17th Aug2017

‘Rick and Morty 3×04: Vindicators 3 – The Return of Worldender’ Review

by Steven Riley

Spoiler Alert: This review was published after Rick and Morty aired in the US on Sunday evening. Do not read unless you have watched season three, episode four, which airs in the UK on Netflix next Sunday.

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For the first five minutes of Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender it looked like it might just be an episode stuck for ideas.

Tinkering away in the garage, Rick and Morty are interrupted by a beacon from ‘The Vindicators’ – a group of galactic superheroes – detailing a mission to stop ‘Worldender’. As someone who idolise the evil-fighting team, Morty insists they go along, bribing Rick with a free pass earned from going on his grandfathers’ adventures.

While Rick’s cynicism and mocking of the cliched cast of heroes (with more than a little nudge towards The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy) is amusing at times (“Your origin is what? You fell into a vat of redundancy?), it feels a little familiar to season one’s ‘Meeseeks and Destroy’ as Morty drags his reluctant grandfather along.

The heroes themselves are intentionally one-note (even though they are voiced to perfection by Christian Slater and co.) and as we travel to a far away planet, it seems fairly predictable how it will play out – with Rick likely defeating the ominous villain effortlessly with his own genius and, again, being proven right.

About five minutes in however, Harmon and co. throw a curve ball; Worldender and his minions have already been defeated. Just as we wonder who could have done it, a video begins to play revealing Rick – blackout drunk after a binge the night before – has carefully constructed an elaborate, Saw-esque puzzle to reveal the Vindicators as frauds.

It’s an unexpected twist on what seemed to be a routine episode panning out, with Rick essentially playing the role of arch-villain as well as unwittingly contestant in a series of elaborate games (with the exception of having to shoot three-pointers in basketball as drunk Rick was too tired to think of anything else).

Where we could have had a one-dimensional adventure with Rick continuing his snide remarks and Morty following the Vindicators in their quest, we now had the opposite; in new surroundings with only their wits to help them, it was the Vindicators left clumsily trying to work their way through while Morty – who at this point seems almost bored with his grandfather’s maniacal antics – is the only one with the experience to guide the rest through Rick’s twisted games.

The humour is, as always, on point, and it’s less about the one-line zingers (although there are plenty of them directed at the likes of ‘Alan Rails’ who wields ghost trains and ‘Million Ants Man’) and more about the punchline to elaborate bits – there’s one about Israel which will leave you speechless, while the overall payoff of the episode is beautifully typical of the show.

Having an episode change pace so quickly is something we haven’t seen so often in the way our pair’s adventures play out, but it makes the slightly underwhelming opening really play out in the episode’s favour. The only worry is that we may soon become numb to Rick’s insensitive, sociopathic ways (they laid that out pretty early with the ending of episode one) or that the rocky situation in the Smith household may be pushed to one side after two zany episodes.

Judging by Jerry’s return in the next episode, the latter point looks like it will soon start to be resolved. If this episode has taught us anything however it’s that the show’s creators – not unlike Rick – always have a plan.

The rest of us can’t wait to see what it is.

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