The best episodes of Rick and morty often invoke clever meta-commentaries, portray Rick in hilariously mean and mean ways, or show the horrific angst of living in an infinite, meaningless multiverse.
“The Vat of Acid Episode” does all three, as Rick reaches Eric Cartman’s levels of mean-spirited, the very first scene setting off an unusual amount of conflict between the two. Morty has, inevitably, grown more cynical as the series has progressed, and here he does the unthinkable and mocking of Rick’s acid tank prop like a ridiculously convoluted ruse.
Of course, the diamond deal going awry prompts the two to jump into the false acid, with Rick’s increasingly silly backup plans being fun close to an episode of Looney Tunes – I thought the whole episode was going to take place inside the tank.
But Morty’s frustration eventually erupted, leaving Rick somewhat humiliated. Every now and then Morty tries to take back control of Rick (though it never ends well), and this time around, he wants to live his life like a video game, playing on easy mode. And to be fair, who wouldn’t?
Watching Morty come to grips with his reality as he enjoys endless retakes is great fun, as he ends up relying on his remote like a crutch, usually pressing the button, for the most minor mistakes. When he’s done being a perverted teenager, after exhausting all the exciting stuff, Morty finally manages to cultivate a real relationship with a girl, having mastered the initial pickup line.
There is a lot of story in this silent montage, as the relationship between Morty and his unnamed girlfriend evolves, almost breaks up, until the two are faced with an agonizing experience and make it out alive, in one way or another. It’s funny to think that through the whole edit, Rick is just biding his time, waiting for the big reveal – Rick would never allow Morty to enjoy a healthy relationship, otherwise.
Of course, we’re waiting for the inevitable meltdown, because the last time Morty pressed his remote was seconds before he struck up a conversation with his future girlfriend. And of course, Jerry unknowingly destroys Morty’s new life, mistaking the replacement device for the TV remote.
One press of the button, and a potentially happy future is erased from the face of infinity, forever. It’s just another unbearable tragedy for Morty to endure, but the real horror is yet to come, as Rick finally reveals how the remote works – not through time travel, but by switching between almost indistinguishable, murderous universes. a Morty every time.
Thus, Rick relishes his moment of almost unmatched cruelty, before coming up with a solution – compressing each “do-over” into a single universe, and escaping the consequences by … jumping into a vat of fake acid.
It’s both horrible and hilarious, a very Rick and morty moment; over and over again, Rick went out of his way to show Morty how little control he had over his own life, through increasingly elaborate storylines. Morty will never escape the endless, messy adventures with Rick, doing things exactly on Rick’s terms, simply because his sociopathic grandfather has no one to share his life with.
That’s the underlying tragedy (and comedy) of the show, the insanely unhealthy dynamic between grandfather and grandson. But we’re certainly seeing signs that Morty’s tolerance and patience is eroding – how far can Rick push him, until something snaps?
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