What’s The Point of Rick’s Game? – Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 4 Breakdown
In Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender (S03E04), Rick and Morty lampoons Marvel movies and other huge superhero franchises. But is the show going one step further? Is Rick really a stand-in for villains like The Joker, hellbent on crushing peoples’ worldviews and spreading the ‘cheer’ disillusionment? What, really, is the POINT of Rick’s sick game?
Written by: Alec Opperman & Jared Bauer
Edited by: Andrew Nishimura
Produced by: Emily Dunbar & Jacob Salamon
What’s The Point of Rick’s Game? – Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 4 Breakdown
Hey Wisecrack, Jared IRL again.
For those popping in for the first time, this is still an experiment where we quickly respond to developments in TV and Film as they happen- not just Rick and Morty. So if you like them, or have a request, let us know. The Vindicators 3: Return of the World Ender was a pretty awesome jab at Marvel movies, with The “Vindicators” acting as an obvious stand-in for the Avengers, and Rick acting as a mouthpiece for people disillusioned with the rather formulaic state of popular cinema. “They’re the writers of their own press releases. They’re a bunch of drama queens who spend an hour talking and 20 minutes jumping around while shit blows up. They’re a phase. We did one. It was the big event of that summer. Let it die.” But instead of focusing on Rick’s beef with our Disney overlords, we’re gonna set our sights a little higher today. Superhero films have been clumsily grasping at the concepts of good and evil for what seems like an eternity, and this episode of Rick and Morty comments on this in some pretty clever, and even profound, ways. Welcome to this Wisecrack quicktake on Vindicators 3: The Return of the Worldender. And you guessed it- Spoilers ahead.
First a recap: Morty gets to choose the next adventure with Rick, so he decides to spend it with his heros: The Vindicators. In good Sanchezian fashion, Rick gets blackout drunk, destroys the ominous world-ender with little effort, and traps the Vindicators in a series of trials that ruins them. The real arc of The Vindicators 3, like another “Morty adventure” we know – is Morty’s optimistic worldview crumbling around him. In the case of Meeseeks and Destroy, Morty’s wholesome view of fairy tales erodes as the genre is subverted. In this episode, Morty’s faith in the Vindicators erodes as superhero genre is subverted. But beneath all the world enders and superhero jokes, this episode is also about the complexities of good and evil.
Unlike some adventures where Morty’s view of the world is shattered, Rick plays a unique role in making his worldview disintegrate here. After killing Worldender while blackout drunk, Rick creates a Saw-inspired puzzle that is less “a thought out plan to make people confront their demons” a la Jigsaw and more “a drunken scheme to push people over a moral cliff.” And it works: Vance show his true colors, Million Ants kill Allen Rails over a woman, and Crocubot brings out the Vindicator’s little secret. By the end, Rick gets to lord over Morty about the sham that is heroism. “I appreciate it morty I know you were sucking the Kool aid out of the vindicators d**ks so the fact that I was right about them was pretty hard to admit. Yeah it is. You know why
What’s really clever about this episode is how they draw from some of the more unique villains in popular cinema. Unlike most antagonists, Jigsaw isn’t about senseless murder or financial gain, he wants to change people’s paradigms by making them endure suffering – in some cases, to make them appreciate life more. Similarly, Drunk Rick’s trials aren’t meant primarily to eradicate The Vindicators, but rather to create a moral crisis for them, proving to Morty that they are NOT heros. Now, I thought this was pretty cool in itself, but what I thought really elevated this episode was a less obvious inspiration: The Joker. Morty’s trip in the carnival ride seems inspired by Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, when Commissioner Gordon is tortured by the Joker. Like Jigsaw, The Joker isn’t only motivated by murder. He’s out to prove that with one sufficiently bad day, Gordon could be just as mad as him. As another Joker inspired by the Killing Joke puts it. And what is Rick’s shenanigans in this episode but to push the Vindicators to lose their s***? Just as The Joker infects the once idealistic Harvey with his nihilistic philosophy by killing Rachel and turning corrupt cops against him, so too does Rick turn the benevolent Vindicators into violent backstabbers- thus upending Morty’s simplistic understanding of good and evil.
Ok, so Rick doesn’t believe really buy that “heroes are good.” But there’s a larger point about how the way we’re spoon-fed narratives of Good and Evil is actually…super bad. You know, narratives like this one “Everyone in the universe is a hero. All you have to do is notice the difference between good and bad and root for good!” But thinking in such simple terms can lead to problems. For Philosopher Jacques Ranciere, the problem with “Evil” with a big capital E – you know the kind in every single superhero movie is that any kind of conflict becomes the ultimate struggle of Good and Evil, the “value” of winning that battle becomes, well, infinite. It’s a fight for the soul of the world, or galaxy, or universe – all or nothing. So people can do even the WORST shit in the world to achieve victory. But, as the logic goes, isn’t it justified? What’s so bad about letting a few thousands people die if it means destroying ultimate evil?
Well…What does this say about the Vindicators? To summarize Ranciere: the problem with “infinite” evil – whether in the form of world-destroyers or mortal humans- is they warrant “infinite justice” – the kind that doesn’t really care about morals, or the people of Dorian 5, and often even loses sight of the “justice” part. By the end of the episode Supernova has also been infected with Rick’s nihilistic philosophy, no longer believing in a real division between good and evil. However, she recognizes the simplistic division must be upheld. She’s willing to kill Rick and Morty, and even her LOVER to protect the perception that the Vindicator’s are good. It’s not their actions that matter, it’s the galaxy’s faith in their actions that does.
I’m pretty sure this another shoutout to Dark Knight, which is probably the best example of moral greyness in a comic book movie. Where Batman lies about the “goodness” of Harvey Dent to maintain peace and order in Gotham, Supernova wants the galaxy to believe in a similar lie about herself. In both cases, people are advocating for a “noble lie,” the idea that societies can be built on a myth that maintains order – an idea made famous by the Greek philosopher Plato. And it’s not the first time Rick and Morty has make this kind of Dark Knight-esque/noble lie shoutout. Now, this is kind of philosophy 101, but it’s worth noting at least because of its relation to The Dark Knight. But where The Dark Knight kind of celebrates this lie, Rick and Morty uses it to deconstruct the myth of superheroes.
However, rather than JUST deconstructing Good and Evil as arbitrary concepts, which, by the way, it’s done before, the show is also suggesting that the complete absence of these concepts isn’t so great either. This is a clever call back to the last episode, where Dr. Wong confronts Rick in saying. Whereas the vindicators fail to critically engage with their methods, or even their mission, Rick refuses to engage with his decisions for the exact opposite reason: because nothing matters. And if nothing matters, and good and evil are just social constructs, then he can’t consider his actions evil. He can just continue doing whatever the f*** he wants.
So the episode presents us with two differing perspectives regarding good and evil- both of which are, in typical Rick and Morty fashion, completely dismal. We either have ZERO conviction of the division between good and evil, which leads to Rick doing whatever they f*** he wants and it not mattering, or we have COMPLETE AND UTTER conviction of what constitutes good and evil, and people do really messed up shit for the sake of good… like blow up an entire planet. As always, in Rick and Morty. There are no right answers. Only wrong ones.
If you want to hear more depressing Rick and Morty philosophy, check out our podcast “The Squanch. We’re breaking down every episode in detail, answering your questions, and you’ll even get to hear the joker impression I’ve been working on for nearly a decade. It’s getting there. Click on the link below, or subscribe wherever your get podcasts. Stay good, Wisecrack. Peace.