Hold onto your Plumbus, because Rick and Morty just upped their 'A' game for the third season of Adult Swim's very "adult" cartoon. It may have been an achingly long wait since we last waved goodbye to the Doc Brown ripoff and his nervy grandson, but Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon's cultured creation is back with a bang and a bullet.
From murderous Meeseeks to a steroid-pumped Squanchy, there has always been a high level of animated and colorful violence on the show, and Season 3 already gifted us the Mad Max-inspired "Rickmancing the Stone" in all its glory. However, even this had nothing on "Episode 3" - "Pickle Rick." How an episode sees the titular Rick turn himself into a pickle - yes, an actual pickle - could be dubbed violent may seem strange at a glance but some 24 minutes later and you will be left in awe.
"Pickle Rick" starts with the simple premise that the newly-separated Smith Family need some family counseling, with Grandpa Rick choosing a day as a pickle over joining his daughter and grandkids under some shrink. However, things go awry and Rick is soon left on the workbench facing a whole episode of really just being a plain old burger-less pickle. Nevertheless, after a trapped Rick gets mauled by a cat and inadvertently flushed down a storm drain, it is here that the crazy hit a whole new level of WTF.
Lurking in the sewers, we see our vegetable-trapped inventor quickly dismember a cockroach and use its brain to pilot around this murky underworld. From here on out you may ask how the episode could get weirder, but it does. There are scenes of mass rat slaughter as Pickle Rick create's his own mech suit from their littered corpses, and as the red ink flows, the show climaxes in a raid on a government compound. Like Home Alone gone wrong, audiences marvel as Peter Serafinowicz (starring in the upcoming reboot of The Tick) plays his own shady Hans Gruber and Rick blows the brains out of nameless grunts with a variety of pencils and office supplies.
Also, a big nod to Danny Trejo this week for appearing in a Machete-esque role as hitman "Jaguar." As well as Serafinowicz and other special guest star Susan Sarandon - as the Smith Family's therapist. Trejo's Jaguar slots in among the usual voice cast perfectly with the blood-soaked tone of "Pickle Rick." Interestingly, we are conditioned now to expect Rick to use his portal gun to hop dimensions and meet Gear People or giant heads, we forget that we don't need this to make the show great. Some of the best episodes like "Total Rickall" have taken place in the living room of the Smith house without some galaxy-spanning adventure. This time, the action is focused strictly on Earth and the whole episode plays out like some uber-gritty take on '80s action movies, except with a pickle and a laser powered by AAA batteries.
The big pull of Rick and Morty has always been its "not for kids" mantra. For a long time, shows like American Dad and Family Guy have tried to steer away from the assumption that over 12s can't watch cartoons, but none have done it as well as Roiland and Harmon's sci-fi slaughterhouse and other amazing adult animated series like Archer and South Park. Sure, Rick and Morty has given audiences brutal episodes like "Look Who's Purging," but does that really compare to the Game of Thrones level of violence seen in "Pickle Rick"? - Amish cats have nothing on an actual pickle slaughtering a compound full of mafioso. If Rick and Morty can pull off another episode like "Pickle Rick," forget the Szechuan sauce, keep the red stuff flowing. Why a pickle instead of a carrot, a hot dog, or a cucumber we don't know but kudos - long live "The Pickle Man," Solenya we salute you!
Rick and Morty season 3, episode 4 ("Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender") airs August 13, 2017 on Adult Swim.