end, so densely packed with jokes and important show information alike (Hey, look, there’s Mr. Poopy Butthole!), it’s one show that truly rewards repeated viewings. You’re never going to get it all on the first try, and that’s what makes it thrilling every week.
“Rick and Morty” Season 3 airs Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.