It’s a ranking of one person’s favorite Rick and Morty episodes, Morty! It doesn’t affect what you like best about the show, Morty! It-it-it’s just one person’s opinion! Just–we–we all like the show, Morty! Just read it and comment about the mutual love of our wacky adventures, Morty! But we’re only doing ten. No more. Everyone knows that-that any regular person that reads a list jus-jus-just scrolls to the top ten! The rest don’t matter, Morty! The rest don’t matter! Top ten Rick and Morty episodes!!
The Rickshank Redemption
“The Rickshank Redemption” deserves accolades purely for being a surprise release on April Fools’ 2017, but is still a terrific episode in its own right. Following Rick’s surrender in the finale of Season 2, this Season 3 opener finds Rick deviously outsmarting the military elite of the Citadel of Ricks, consistently one step ahead as he constantly swaps bodies between different higher-ranking Ricks to systematically dismantle the entire Citadel through a series of escalating action sequences. The eventual stand-off changes the dynamic between Summer, Rick and Morty, which will reverberate across the series going forward and set the stage for events further into the season. The fact that nearly everything, at least for Rick, hinges on that promotional McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan Sauce, is what makes it all that much funnier.
“Mortynight Run” has it all: Krombopulos Michael, the interstellar hitman who loves killing; Blips and Chitz, the Dave & Buster’s-style arcade featuring a VR game in which Morty lives out the entire life of a child who grows to become a football player who gets diagnosed with cancer and survives only to fall to his death on a ladder at the carpet store (“Boo, Morty!”); and a fart that sings. There’s also Jerryboree, a daycare for Jerrys that inadvertently tag along with the Ricks that don’t want the stupidity baggage. Dropping Jerry into this daycare wouldn’t work as well as it did were Jerry not so excellently written as an irredeemable dolt.
Jemaine Clement is a treasure as always as the voice of the fart, and the wonderful song “Goodbye, Moonman” is as comforting in its lyrics as its in-universe context is sinister. The episode comes at a point where Morty is transitioning from naivety to autonomy when it comes to his adventures with Rick, but he’s still plagued with a sense of altruism that, as always, bites him in the ass. He’ll later grow a greater sense of awareness of the dangers of the galaxy, but for now his willful ignorance of Fart’s ability for destruction (in a profoundly bizarre set of musical numbers) are some of the best sequences of the series.
The original Interdimensional Cable episode is a thing of beauty—20 minutes of Justin Roiland off the leash, on a stream-of-consciousness improve marathon. Rick modifies the Smith’s cable box to access channels across all realities, and the result is a plethora of increasingly bizarre shows and commercials. Most of the episode was animated around whatever Roiland was spouting out. Some highlights: an appliance store run by Ants in My Eyes Johnson, who has ants in his eyes and can’t see, and also has a rare disorder where his nerves don’t register pain, which he details as he leans on an active stove and catches on fire, unaware of both that and the looting of his store. There’s a commercial for an A-Team style movie called Ball Fondlers. You can’t make this up, but Justin Roiland sure as hell can.
The B-plot involves Beth and Jerry, after trying out VR goggles that show them an alternate life trajectory, accidentally revealing to Summer that she was an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. One of the things that Rick and Morty does best is introduce wacky, hilarious sci-fi concepts tinged with nihilistic, painful rumination. “Rixty Minutes” is packed with hilarious randomness, but the fact that Beth and Jerry are in a profoundly broken marriage is something that reverberates across the entire series. A lesser show would be fine with goofing off, but this episode’s interest in exploring their dynamic gives both additional weight to their relationship, and added strength to the humor that distracts from it.
Rest and Ricklaxation
The innate toxicity that defines the titular grandfather-grandson duo is epitomized in “Rest and Ricklaxation.” Following a traumatizing adventure, Rick and Morty decide to have a spa day, which turns out to be a spa day “of sorts” that literally separates their most toxic elements of themselves from their actual selves, banishing the horrible personality traits to an ugly, viscous cavern. There, a hateful, unhinged Rick and a completely timid Morty plot to escape and envelop the entire world in their same level of toxicity, while the real Rick and Morty enjoy a pleasant cadence with their best selves. Of course, their detoxed personas come with the guilt of having rejected their toxicity.
What really cements the episode on this list is the resolution of the episode, in which Rick and Morty accept that those toxic beings of them are part and parcel of who they are, and willfully allow themselves to be reunited with them. It’s a sobering reminder that we can’t get away from our crappy side—but it’s okay that it’s a part of us, as long as we can accept it as a part of us that we can control.
“Pickle Rick” is perhaps the best example of one of Rick’s most toxic character traits: his relentless avoidance of any sort of self-reflection. Beth, Summer, Morty and Rick are scheduled for a family therapy session, but Rick has a plan to opt out: turn himself into a pickle. It’s such a stupid concept on paper, but turns into an odyssey in which Pickle Rick is constantly improvising, cutting a murderous swath through the rats and insects of the sewers, eventually getting embroiled in a violent and action-packed confrontation through a Russian compound. It’s as wild as the most inventive ’90s action movies, and builds to an important piece of character development as he finally ends up in Dr. Wong’s office with his family, and it takes her all of a matter of seconds to pinpoint Rick’s character and politely, therapeutically eviscerate him. A huge part of the episode’s appeal is how the initial setup leads to some of the best-realized action sequences of the show’s entire run, and finally to a significant revelation for Rick.
Meeseeks and Destroy
The first true Rick and Morty classic starts with a simple concept and escalates it to the extreme. The Smiths all need help with mundane things, so instead of actually “doing” anything, Rick does what ends up being his go-to: producing an invention to solve the issue so he doesn’t have to. In this case, it’s the Meeseeks Box: pressing the button will summon a Meeseeks, a cheerful blue humanoid creature that will complete the inquiry before vanishing. Now, the Meeseeks, designed to have a very short life span, will remain in existence until said inquiry is fulfilled. This is no problem for Summer and Beth. However, Jerry, who apparently has yet to succeed at anything in his entire life, cannot have his problem (improve his golf game) resolved. The longer a Meeseeks exists, the more pain it experiences. The frantic Meeseeks summons its own Meeseeks, and everything devolves into a Meeseeks bloodbath culminating in a violent hostage situation. It’s a standard Rick and Morty formula to take an innocuous setup and let the stakes climb to shocking levels, but “Meeseeks and Destroy” arguably proved the formula as a winner.
The Vat of Acid Episode
“The Vat of Acid Episode” starts out pretending to be one of those famous single-location “bottle episodes,” but quickly transforms into something else entirely. It’s a near-perfect trifecta of inventive storytelling, grim character development and terrific humor.
The episode is mostly darkly goofy as Morty takes great pleasure in utilizing the powers vested in him by his new quick save device, but things take an extended and startlingly grim turn as Morty saves his place, and suddenly falls in love and develops a relationship with a girl. They run the gamut of a relationship with all of the peaks and valleys, eventually taking a plane trip that ends in disaster, stranding them in the snowy mountains with no access to the device to reset Morty’s place before the relationship and forcing him to both figure things out on his own and realize his devotion to his relationship. Of course, once Morty’s character develops past these things and gets him to a comfortable place where he is both rescued and ready to live his live with the woman he loves, Jerry mucks it all up by resetting back to before the initial meet-cute. After about a quarter of the episode is spent developing Morty’s relationship with this girl, Jerry’s gaffe is one hell of a gut punch.
And after all of that, it is revealed that by Rick’s design, each “reset” was in fact obliterating a Morty from a different reality, and Morty has had a direct hand in the death of hundreds of his counterparts. This is the second of the one-two punch of this episode’s painfully hilarious revelations. It’s one of the greatest examples of how vindictive and dangerous Rick can be, and it absolutely won’t be the last, but it’s part of what makes this dynamic so engaging.
Never Ricking Morty
I love this episode. Part of it was probably due to a new hit of Rick and Morty following an extended hiatus; moreso it’s that “Never Ricking Morty” hits a specific sweet spot of dismantling the nuts and bolts of what comprises a narrative. I’ve always been someone who likes to understand all of the tiny details, breaking down exactly how things work, and the storytelling process is absolutely part of that interest. “Never Ricking Morty” finds the pair trapped aboard a train set on a circular track, which is a direct reference (and audibly called out) to Harmon’s own narrative structure of the Hero’s Journey comprising a thematic circle. Rick constantly references as such, frequently (and correctly) predicting the narrative beats as well as calling out well-worn narrative tropes such as the Bechdel Test. As he and Morty attempt to “derail the continuity,” the story structure of the train spills out into other elements, such as the ticket collector having a graphically violent conflict of reality in his human form at Blips and Chitz (or is it reality?). It culminates in a wildly meta—and hilariously fan-baiting—finale with Story Lord, which has series arc implications that mean a great deal, or nothing at all. That ambiguity and the way it absolute trolls the more toxic fanbase is what makes it such a palatable piece of meta storytelling.
The Ricklantis Mixup
One of the important ingredients of Rick and Morty is the way teasers are handled. Everything leading up to “The Ricklantis Mixup” in terms of the teasers and even the cold open suggested that Rick and Morty would be going on another wacky adventure to Atlantis. However, that “fun, fresh, self-contained adventure” ends up being a fake-out, as once they set off to the underwater city, the episode turns into “Tales from the Citadel.” At the outset of Season 3, Rick violently eradicated the Citadel of Ricks and laid waste to the city. “Tales from the Citadel” picks up from there, exploring the lives of the other Ricks and Mortys that remain in a Citadel fraught with political turmoil.
“The Ricklantis Mixup” may well be the angriest, most nihilistic episode of the entire series. While the pair’s tendency to inadvertently annihilate the planets they visit is something of a running joke, it’s not often that the resulting ruin is dwelt upon, and rarer still in such minute detail as this. One of the main “tales” is a rookie Rick cop paired with a veteran Morty cop who is bitter, angry and long since discarded his respect for ethics as they make their rounds through the Citadel on the cusp of its first democratic election between a single optimistic Morty and a handful of Ricks. Time is also spent on the symbolic, symbiotic relationship between all Ricks and Mortys. The episode really goes whole-hog on how messed up the Rick and Morty universe is.
One specific detail is so grim that reacting with laughter is almost an uncomfortable reflex: a Rick named Simple Rick works with wood, and treasures his adorable daughter—a scenario that is shown to be a falsehood beamed into the real, catatonic Simple Rick’s mind, and his happiness is harvested as a flavoring for wafers. It’s an interesting dichotomy that while Rick and Morty C-137 are off at Atlantis hooking up with mermaids, each disparate thread on the Citadel ends in death (and handled with far more impact than usual) or misery, with the final shot revealing that the newly-elected Morty is actually Evil Morty himself, in a very well-crafted twist.
“Totall Rickall” is a popular choice for best Rick and Morty episode, and for good reasons. For starters, it is the inception of the greatest modern animated character of our time: Mr. Poopybutthole. In all seriousness, “Total Rickall” is the gold standard of a fast-paced, thematically interesting episode that showcases the madcap creativity of its writing team. A parasite has invaded the Smith home and reproduced, taking the form of random quirky characters and implanting false memories into the heads of the family to convince them that they’ve always been in their life. The caveat: the memories are always positive ones—meaning that the actual living non-parasites can be identified if you can come up with a negative memory of that person being hurtful. It’s a hilariously dark and ingenious wrinkle to have the characters try to imagine the most unpleasant memory of their loved ones to verify their existence. To boot, they have to kill the fake characters that they have no reason to hate, having no negative memories of them and a lifetime of manufactured positive ones. The show has spent plenty of time dwelling on the co-dependent, dysfunctional dynamic that is the Smith family, but making it the lynchpin of an action packed, inventive episode that takes more than one viewing to fully process is what makes it stand tall. Hoo-whee!