Last night’s Rick and Morty wasn’t the premiere, as the first episode of season 3 ran on April 1st. This is the start of the season proper, and while it wasn’t as inventive as classic episodes like “Total Rickall” or “Interdimensional Cable,” the confidence of the writing lets the show’s characters grow without getting corny.
It’s funny to say that an episode where the characters go to a Mad Max-inspired universe to work out their feelings about divorce isn’t inventive, but that’s because Rick and Morty has set a high bar. “Rickmancing The Stone” doesn’t flip the show on its head, but it does flesh out Summer, a character that sometimes comes off as one note.
Last season, Summer, Beth and Jerry got more of a spotlight, with mixed success. While Beth and Jerry’s marital problems were sometimes irritating, it paid off with the two characters divorcing in the season 3 premiere. They’ve both moved into the background this episode in favor of showcasing how Morty, and especially Summer, are handling their parents’ separation. The siblings have joined Rick in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to run from their feelings. Morty’s arm gets possessed by the muscle memory of an anonymous dead raid victim, and he beats the shit out of people to relieve his stress. Summer, on the other hand, really leans into the whole nihilistic wasteland thing, and ends up romantically engaged with Hemorrhage, the leader of the tribe they’ve been hanging out with.
Summer’s a great character when she gets something to do. In “Something Ricked This Way Comes” we got to see her dynamic with Rick, and finally I feel like the show is building on that. At the end of the day, Summer and Rick are pretty similar. They’re both self involved and neither of them have healthy coping mechanisms for their problems. Like Rick, Summer’s more likely to run away from things than face them head on. At the end of the episode, Rick finally convinces Summer to leave the Mad Max universe just by letting her new relationship get so mundane that it stops being an exciting escape.
There’s more hugging and learning in this episode than I’m used to from Rick and Morty, but I appreciated that characters did get a chance to grow and to learn a little bit about themselves. While this is by no means a functional family, at least Beth and Jerry divorcing now seems like a plot point that will not only stick, but have a real impact on the cast. Rick and Morty would stop being interesting if these characters got their shit together, but “Rickmancing The Stone” seems like a step away from the unrelenting nihilism that the show sometimes gets mired in.
After the episode aired, Adult Swim streamed a post-show talk show, Ricking Morty, with series creator Dan Harmon and writer Jane Becker. While they didn’t give away any show changing spoilers, it was really cool to get a behind the scenes look at how this episode took shape. Harmon talks about how his own parents’ separation inspired some aspects of this episode, and Becker talks about the episode’s origins as a Pagemaster riff. I’m pretty glad they landed on Mad Max instead.