Rick and Morty: POTUS vs. Rick

By Aristophanes and Hermes

Today’s discussion of Rick and Morty contains spoilers through Season 3, Episode 10: “The Rickchurian Mortydate.” Reader discretion is advised.

Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity, grammar and style.

Aristophanes (Ari): Rick and Morty often gets pretty wild, which can sometimes be one of the show’s greatest strengths. However, this episode lacked focus. It was amusing at times, but, overall, I’m a bit disappointed.

For a recap: In “The Rickchurian Mortydate,” Sunday’s Season 3 finale, Rick and Morty get into a fight with the president of the United States, who we last saw in Season 2’s “Get Schwifty,” because they think he’s taking advantage of their ability to continually save the world from intergalactic/interdimensional threats. The conflict escalates into a final showdown between the president and Rick as they battle across the White House grounds.

The final fight was entertaining, but, honestly, I was let down by this episode as a whole. It seemed scattered, and it needlessly shoehorned the Beth-possibly-being-a-clone plot point from last week into a sudden deus ex machina for Beth and Jerry’s marriage. We didn’t get an enticing cliffhanger ending in the same way we did last season. That might have been purposeful, but it made the episode seem less like a finale and more like just another episode of the week.

What are your thoughts?

Hermes (Herm): I am glad I am not the only one who was let down by this episode. It is undoubtedly the worst finale in the show’s history, and part of that is due to there not being a strong cliffhanger. Beth being a clone or not is in no way the cliffhanger of Rick going to intergalactic prison, as happened at the end of Season 2. While it was obvious Rick would break out, we had no idea when or how. Beth being a clone is “yes” or “no,” and to me, it seems to be a likely yes. The plot was weakly conceived, in my opinion.

We haven’t seen the president since “Get Schwifty,” and therefore have no reason to see Rick and Morty being valid in their criticisms against him. Rick and Morty go on intergalactic/interdimensional adventures all of the time. We haven’t really seen the president take advantage of them or use them for a menial task his staff could handle without them, cutting the legitimacy of their gripes in this episode.

In order for there to be conflict, we need to see actual proof both sides have a reason to be right, and I feel like neither of them had a poor relationship prior to this episode. I feel like Rick forcing the president to take a selfie with Morty (which he eventually decided he didn’t want since he had been turned down so often) was a pretty stupid thing to fight over. I feel like they were trying to answer some sort of “what would happen if the most powerful man in the world fought the most powerful man in the universe” question, but it was not really a question that needed to be asked.

Similarly, Beth and Jerry did not interact all season, aside from the season premiere, yet they get back together in this episode. I don’t understand how else Beth would just completely change her position on divorcing Jerry and remember a memory in a completely different way, as happened when she visited Jerry in his apartment this episode, if she weren’t a clone. The real Beth is a strong, independent person who wouldn’t go back to Jerry all willy-nilly, especially since Jerry was just with another woman in the previous episode.

I also think this season they experimented far more than ever before, and because they tried new things, they didn’t get as much right. This episode is an example.

Ari: I will say you were right that we’d see the Beth-clone storyline come back, which you predicted last week. I really thought they’d just leave that hanging and wouldn’t address it, but it was a major part of the very next episode!

The serialization is sometimes hard to predict in Rick and Morty. We didn’t see Phoenixperson after the series premiere, Evil Morty is still out there consolidating power and Mr. Poopybutthole only made two appearances, both cameos, in the entirety of Season 3 (during a memory in “Morty’s Mind Blowers” and during the after credits scene in this episode). Often, we wait many episodes to get payoff for certain ongoing plot threads, yet the Beth-as-a-clone story got a payoff immediately after it was introduced.

Herm: I just don’t understand the point of introducing a plot point and acting like it will be a big thing if there is literally no payoff on it down the road. I liked my idea of Rick having to fight President Evil Morty, which I hypothesized a few weeks ago based on the episode description, way more than him fighting the actual POTUS.

This season presented more questions than answers and I don’t like that. I am fine with Mr. Poopybutthole’s plot line because we at least know what happened to him and didn’t really need him introduced big time in the plot to make that happen. Though I can’t help but think it was just the writers telling everyone to wait a long time for the next season, thereby making fun of their own inability to get the season out in a timely manner.

Ari: I do think Mr. Poopybutthole represents a self-deprecating gag on the creators’ timeliness, like you mention. Also, I agree with your comment about a confrontation with President Evil Morty potentially being more compelling than what we actually got. However, I bet we do see Evil Morty somewhere again down the line. 

Herm: We will surely see him down the line. We’re likely to see Phoenixperson again, too. I feel like they can’t introduce these plot points with characters we like and then not come back to them. The problem, as I see it, is that the show’s canon takes place in infinite universes, something they use to their advantage in writing episodes. Sure, Krombopulus Michael may be dead in one universe, but we may still see him somewhere else down the road. It makes it difficult to follow multiple characters, when the characters, themselves, have multiple incarnations.

Ari: I don’t want to be too hard on the show for this, either. Unlike many other adult animated comedies, like South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, Rick and Morty focuses much more on quality over quantity. We only get around 10 episodes per season for this show. And, as was the case with Season 3, there can be a long wait between seasons. That lets the creators make a better show overall, I think, but it also means it takes longer to get resolution on certain story arcs.

Herm: I am fine with them taking time to resolve storylines — that’s not really my criticism. I mostly wish they wouldn’t just tell us one thing, set up a character’s story, and then never come back to it.

Also, quality and quantity aren’t mutually exclusive; they can co-exist.

Ari: Just like Rick and the president of the United States can co-exist, apparently. I did like that part of the episode’s resolution — how Rick pretended to be a Rick from a different reality to get back on the president’s good side after their falling out.

Herm: Rick just did it because it was easier to stay in the current universe than go to a different one.

Ari: Probably. But it was still funny. Remember that, when he went to make amends,  Rick had just killed dozens of Secret Service agents!

Herm: It was in self-defense.

Ari: Yes, but, despite what he said about deterrence, he really could have simply stunned them and made it out safely.

Another thing about this episode, though: Do you think this version of the president’s personality made sense, given what this same president did in “Get Schwifty?” I was kind of shocked that the president and Rick became enemies after working together in Season 2, and, as you said, with little lead-up to the break-up. The president seemed to have a much more antagonistic attitude this time around.

Herm: Rick wanted to show he was not to be messed with. This version of the president does not make sense, and that is exactly my criticism of this episode.

Ari: At the end, Rick comes back with a gun, which he says he was going to use to kill Jerry (even though he doesn’t). Do you think he actually would have killed Jerry? In the after credits scene from last week, he saved his life! Although he might’ve killed the blue alien hunting Jerry just to get with Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, so it could’ve been all in self-interest. But I don’t think Rick would actually kill Jerry in cold-blood.

Herm: Rick wouldn’t kill Jerry. His whole family would turn on him. Also, he likes Jerry more than he admits.

Ari: I agree! Even after “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy.”

Herm: Especially after that episode. Plus, Doofus Rick loving Jerry, which we saw in Season 1, is proof a Rick can be friends with a Jerry.

Ari: Rick is definitely more caring than he wants to admit, which we learned in this season’s “Rest and Ricklaxation.” On that note, I appreciated how much Rick wanted to get Morty his selfie with the president — even after Morty himself said he should let it go. Of course, as you said earlier, it was a stupid reason for Rick and the president to fight, nut it was certainly funny to see such powerful characters go head-to-head over a selfie.

Also, I appreciated the relatively low-grade tech the United States government had at its disposal. I like how the president was able to put up a fight against Rick, even if he was ultimately outmatched. The pitch line you mentioned earlier — “what would happen if the most powerful man in the world fought the most powerful man in the universe” — sums it up perfectly. It’s a great premise for an episode, actually, even if it didn’t turn out to be all that interesting in the execution.

It makes the series slightly more interesting, I think, when Rick encounters adversaries who at least somewhat rival him in power. It’s also amusing on a basic, crass level to see the leader of the free world engage in a high-action throw-down with an irreverent, elderly scientist. And the easy jokes that satirized government-centered conspiracy thinking, both in the episode set-up and in the final battle, were a great touch. I mean, Kennedy sex tunnels? The mutant twins stashed away in the White House? That’s just hilarious. Let’s face it; someone out there surely believes things of this nature exist, too.

Herm: I think the entire point of the season was to show Rick is more vulnerable than he is given credit for. In the Season 2 finale, he said he was basically going to open himself up more. Also, in “Pickle Rick,” the third episode of this season, the therapist Dr. Wong accomplished the same thing the president did in this episode, but on an emotional level — she showed Rick is not as invincible as he thinks. Or at least he is allowing people to get closer to him.

I also loved the conspiracies. The Lincoln slave colosseum joke was pretty great, only because of how shocking and so different it was from how we know Lincoln.

Ari: Last thing before we close: In your ideal Season 4, what would you like to see happen?

Herm: Beth and Jerry need to break back up after she is outed as a clone. President Evil Morty will cause trouble with his new anti-Rick, pro-Morty policy and essentially create a government that was more dangerous than the Council of Ricks. Surely we will see something with Phoenixperson. Also, Mr. Poopybutthole will have a wizard’s beard and two grandkids.

Ari: I want to see the return of Evil Morty in an epic confrontation with our Rick, so we’re in agreement there. However, I think I disagree with you on Beth and Jerry. I want their drama to simmer for a bit. I want to focus on other relationships between the characters. Honestly, I’m glad Jerry is back in the family again — it was weird having him out of the house, but still play a part in several episodes. Phoenixperson needs an appearance, and a redemption; I want him to regain his former Birdperson-self, then turn to defeat Tammy.

Finally, I want to see a return of the Meeseeks from Season 1. They’ve only played a prominent role in one episode, but they were such compelling villains because of their abnormal psychology; all they want is to fulfill their purpose by whatever means necessary, then peacefully cease to exist. Give me that, throw in a few other surprises, and I’ll be as happy as a Doofus Rick. ■

Rick and Morty airs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show is currently on hiatus.

Rick and Morty Chats

Season 3:  Ep. 5 | Ep. 6 | Ep. 7 | Ep. 8 | Ep. 9 | Ep. 10 | Wrap-Up

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