How Do We Escape the System? – Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 7 Breakdown
The Ricklantis Mixup is quite possibly this season’s most unique episode. By constructing a highly detailed social environment in the Citadel of Ricks, Rick and Morty asks questions about the nature of hope, change, and revolution in a way that reflects our current political climate.
Directed by: Robert Tiemstra
Written by: Alec Opperman & Jared Bauer
Edited by: Andrew Nishimura
Produced by: Emily Dunbar & Jacob Salamon
How Do We Escape the System? – Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 7 Breakdown
Hey everyone, meat-boat Jared here. Season 3 episode 7 of Rick and Morty is one of the darkest and DENSEST of the season. In less than half an hour, the episode manages to build a rich, complex, and utterly dismal political world, only for the show to summarily dismiss it. But in that short time, the The Ricklantis Mixup paints a REALLY interesting picture of modern politics, specifically as it pertains to hope, resistance, and revolution. Welcome to this Wisecrack Quicktake on The Ricklantis Mixup. And you guessed it- spoilers ahead.
But before we get into that I want to thank Quidd for sponsoring this video. Quidd is a really cool app that allows you to collect stickers, cards, and toys for free featuring a bunch the shows we love here at Wisecrack: Breaking Bad, Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, Star Trek, and most importantly, Rick and Morty. Think of it like opening up packs of baseball cards. I’ve actually been collecting Rick and Morty stickers for months now and it’s amazing how quick they are to add new stickers. Pretty much the day after a new episode’s release they have new gifs and stickers that you can send to your friends over text, or slap on to images in your camera roll. My favorite is the mailman from M. Night Shamaliens that says “My Man!” Check out the description below for a link to grab the app for free. It’s available on iOS and Android. I’m on there as JaredC137. Last time we did this, about 600 of you added me as a friend and had some cool chats and trades with some of you. So add me as a friend and trade me all your meeseeks swag. Thanks a bunch, back to the show.
So A quick recap:
Rick and Morty go on an adventure to Atlantis, but don’t worry, that doesn’t actually matter. Instead, we’re thrown into the Citadel of Ricks as they rebuild after the catastrophic events of The Rickshank Redemption. Democratic elections are being held for the first time in the wake up of the uh, dissolution of the council of Ricks. The world building in this episode is freaking amazing, especially in how it cleverly mirrors our current political climate – from a news organization that’s one “N” away from “CNN” that trivializes dissent in order to maintain the status quo, to an inner city devastated by drugs and guns, to a Hogwarts that teaches the disenfranchised Mortys to accept their lot in life. This is definitely one of the harder narratives to follow, and certainly more complex than your traditional episode. So I want to lay out the many subplots as follows:
Evil Morty comes to power on a platform of unity and change, before revealing his grander, and more totalitarian intentions. In an allusion to Training Day, A fresh out of the academy police Rick has to join a crooked cop Morty and confront the corrupt underbelly of the Citadel where he is forced to confront his ideals, and abandon them. It seems reminiscent of the ending of LA confidential, where an idealistic cop has to break the rules and kill his superior- undermining the same justice system he thought he was protecting. A group of orphaned Mortys set off for adventure a la Stand By Me, before sending their hopes and dreams into the literal trash. A Rick is passed over for a promotion and realizes he’s wasted his life on an assembly line. He revolts, but his triumph is quickly ruined by the powers that be. In all of these cases, we see any kind of political or personal optimism for change crushed by a cruel and indifferent reality.
This episode really builds off the themes that we talked about earlier in Rickmancing the Stone. Specifically, alienation, or the way modern society estranges us from the world and our peers, making us all dead inside. In the case of Rickmancing the Stone the creature comforts of society turn the exciting world of the apocalypse into a domestic nightmare. Now, we see many versions of the smartest man in the universe reduced to the drudgery of modern life. And mixed in, we see signs of a deeply divided society. But as Evil Morty suggests- this is a distraction. The real divide? — the Rich vs. The Working Class. What’s interesting is that, despite the apparent ruling class of Ricks, everyone is a victim of alienation. Even the cops are likened to just workers on the assembly line of justice. But in addition to being victims of those individuals in power, the Ricks are also victims of an impenetrable system . And here’s where my favorite part of the whole episode comes in. This gets at a really smart question, tackled by a lot of different philosophers. But I’ll summarize the issue as this: Is our escape from the alienation of modern life just strengthening the foundations of the system that drives that alienation?
Simple Rick follows what I’ll call the ‘Ron Swanson” trope – someone who fights our fast-paced world by slowing down, working with their hands, and spending time with the family. In a world that crams us in cubicles and hunches us over assembly lines, our only respite is the“ simple life.” Running away from the urban clamor, living off the land, learning a trade like woodworking, reconnecting with your family, etc. Not surprisingly, this kind of idea gained prevalence as the world was industrializing, and subsequently corporatized. We saw the rise of organizations like the boy scouts and the establishment of national parks – where you could practice not being crammed in a city. But it could be argued that this escape to the simple life, whether in the form of nature, or family, or woodworking, is not in fact retreating from the system, but an essential part of its functioning. We can view the Simple Rick wafers “brand” as a kind of fantasy that reinforces the system. Ricks show up for work because they know they can go home and allegedly unplug from the system with the distilled essence of simplicity, even though this “unplugging” comes in commodity form – one that requires, you know, money that you have to work at an assembly line for. And we’ve all seen enough cereal commercials to know that advertisers love selling us a kind of “pure, wholesome” family who actually eats meals together without screaming at each other.
Sociologist George Ritzer says that our enchantment with, and disenchantment from, the modern world are not so easy to distinguish from each other. He even says they exist in a reciprocal relation. In other words, the fantasy of unplugging with some Simple Rick Wafers further entrenches you in the very system you want to unplug from. But it gets even more devious. As one Rick decides he’s had enough, he engages in an actual act of rebellion: killing his boss, and trying to get a portal gun to ACTUALLY escape the system. But instead of affecting change, his rebellion is commodified in the form of the “simple rick freedom wafer selects.” He endlessly lives the joy of rebellion, while the system distills this joy in a consumable form. Freedom from the system entraps you in the system. Ritzer goes on to say that “Fantasies draw people into the new means of consumption, and those fantasies can be rationalized in order to further draw people in.”
And this, for me, makes this the darkest episode of the season yet. The message seems to be – In the terrifying political reality that is 2017 – the best we can hope for is the illusion of making a difference. If you don’t believe me, remember the orphan Morty’s plot. They go on a coming of age adventure, trying to escape their terrible orphan existence and their bondage to some future Rick. But the wish portal turns out to be a garbage portal – the system turns wishes into literal trash. Slick Morty sacrifices himself to wish for a better world, and it happens – sort of. I don’t think we’re meant to believe that his sacrifice magically made things better – especially because the change promised was just a ploy by Evil Morty. The subplot has no actual bearing on the overall narrative, it only seems to exist for the writers to show us the naive ideas of these children – that Slick Morty’s sacrifice could have changed something. Nothing they did mattered, but they get to believe it did, just like our revolting Rick.
So what do we make of Evil Morty? He sold a kind of class consciousness to the Ricks and Mortys of the citadel – that Ricks and Mortys should join together to make a better world against the ruling elite. But with the brutal purge of his political opponents, it seems like this was nothing more than lip service as a means to power. But hey- could we really expect any kind of real progress from this show? There is just SO much going on this episode that we haven’t touched on – like Is there some connection between this Latin phrase on the chalkboard and Evil Morty’s view of how society functions? We discuss this, as well as dive into the show’s commentary on the media, state violence, and who really controls the government – on The Squanch, Wisecrack’s Rick and Morty podcast. Check it out on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. The link is in the description and don’t forget to subscribe. Wub a lub a dub dub yall peace.