To bring season 3 to a close, Rick and Morty offers an action-packed installment with plenty of meta-jokes about the long wait between seasons.
There was a time when it seemed as though Rick and Morty season 3 was never going to happen. The wait following the season 2 finale felt interminable and unsurprisingly led to rumors of discord between series co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, which had to be dispelled via a live stream event that eventually set the record straight and gave fans what they were looking for – more Rick and Morty. In other words, it was a long, sometimes weird lead-up to season 3, and now that the 10-epsiode season has reached its conclusion, it's fitting that the finale, 'The Rickchurian Mortydate', would make multiple references to the uncertainty of when (and if – though, come on, not really) the show will return and the series' increasingly notoriously slow production cycle.
Written by Harmon, the finale isn't what you'd expect from Rick and Morty as it tends to subvert audience expectations by leaning into common television tropes instead of heading off in the opposite direction. While Rick and Morty are initially busy dealing with an alien in the Kennedy Sex Tunnels following a request from the Keith David-voiced President of the United States, the episode soon abandons the usual alien-busting to focus on a confrontation between Rick and the president, which turns into a violent affair that's nearly on par with the bloodletting of 'Pickle Rick'. The conflict between the president and Rick underlines the theme of responsibility as a parallel thread sees Beth's concerns over whether or not she's real or a clone push her to reconcile with Jerry, bringing the Smith family back together and leaving Rick to choose whether or not he wants to stick around or if he'd be better off finding another reality where his daughter didn't get back together with her emotionally parasitic husband.
Despite Rick's disdain for Jerry, he's shown a much softer side of himself this season, especially during last week's 'The ABC's of Beth', which saw him offering his daughter the chance to live a different life without having to carry the guilt of abandoning her family like her dad did. It's no surprise that Rick and Morty "eschewed" the chance to confirm one way or another whether or not this was the real Beth or an increasingly self-aware clone for whom happiness meant the burden of self-doubt and the possibility that she'd be terminated at a moment's notice. Like the appearance of Evil Morty during 'The Ricklantis Mixup', the season's penultimate episode walked viewers down a road the series didn't necessarily intend to follow – at least not right away – so while season 3 tied up a loose-end with regard to Smith family, it noticeably left two major threads dangling, and it's difficult not to see that being a function of the winking nature of the finale itself, especially with regard to the question of when there'll be more Rick and Morty to actually address (or not) Evil Morty and Clone Beth.
The episode pays a self-deprecating compliment to South Park with a Minecraft joke that deliberately feels outdated just to underline the wait between seasons 2 and 3. Morty's interest in the game, and Rick's growing compulsion to play it as a means of further aggravating The President, don't really have much bearing on the finale's outcome. As such, they become part and parcel with the tiny society revealing its nuclear capabilities in the Brazilian rainforest and the battle of wills that sees Rick solving some of the world's biggest problems off screen, showing how easy it is for him to undermine the leader of the free world. And yet, Rick's God-level status – now with Instant Kill capabilities as one poor Secret Service agent discovers – are no match for the desires of his family to be… well, more normal.
Rick and Morty season 3 has been marked by its characters' increased detachment to the events in their lives, but making the possibility of Beth and Jerry's divorce a bridge too far works in the show's favor by subverting expectations that, like the original family left behind in the Cronenberged dimension, this too would stick. Instead, Harmon orchestrates the use of a tried and true television storytelling device with the up and back, bringing the characters more or less to where they were when the season began. This too becomes a meta-joke as Beth mentions how reuniting the family will make it like season 1 "but more streamlined."
In addition to showcasing the show's ability to construct incredibly intense and violent action sequences, and demonstrate Rick's ability to piss everyone off, 'The Rickchurian Mortydate' also seemingly underlines the creators' anxiety over what comes next and when it will arrive. The bubble of normalcy within the Smith clan is punctured by Rick's compromise with The President and his family amidst their laughing at the possibility of Beth being the clone and the unlikelihood of Rick (i.e., the show) ever revealing whether or not that's true.
Rick and Morty season 3 was a long time coming, and by Dan Harmon's own admission, it was a difficult season to write. As such, the chance of season 4 coming anytime soon is likely pretty small, meaning another interminable wait is on the horizon. Mr. Poopy Butthole arrives at the end to poke fun at the delays in producing a season of the show, but also to seemingly say those whose job it is to make the series share your concerns over when it will return. It might not be as good as a firm premiere date, but at least the audience can take comfort in the fact that they're not alone in their apprehension.
Screen Rant will have details for you on Rick and Morty season 4 as they're made available.