It’s almost surprising that it’s taken the show this long to give Rick “instant death.” But given that this season has devised horrible, new gruesome ways to off its redshirts, this seemed like the logical endgame, even with the satellite-guided laser attacks that would come a short time later. Rick may have shown a softer side in “The ABCs of Beth,” explaining his reasons from helping his daughter, but don’t forget that he’s still a stone-cold murderer.
As far as last week’s ambiguous ending, it shows how naive it was to assume that this show would ever give us a definitive answer, especially right away. The questions that “The ABCs of Beth” not only looped back around to become a significant plot point in this episode, it’s one of the rare “Rick and Morty” cliffhangers that actually ended up having some significance. In hindsight, Rick breaking out of his Season 2-closing prison sentence seemed like a foregone conclusion. Evil Morty is out there, controlling what remains of The Citadel, but there’s no guarantee that the show will ever return to that world.
In a way “The Rickchurian Mortydate” is the kind of episode that only makes sense as a season finale. As a farewell to this particular season, it may not have the exuberance of a goodbye song or the utter melancholy of being confined to an ultra-max interdimensional prison, but it tied together the season on a thematic level in addition to being another lethal concept executed with usual glee.
But the interactions with The President do feel like a subtle jab at the rest of the TV world as the show glides back off into a hiatus. Other comedies, be they live action or animated have the means to achieve what this show does on a week-to-week basis. But like the ease of a portal gun compared to The President bringing in a massive transporter rig to whisk him away to South America at a moment’s notice, there’s a deceptive simplicity powering “Rick and Morty” that doesn’t need much adornment to be effective.
That ending works because Season 3 has had a multi-episode gravitational pull, drawing its characters and its audiences back toward the Smith living room. With each new wrinkle as this family was ripped apart and guided back toward each other, the problems that lay just beyond the portal gun have receded in importance. Now that each of the family members has had extensive experience beyond the confines of the cracked driveway, seeing them all reconvene added a touching layer to the season that space hookah antics just can’t reach.
As Mr. Poopy Butthole indirectly reminds us in the tag, it’s probably healthier for all of us if we just accept that this show won’t be rocketing back to Adult Swim any time in the near future. The adventures are still a blast, but for these characters, VR Minecraft or dining room chit-chat might be the more satisfying venue for the Smith family going forward. Like the central question of Beth’s true identity at season’s close, “Rick and Morty” has left itself multiple options. That all of them make sense might be the show’s greatest achievement yet.
Guest Star Recon: We’ve said it before, but if there’s a Mt. Rushmore of “Rick and Morty” guest stars, Keith David’s on there at least once. Handling the presidential shame list with the shame joyful enthusiasm as digging into shouting “You suck!” makes him a legend in the show’s annals, even if The President has only popped up twice.
“Rick and Morty” Season 3 is now available (with a cable login) on adultswim.com.