Rick and Mondays – S3E3 “Pickle Rick”

An insane concept somehow becomes not just a great episode, but one of the most fun episodes of the series.

SUMMARY

Rick (Justin Roiland) turns himself into a pickle in order to avoid going to therapy with Beth (Sarah Chalke), Morty (Roiland), and Summer (Spencer Grammer). It turns out that Summer has been huffing enamel and Morty has wet himself in class, so the school has mandated they attend some form of treatment. Rick claims just to have forgotten about therapy and changed himself into a pickle in order to prove he could, but Morty quickly spots a syringe rigged to turn Rick back to normal after the family leaves. Rick says that it’s nothing, so Beth takes the syringe and leaves. A cat knocks Pickle Rick off the table and onto the outside sidewalk where he almost dies until it starts to rain and washes him into the sewer. He manages to kill a cockroach with his mouth, the only part of his body he can move, then uses his tongue to manipulate its corpse.

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To be fair, he drank enough to pickle himself already.

At counseling, the Smiths meet Dr. Wong (Susan Sarandon), who, rather than listen to Beth’s attempts to make the session about Morty’s pants-wetting and Summer’s enamel-huffing, immediately makes the session about Rick’s impact on Beth and the family. Beth perpetually attempts to defend Rick as a genius and that he didn’t try to avoid counselling, but Dr. Wong and the kids both keep rebutting her. Dr. Wong eventually points out that Beth’s relationship with Rick leads her to punish vulnerability and emotional connections, something that wrecked her marriage and may be hurting her children. Beth just responds with “F*ck you.”

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This is actually a grown up Janet Weiss.

Rick, in the sewers, manages to kill enough cockroaches to build a primitive exoskeleton which he uses to build a number of complex mechanisms that give him a techno-organic body composed mostly of rat parts. He kills a number of rats and then escapes the sewers through a toilet which is revealed to be inside of a Russian facility, likely a spy agency posing as an embassy. The agents attack Rick, who starts to kill them off despite being a pickle using rat limbs. The Director (Peter Serafinowicz) discovers that his forces are not able to stop “Solen’ya,” a pickle-man figure from Russian mythology that Rick resembles, and recruits captive freedom-fighter Jaguar (Danny Trejo) to do the job.

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Why he has a British Accent is unclear.

At therapy, Dr. Wong and Beth continue being at odds, with Beth claiming that Dr. Wong is trying to just avoid addressing the divorce and the kids. Ultimately, Beth does talk a little bit about Rick after some manipulation by Dr. Wong, admitting she admires Rick for not needing anyone.

Rick is confronted by Jaguar, who is apparently fighting because the Director has his daughter hostage. The two fight, sustaining brutal damage, until Rick appears to win. The Director offers Rick a fortune and reveals that Jaguar’s daughter is dead. Rick refuses and the Director kills the other employees before trying to flee, only to find Rick and Jaguar waiting for him. Rick blows the building up, killing him, as Jaguar takes him to the therapy session. Along the way, Jaguar tells Rick to tell Beth he loves her, but Rick responds that they don’t really do that and admits he even abandoned his original Beth.

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These two are both insane.

Rick arrives at therapy and admits that the syringe Beth took is an anti-pickle serum and he lied. Dr. Wong asks why he did it and Rick asserts that he doesn’t think therapy matters and that it’s counterproductive to his lifestyle, basically trying to own Dr. Wong with his intellect. Dr. Wong proceeds to deliver a blow far more devastating than Jaguar ever could have, saying:

Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control. You chose to come here, you chose to talk -to belittle my vocation- just as you chose to become a pickle.

You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces. Your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

Each of us gets to choose.

The family then leaves, with Beth and Rick trying to play down what just happened and make a small amount of amends to each other and Morty and Summer asking about going back, seeming to think that it actually WAS helping. However, ultimately Beth and Rick decide to grab a drink rather than contemplate what Dr. Wong said.

END SUMMARY

There’s an episode of Doctor Who where River Song (Alex Kingston) describes an event as the moment that the Doctor rises higher than ever before and then falls so much further. This is Rick’s version of that. Throughout the episode, we are shown exactly how amazing Rick is. He turns himself into a pickle, something that is impossible on a hundred different levels, then manages, as a pickle, to survive being in the sewers, moving his way rapidly up both the technological and literal food chain, until finally he takes out a building full of mercenaries while still being a combination of pickle and rat parts. This whole sequence is, to an audience, absolutely amazing. He even says “I love myself” after murdering a giant rat in single combat.

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This is Rick celebrating his killing of a group of rats that were not really a threat to him.

That’s why it’s so amazing when Dr. Wong just flat-out tells him that everything he has just done is all a sign of his illness and his reckless desire to live on the edge rather than just be happy or healthy. Rick tells her that he’s a scientist and that when he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t learn to accept it, he just changes it, and he compares people who accept things to cattle, but Wong counters that the thing Rick refuses to change is actually himself.

S3E3 - 6RickWong
People worship the pickle-rat man but not the woman who destroys him.

This is something that the show really does appear to be trying to convey to everyone, particularly fans of Rick: Rick’s not healthy, Rick’s not happy, Rick’s not a good person, and even if he does appear to be a bad-ass at times, the only reason he does anything is because he’s trying to avoid dealing with himself. Despite his claims of being superior and intellectually dominating, even trying to belittle Dr. Wong, Rick is constantly on the edge of dying just because he can’t handle the simple act of talking about his feelings. Rick even points out that he abandoned his daughter and replaced her with another version without really caring about it. He’s a miserable asshole.

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Yeah, remember this?

In terms of story structure, this episode is nearly perfect. We get to watch Beth’s futile attempts to fight back against Dr. Wong’s psychoanalysis intercut with Rick’s progressive victories over the rats and the agents gives both more emphasis. We finally see her start to make a little growth when she forces Rick to tell him what’s in the syringe, just as he starts his decline at the hands of Dr. Wong. However, as part of the “darkest season,” the episode ends with Rick and Beth both choosing to learn nothing from what just happens and instead go get drunk. It’s the same kind of wonderful rejection of traditional character progression that the show does so well.

Frankly, this is one of the best episodes of this show. Its only major drawback is that it leads so many people to shout “Pickle Riiiick” to the point that you want to smash their face in with a sledgehammer.

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Also, I won a Pickle Rick.

Joker’s Theory Corner

Dr. Wong specializes in Family Counseling and Coprophagia Recovery. The episode could have just made this a background joke, but instead repeatedly informs us of what this means: Eating sh*t. Dr. Wong is helping people stop eating sh*t. We even have Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson) asking the Smiths how long they’ve been eating poop.

S3E3 - 8GoldenFold
Awkward level: 9001

Two things are notable about this gag. First, while Dr. Wong is technically helping Mr. Goldenfold and others like him stop eating literal crap, she’s also trying to help Beth stop taking sh*t from Rick, metaphorically. Beth is constantly manipulated by Rick and, more tragically, she is completely aware of it but chooses to ignore it out of fear that he’ll leave again if she doesn’t. She’s metaphorically eating shit and liking it because she doesn’t want to admit she could do better. This doesn’t really have a theory attached, I just love the analogy.

Second, Dr. Wong has enough patients with coprophagia to merit a specialization, a book of coprophagics, and even a different motivational poster for her lobby. Normally, coprophagia almost exclusively affects people with Pica or Schizophrenia, and even then only a relatively small percentage of those groups, so how many patients could she possibly be seeing? Well, note that I said “normally.” See, there’s one potential circumstance that could drive a number of people to coprophagia… being forced to live in the sewers during an alien invasion that lasted months.

In the season premiere, we see Goldenfold lead a group of people to try to reclaim the surface from the aliens by rising from the sewers. Presumably, these people might have been living in the sewers for a long time… sewers that were full of poop. Yes, it’s disgusting, but I think that a number of people in the city probably were forced to survive on alien dung and developed coprophagia. Enough to give Dr. Wong a second specialty.

LEAVING THE CORNER

Overall, I give this episode an

A

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS – 23: RickMancing the Stone

NEXT – 25: Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender

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Prime Review – The Tick: Seasons 1 and 2 (Spoiler-Free for Season 2)

Probably the most beloved superhero spoof of all time got his second (Patrick Warburton’s was short lived) live-action adaptation and it is filled with the sweet stench of mighty blue justice.

SUMMARY

Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman) is a mild-mannered accountant… except that he’s not particularly mild-mannered, more neurotic and borderline PTSD. When he was young, his father was killed by the world’s greatest supervillain The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), who then singled him out for torment before eventually being apparently killed by the world’s mightiest superhero, Superian (Brendan Hines). Arthur believes the Terror is still alive and sets out to prove it, before running into a giant blue man known only as The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz). The Tick is amnesiac, super-strong, nigh-invulnerable, overly-dramatic, and pretty much insane, but with a good heart and a desire for justice. The Tick gifts Arthur with an experimental flying suit he found in a warehouse and, after some initial complications, Arthur agrees to become his sidekick. Together, the two dive into the world of superheroes and supervillains, encountering the villainous Miss Lint (Yara Martinez), the violent anti-hero Overkill (Scott Speiser) and his sidekick Dangerboat (Alan “I’m amazing” Tudyk), Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry), and culminating in them gaining fame for helping defeat the still-alive Terror.

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He is very abdominal in this episode.

The second season focuses on the Tick and Arthur dealing with the return of the government agency A.E.G.I.S., the best S.H.I.E.L.D. knock-off on film so far, and trying to find their place in the new order.

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He also does the funniest costume change on film.

END SUMMARY

This show is one of the few Amazon Prime shows that were picked up based on their pilot and I don’t think I can tell you how happy that made me. It makes me even happier to say that they really fixed some of the problems that were present in the pilot almost immediately. See, the pilot’s core joke was basically “what if we stuck The Tick in a gritty reboot, but we didn’t make the Tick gritty or serious?” Admittedly, that premise was funny and every second The Tick was on film was amazing, particularly him dealing with realistic criminals in his goofy manner. The only problem was that the world itself was just a hair TOO gritty. One of the best parts of every version of The Tick is the other goofy characters that populate it. The show quickly managed to fill that void with a bunch of great supporting characters, many of whom are comical exaggerations of the “gritty” superhero image, particularly Overkill.

Tick2 - 3Overkill.jpg
He has to talk in a deep, gravely voice or his Alexa doesn’t recognize him.

The first season was flat-out hilarious to me once it found its rhythm, although it did take a few episodes to really get it. Griffin Newman and Valorie Curry both subtly adjusted their characters to fit a little better within the post-pilot world the show was developing. Arthur became more similar to his animated counterpart, though with a lot more realism and backstory, while Dot became a badass. Jackie Earle Haley, on the other hand, played the perfect self-indulgent villain from start to finish. I think few things will ever stick with me as well as his line “You don’t kill people because they call you names; you kill them because it’s fun.” It’s literally the most evil but also surprisingly reasonable thing you can say: Evil should be about enjoyment whether it’s at the expense of others or not. After all, why be evil if it’s not fun?

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He literally stops in the middle of a mass murder to harass a child. For fun.

I will say that there are two things in the pilot which did convince me that the show had a lot of potential. The first is the scene of The Tick effortlessly defeating a bunch of warehouse thugs while using his typical goofy dialogue. Second, at the end of the episode, The Tick is monologuing about his future with Arthur as superheroes and says “Destiny’s got her hand way up in their puppets.” That’s basically the perfect line for The Tick’s very specific brand of insanity and spoofing.

Tick2 - 5Destiny
Even the hero poses are perfectly exaggerated. 

The Second Season has the advantage of being able to introduce more of the bizarre and goofy characters that we were looking for because the world has now been expanded enough for someone to just randomly appear with superpowers. They also having a running plotline about coercion that plays out very well.

Overall, I love this show. It’s just a solid spoof of superheroes, particularly gritty reboots. Peter Serafinowicz is a treasure and is just as good in the role as Patrick Warburton was (though that show’s writing was nowhere near the level of this one, Warburton was amazing). If you’ve got a Prime subscription and love comedy, just power through the first 2-3 episodes and then get ready for a great time.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Shaun of the Dead: Don’t Want to Live, Don’t Want to Die

So, it’s happening. I’m doing all of Edgar Wright’s movies, though I guess not in any particular order. There aren’t that many, since Fistful of Fingers never got distributed and he got kicked off of Ant-Man, and I probably won’t review Spaced unless it’s requested. I do like the show, though not as much as the subsequent films, I just am already regretting the shows I’m currently set to review… especially since I plan on doing an actual live review of the next season of Doctor Who. But, for now, I’ve got some more amazing movies by a visionary director to review.

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You should see him do “Blue Steel.”

This was the first of the Cornetto Trilogy and also the least-earning one at $30 Million, though on a $6 Million budget, it still was profitable… though it earned less money that year than Christmas with the Kranks, Fat Albert, or Catwoman, a fact that should kill your soul.

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For many reasons.

Slight format change: I’m putting a synopsis here, and a full summary after the “read more” page, so you can just read the analysis and not have to wade through the movie. If you want the summary, just go to the bottom and read it first. Let me know if you think this is better.

ShaunOfTheDead-5ShaunWink.jpg

SYNOPSIS

Shaun Riley (Simon Pegg) gets dumped by his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), because he’s so dispassionate about life that he only wants to drink at the same pub, the Winchester, with his slovenly roommate, Ed (Nick Frost). Shaun decides he’s going to get his life together, but unfortunately he’s been missing the fact that the zombie apocalypse has come. Shaun and Ed form a plan to get his mom, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), kill his step-dad Philip (Bill Nighy) who has been bitten, rescue Liz, and head to the Winchester.

ShaunOfTheDead-3ShaunEd.jpg
Who you gonna call?

However, things don’t go as planned. Shaun can’t bring himself to kill Philip, Liz brings along her flatmates David and Dianne (Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis), Ed screws up most of the plans by being reckless and irresponsible, Barbara is bitten, and Philip becomes a zombie. They finally make it to the pub, but are surrounded by hordes of zombies. Eventually, David, Dianne, and Barbara are killed, Ed is bitten, and Shaun and Liz prepare to go out fighting, but are rescued by the military. Six months later, Shaun and Liz are engaged and Shaun keeps zombie Ed in the shed to hang out with, their relationship mostly unchanged.

ShaunOftheDead-4ZombieEd

END SYNOPSIS

Something painfully occurred to me during this re-watch: In terms of re-watchability, this is the worst of the Cornetto Trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to watch again, but Edgar Wright’s films are notoriously good to watch a second, third, or tenth time. Hell, the other two movies in the trilogy, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, are arguably BETTER when you see them a second time. This one is about the same. Still good, but about the same.

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Good, I got to re-use this.

Part of that is that this movie has less of the foreshadowing and repetition that are in the other two films, because this was the first one. Sure, they’re in the film and they’re done great, but they just aren’t as polished as they are in the others. But, none of that makes this film any less amazing, because when you consider that this is an underfunded first outing of a director who had previously only done television, this is basically watching Babe Ruth’s first home run.

ShaunOfTheDead-6ShaunEdWright
Or some cricket guy’s first cricket home run in a cricket game

Like the best zombie movies, the point of the movie is to use zombies as a metaphor. In Night of the Living Dead it’s Vietnam-era America (and a dash of racism from the living), in Dawn of the Dead it’s consumerism, in Day of the Dead it’s a lack of communication, in Land of the Dead it’s the nature of power to eventually be countered, and in Dead Alive it’s so that someone can kick ass for the Lord (if you don’t get this reference, ask me to review the movie). Shaun of the Dead actually takes it a step further and just points out that so many people are effectively already zombies that the actual zombification is really secondary. Hell, at the end, Noel (Rafe “I was the bad guy in Jurassic World 2” Spall), the jerk that worked with Shaun, is basically doing the same job now that he’s a zombie.

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Tie, collar, what’s the difference?

Shaun feels the way that many people feel. He’s given up doing anything he’s passionate about (like his deejaying) because he has bills to pay. He instead chooses to just do the same thing over and over again, drinking with Ed and Liz at the same bar, never trying to be stimulated, because when you know your dreams are dead, what the hell’s the point in doing anything else? And, like many of us, he’s just existing, he’s not really living. He’s not depressed or suicidal, he’s just dispassionate and doesn’t know what to do since he can’t do the thing that he actually wanted. It’s like most people whose passions are art or theater but aren’t lucky enough to do them for a living, you end up just working a job to keep a roof over your head, and you don’t want to dedicate all the energy for a hobby. You know that you could, but you also know it’d be super hard for little reward, so you don’t, and then you’re even more miserable by choice.

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Pictured: Not zombies, yet.

To summarize: You’re not living, but you’re not dead.

I’m going to add a clip from the show Steven Universe here, because there is a song that perfectly encapsulates what I’m saying.

The key to the movie is stated by Liz at the end: ” You did something. That’s what counts.” When Shaun actually starts to do something instead of just going through the motions, everything goes wrong, which is exactly the thing that most people fear so much that it stops them from doing anything. But, that’s also exactly what allows Shaun to start being a more complete person at the end of the movie. He hasn’t stopped hanging out with Ed, hasn’t stopped going to the Winchester, but he’s also doing other things that have some risk and discomfort. And that’s how you really feel alive.

As for the technical qualities of the movie itself, the foreshadowing and repeated dialogue is amazing, partially because it almost all functions as clever wordplay and partially because recontextualizing things is an easy way to convey meaning by inherently drawing comparisons. The big one is Ed’s speech about what they’ll do the next day:

“… Have a Bloody Mary first thing. Get a bite at The King’s Head. Grab a couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang! We’re up at the bar for shots. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”

Aside from Ed’s speech telling the plot of the movie (Bloody Mary is the first zombie they kill, a bite at the King’s head is Philip getting bitten, grab a couple at the little princess is picking up David, Dianne, and Liz, back to the Winchester for shots is… self-explanatory), there’s also Ed telling his other roommate Pete (Peter “I’m the Tick” Serafun… Seramichelle… Serafinowicz)  that the next time he sees him he’s dead and Pete telling Ed to live in the shed.

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He died doing what he loved: Being naked.

The repetition is pretty great, too. Shaun’s dialogue to Ed when he’s playing the game is mirrored with Ed saying the same to Shaun when he’s shooting zombies. There’s a shot in the beginning of the film when Shaun closes his bathroom mirror and Pete is there as a jump-scare parody, which later is duplicated with the zombie Pete. “You’ve got red on you” naturally takes on two meanings. Shaun’s walk to the bodega near his house is similar both times, except the second time the apocalypse has happened. When Shaun tells David to turn the jukebox off, he says “kill the Queen,” (because the song is by Queen) which becomes a conflict when David tries to kill Barbara, who, as the King’s wife, would be the Queen. Additionally, almost every character seen in the first half becomes a zombie in the second.

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Before and After the Night of the Living Dead

Another hallmark of the film is that there are sharp, dramatic cuts with powerful sound effects for the most mundane things, like adjusting a tie or washing hands. Like with the repeated dialogue, this actually helps to convey the metaphor by saying that the scenes that normally would feature the zombies feature the mundane aspects of Shaun’s life.

There are tons of references to other zombie and horror movies, with businesses being named for George Romero, Lucio Fulci, John Landis, and their films. Much like in the original Night of the Living Dead, the zombies are never actually explained, although the proposed causes are borrowed from other zombie movies.

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An A-Mary-can Werewolf in London.  Shut up, I laughed, you should too.

Other than that, the movie’s just funny as hell. Every performance is pretty much spot on, although I have a special love for Penelope Wilton as Barbara. She was always so gentle and loving that it was honestly heartbreaking to watch Shaun kill her.

Also, last thing, I finally looked up what Noel’s dialogue means when he says he only has an “Henry.” That’s Cockney rhyming slang for pot, because it’s Henry the Eighth -> An Eighth of Pot. Cockney rhyming slang is always fun.

Well, two down, 3 to go.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

If you want to read the Summary, click below:

Continue reading Shaun of the Dead: Don’t Want to Live, Don’t Want to Die