By Will Hardie (@REMAININLlGHT)
Like fractal dust junkies we wait, mouths agape, appetites thoroughly whetted by the April Fools’ Day episode, for Season 3 of Rick and Morty. Hanging over our heads for what feels like decades, the release date of July 30th has been revealed, our collective calendars have been marked, and the impending arrival of depraved intergalactic shenanigans has never been more real. Wait, what’s what? You want an exhaustive ranking of all 22 episodes of Rick and Morty to get you hyped for the new season? OOOOOOOH, CAN DOO!!!
22 – Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind (S1, E10)
This episode marks our first meeting with the Council of Ricks, consisting of all Ricks from infinite universes. The episode features a favourite recurring gag; Jerry forming deep emotional bonds with characters who only stick around for an episode. He is enamoured with Rick J1927, the kindest of all, who in a post-credits scene is revealed, by the show’s central Rick (told you there was a lot of Ricks), to be the only Rick who eats his own shit. The main plot is relatively stock when cast against other episodes; there is an enemy to defeat, and our Rick only bloody goes and defeats them.
21 – Raising Gazorpazorp (S1,E7)
In this episode, 14-year old Morty impregnates a sex robot and spawns an alien hybrid child from the planet Gazorpazorp. Longtime fans of the show, calloused to the show’s insanities, may shrug their shoulders at such a linear plotline, but this particular episode features the unique pathos that has come to be associated with the show. Morty’s brief and disastrous flirtation with fatherhood leads to a resentful, violent son, and a tell-all book in which he is shamed for all the galaxy to see. Kids are the worst.
20 – Something Ricked This Way Comes (S1,E9)
Satan himself running a pawn shop is the kind of storyline you only really find in a show like this. The show showcases Rick’s unparallelled talent for pettiness; dismayed at the Devil’s business tactics of selling items that come back to punish its buyer, Rick sets up a rival business to de-curse the items, running him out of business. This episode gets bonus points for my favourite post-credits scene, where roided-up Rick and Summer gleefully kick the shit out of Christian fundamentalists, abusive dog owners, and neo-Nazis. Rick and Summer are a woefully underrated comedic pairing, and this is the first episode to explore that potential.
19 – Anatomy Park (S1, E3)
Coming early on in the show’s run, this show begins to show signs of the balance between emotional family drama and sci-fi campiness that comes to define it. The episode features Rick shrinking down Morty to help save the life of a homeless man, whose body contains a theme park housing various deadly diseases. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go great, but then it does, and everyone’s fine. The episode also features a subplot wherein Jerry, who in a rare moment of clear-headedness set against his family’s immediate acceptance, struggles to deal with his parents accepting a third party into their sex life. Charming cameos from John Oliver and Dana Carvey help make this a thoroughly enjoyable episode, but nothing to write home about.
18 – A Rickle In Time (S2, E1)
The Season 2 premiere is perhaps the most complex episode of all; so much so, in fact, that some scenes could not be physically rendered by the show’s animation software. While some episodes feature a mix of pathos and action in both plots, I can’t help but think that Rick, Summer and Morty’s encounters with a time-cop testicle monster and Beth’s efforts to save the life of a deer feel somewhat disjointed in the same episode. That being said, this is still a very strong episode; the dizzying, mind-bending genius of the time-travel elements are not overpowered by the show’s strong comedic focus; rather, the two dance gracefully along the galaxy together.
17 – Look Who’s Purging Now (S2,E9)
In an homage to films such as The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Purge: The Re-Purge-ening (presumably), Rick and Morty stumble upon a planet whose citizens are free, for one night, to purge themselves of all violent tendencies so as to create a wholesome, crime-free planet the rest of the year. Morty’s boner leads him to form an emotional bond with a young girl on the planet who eventually betrays him. The episode builds to an explosive climax featuring Morty’s teenage angst manifesting itself in violent murderous rage, that makes even Rick blush. The post-credits scene deals with the aftermath of Rick and Morty’s heroic intervention to cure the planet of purging, where the planet’s inhabitants almost immediately decide to return to purging.
16 – M. Night Shaym-Aliens!
Hungry for apples? My man! This episode sees our heroes trapped inside a simulation, inside a simulation, inside a simulation, inside a simulation, and so on and so forth. Held captive by alien scammers attempting to steal the formula for dark matter, the pair beat the system glitches and escape in typical fashion. The highlight of this episode, however, is Jerry; accidentally also trapped in the simulation, his attempts to sell an advertising slogan for apples are received warmly by the robots. In peak-Jerry style, however, faced with a soft, rubbery wall of acceptance, he repeatedly runs into it until he hurts his head, and loses his job at the end of the episode. Left alone to his own devices, Jerry is a mess, and it’s a delight to watch.
15 – Pilot (S1,E1)
Ah, the origin story. Where it all began. Home of some of the series’ most memorable quotes, the first episode sets up Rick Sanchez as the grandfather from hell, taking his teenage grandson on deeply dark and dangerous missions throughout the universe. Rick is portrayed as an unfathomably bad influence; where other shows may lean on such traits as mischievousness and a cheeky bit of sarcasm to create a lead character, the show makes no apologies for Rick’s apparently genuine murderous traits, his sociopathy, his alcoholism, and his borderline abusive deceit of his daughter and son-in-law. Episode 1 leaves us in absolutely no doubt that the show will push the borders. And lo, the borders were pushed waaaaaayyyy up inside our buttholes.
14 – Ricksy Business (S1,E11)
The Season 1 finale features the classic 80’s movie genre of Parents Are Away, Kids Have Party™. Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have a knack for creating unapologetically one-note, absurd characters, and we see this with the arrival of Rick’s charming buddy Abradolf Lincler, who, in case you were wondering, is half Lincoln, half Hitler. This all ends fantastically, and Beth and Jerry’s subplot sees them returning in a huff after Jerry was forced at gunpoint to reenact famous Titanic scenes with a deranged janitor. Season 1 is left on a cliffhanger, after Rick and Morty decide it would be easier to free all of time instead of cleaning up their party before Beth and Jerry return. Rick and Morty’s superhuman efforts to avoid even the most mundane of tasks never disappoint.
13 – Lawnmower Dog (S1, E2)
The second episode of the series wastes no time; moving at a mile-a-minute, the show features creepy scenes of dominatrix Summer, pancake-based sex idols, dogs with increased intelligence, dogs in mech-suits with scary fascistic tendencies, Scary Terry, philosophical exchanges about the cruelty of sentience, and Rick and Morty inhabiting the dreams of multiple people all in an attempt to increase Morty’s math grade. Heavy on the action, the episode builds to a heartwarming climax showing how Morty’s true affectionate nature spares him from his new canine overlords. We do see a slightly-tired “it was all a dream” plot device, but this does very little to detract from the episode’s quality.
12 – Big Trouble In Little Sanchez (S2,E7)
This episode is another deep dive into Beth and Jerry’s otherworldly-bad marriage, and features one of the series’ most iconic characters, TINY RIIIICK. Rick, being transformed into his tinier self so he can deal with a vampire threat at the kids’ school, fits seamlessly into the school scenario; the fact that he is an old man living in a child’s body is just sort of not mentioned, in typical Rick and Morty fashion, and it’s beautiful. The intergalactic marriage counsellor outlines in horrifying detail the Smith parents’ dysfunctional marriage, to a rather sweet and charming climax, where Jerry’s glowing, idealised anthropomorphic vision of Beth brings them together again. The highlight of the episode of is Rick’s journey into hardcore, Elliott Smith teen angst, leading him into a fit of murderous rage against various clones he’s made of himself.
11 – Rixty Minutes (S1, E2)
This episode is another glorious showcase of Harmon and Roiland’s talent for creating short, memorable gags; Rick upgrades the Smith family’s TV package to include shows from infinite realities. Highlights include Detective Baby Legs (“I feel like I don’t need no Regular Leg Partner”) and the self-explanatory Ants In My Eyes Johnson. The real emotional meat and potatoes of the episode comes from Beth, Jerry and Summer’s use of inter-dimensional goggles, to show the wildly different paths their lives could have gone. Summer’s emotional breakdown upon learning her parents might be happier without her is soothed by Morty, who dishes out perhaps one of the hardest-hitting quotes of the series: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody is going to die… Come watch TV?” This episode has earned high praise, and for good reason; not many animated shows gracefully juxtapose Sartrean philosophy with characters like Strawberry Smiggles.
10 – Mortynight Run (S2,E2)
Oh boy, here I go reviewin’ again. The show yet again mixes diverse genres and devices to create a gorgeous philosophical clusterfuck; the video game Roy, a simulation of an entire human life that Morty briefly plays, features more character development than some shows can manage in a whole season. Rick and Morty’s debates about the moral implication of arms deals wouldn’t be out of place in a “Serious Show(™)” Jermaine Clement’s character Fart produces one of the finest songs not only in this series, but in TV in general. The Jerry Daycare subplot also holds strong; the emotional exploration of Jerry’s mental state always provides compelling viewing, and Morty’s climactic decision to put the protection of human life above all else is an extremely powerful moment.
9 – Total Rickall (S2,E4)
A glorious clusterfuck of one-off characters helps to make this episode one of the show’s zaniest and most exciting. The premise of alien parasites attempting to take over the Smith family home starts off small with Uncle Steve, evolving to its logical conclusion of a whole house filled with oddballs such as Tinkles the Fairylamb, Pencilvestyr, Photography Raptor, and Reverse Giraffe. What elevates this episode to higher levels, though, is how the emotional pathos manages to cut through the chaos; Sleepy Gary is another instalment in Jerry’s history of tragic, doomed friendships. The philosophical implications of memories being implanted as if they were already there is terrifying, and Rick’s struggle to keep tabs on reality builds genuine tension throughout the episode. The family’s reminiscence of horrible memories only serves to build their deep familial bonds, as it is the bad times, rather than the good, that bring and keep them together.
8 – Get Schwifty (S2,E4)
Forced to appear on an intergalactic X Factor, where losing planets are destroyed, Rick and Morty rise to the occasion by penning the insanely catchy Get Schwifty (take a shit on the floooooooooor), which eventually secures Earth’s safety. The rest of the Smith family mistakes the talent show judges for new overlords and quickly find themselves in a cult. Cartoons have changed a bit since I was a wee lad. This episode does what all brilliant Rick and Morty episodes to; take a simple-enough premise, push it to its logical conclusion, and squeeze it for hilarity at every step. The action and tension builds and builds, featuring cameos from Ice T and Keith David, until our heroes restore safety and sanity. One viewing of this episode will keep Get Schwifty in your head for years and years and years.
7 – Auto Erotic Assimilation (S2,E3)
Rick Sanchez has a documented sexual appetite, but no more so than in this episode, where he essentially fucks an entire planet. A planet populated by a hivemind, whose peaceful harmony is very much threatened by the arrival of Rick, who along with his grandchildren, disrupt the calm and inject their own brand of chaos. Rick’s depravity and debauchery brings the hivemind back down to his level, as he does with so many other characters. The episode features perhaps the most emotionally powerful ending of the series; Rick, distraught from the breakup, creates a living creature just to kill it, and then attempts to do the same to himself. Rick is an incredibly flawed individual, but a troubled one as well, and the audience is taken on an emotional odyssey in the space of mere minutes, as he struggles to cope with his loss.
6 – The Ricks Must Be Crazy (S2, E6)
Rick Sanchez is already an alcoholic, and a dangerously bad influence, but in this episode, we find out he has slaves; slaves that exist to run his car battery, and nothing else. The premise of his “micro-verse” is pushed to its logical conclusion, when his micro-verse has created its own mini-verse, and the mini-verse has created its own teeny-verse. This episode perfectly showcases Rick’s cynical nihilism, and his all-consuming desire to get other people to do stuff for him. The real star of the episode is the subplot, where the car Summer is trapped in, commanded by Rick to “Keep Summer Safe”, goes to chilling lengths to do so. At the episode’s climax, Morty’s insistence on showing Rick the error of his ways and the consequences of his actions leads to precisely zero character development for Rick, and he takes his grandchildren to get ice cream. It’s an incredibly psychologically-arresting episode, and it’s fucking beautiful.
5 – Rick Potion #9 (S1,E6)
In an attempt to get a girl to fall in love with Morty, Rick accidentally creates a virus that infects the entire world population with a powerful erotic desire for Morty. The things we do for love. In one of the defining emotional moments of the series, Rick and Morty bury versions of themselves in their own back garden, after they are killed in an alternate universe, and in typical Sanchez style, decide to just start all over again. This nihilism is at the heart of the show, and while Rick appears blithely resigned to this particular character trait, this event clearly affects Morty, and Rick’s cynicism begins to infect him, just as the virus infected everyone else. This episode hits a harder existential point than most, and it’s what makes it so powerful.
4 – Interdimensional Cable #2: Tempting Fate (S2,E8)
Carrying on from ‘Rixty Minutes’, this episode again features shows from all the infinite universes, and is a laugh-every-ten-seconds, sprawling, dizzying, sketch show-esque nugget of genius. Set against the zany featurettes is Jerry being asked to donate his penis as it closely resembles the heart needed to transplant to civil rights leader Shrimply Pibbles, voiced inexplicably by actual Werner Herzog. As a microcosm for Jerry’s character, he is initially reluctant, but is desperately eager to please, and offended when his refusal is met with contempt, leading to an explicit, near-murderous rage. The interdimensional cable skits, though, are the stars of the episode, turning it into one of those rare showcases of genius where the audience can actually feel themselves being taken on the creative journey of the writers in real time.
3 – The Rickshank Rickdemption (S3,E1)
As April Fools’ Day pranks go, Adult Swim played a blinder with this one. Held in interminable anguish after the Season 2 finale, fans rejoiced when this episode dropped out of nowhere this year. Spawning what looks like it’ll be one of the show’s most iconic memes in ‘szechuan sauce’, this episode perfectly hyped us for the new season, and actually made me feel a modicum of sympathy for Jerry, with the news of his and Beth’s impending divorce. The climax of the show takes on a noticeably darker tone, with Rick outright boasting of his sociopathy and his deceit in turning Beth against Jerry. His drunken, manic rant at the episode’s end hints towards a dangerous Rick in the third season, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we can’t fucking wait.
2 – Meeseeks and Destroy (S1,E5)
If you’ve watched Rick and Morty, and you’ve ever been in a club smoking area with someone who also watches Rick and Morty, you’ll have done a thousand Meeseeks impressions if you’ve ever done one. This episode pushes the seemingly harmless premise to its logical conclusion, with seemingly thousands of creatures screaming maniacally at Jerry to improve his golf game. It builds and builds throughout the episode towards a satisfying climax, and the Meeseeks characters remain one of the most iconic characters in the series. The subplot featuring our titular heroes also holds very strong; most animated series don’t feature scenes of attempted rape by jellybean royalty. It’s impossible to quantify how fucking good this episode, and this show, really is. Watch the episode. Watch it. I’m Mr Meeseeks, look at me, watch it.
1 – The Wedding Squanchers (S2,E10)
This episode is sublime, and it’s brilliant, and I love it and love it and love it. Featuring sublime writing, a shocking climactic sequence, and gutwrenching pathos, this episode, the Season 2 finale, is one of the funniest of the entire series. The episode sets up Season 3 brilliantly, and leaves open several story possibilities; Rick’s imprisonment, for “everything”, leaves the audience on a goddamn good cliffhanger for Season 3, and the family’s travels through multiple planets in the galaxy really portrays their deep emotional bonds. Rick’s disdain for Jerry is shown to be mostly surface-deep, as he truly cares about the family’s safety, and gives himself up so that the family can be safe without him.
The episode brings closure to an incredibly good season while still building anticipation for new episodes; Jerry finally gets a job, Rick gets some sort of temporary comeuppance, and Morty’s despair tugs on our god damn heartstrings more than a silly animated show really should.