Pickle Rick is the only Rick and Morty episode to be nominated for an Emmy, and it’s easy to see why. It’s probably the episode most quoted by fans and the episode most likely to be considered their favourite. Ultimately it’s one of the best episodes of one of the best science fiction shows ever made.
In this article we look at just what makes Pickle Rick such a special episode. We’ve obviously ignored obvious reasons that could apply to pretty much any Rick and Morty Episode.
Danny Trejo voices Jaguar
Is there a better casting in TV than Danny Trejo voicing a hard as nails action hero/assassin called Jaguar? The character’s lines, all of which are ridiculous action movie lines, are said with typical Trejo intensity. It brings this small pastiche of a character to life, making Jaguar one of the best Rick and Morty cameos.
It finishes with a tribute to therapy
It’s very hard for the main character of a show to not be shown in a sympathetic light. Even if they are a misanthrope who, probably correctly, believes that the rest of humanity is so far below them they may as well be ants.
In many ways Pickle Rick shows Rick at his best. He’s inventive, turning himself into a pickle. He’s resourceful, building himself a working skeleton from first cockroach carcasses then rat bodies. He’s badass, massacring said rats before taking down numerous armed bodyguards. And he does this all himself, without any help from anybody.
This self-reliance is important to Rick. He’s as proud of it as he is his intelligence, and he doesn’t respect those who require help from others.
So, in many ways this episode is the most Rick of all the episodes. It shows him living out his individualistic philosophy in a way that also shows of his awesomeness.
Yet, to truly appreciate the episode the viewer needs to remember the context of Rick’s actions. He’s turned himself into a pickle to avoid therapy with his family. A family that’s falling apart. His daughter is struggling to hold her post-divorce life together, his granddaughter is huffing paint enamel. And, his grandson is wetting himself at his desk.
Yet, Rick would rather turn himself into a pickle than go to therapy to help his family. At the end of the episode he even states his opinion of therapy as a concept to Dr Wong himself:
Because I don’t respect therapy, because I’m a scientist. Because I invent, transform, create, and destroy for a living, and when I don’t like something about the world, I change it. And I don’t think going to a rented office in a strip mall to listen to some agent of averageness explain which words mean which feelings has ever helped anyone do anything.
I think it’s helped a lot of people get comfortable and stop panicking, which is a state of mind we value in the animals we eat, but not something I want for myself. I’m not a cow. I’m a pickle. When I feel like it. So…you asked.
Many shows would have ended the episode here, as a celebration of Rick’s rugged individualism.
Yet, Pickle Rick lets the therapist have her say:
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.
This drives home the point that Rick’s attitude isn’t one we should aspire to. It’s awesome from a distance, but it’s not healthy and it doesn’t help people. After all, as Rick points out in this episode, he’s previously abandoned his own daughter on a world taken over by Cronenburg monsters.
It manages to better the action movies it parodies
For much of episode, Pickle Rick recreates much of the tropes of a bad 80’s action movie. It’s got an indestructible hero (two if you count Jaguar), who relies on nothing but his own wit to overcome some foriegn bad guys.
Yet in three critical ways it’s actually better than the types of movies it parodies:
- It’s one liners are actually funny
- The plot is coherent given it’s own internal logic
- It actually has an emotional punch.
There are of course a few more reasons to love the Pickle Rick episode. It’s surreal, hilarious yet has a jaded heart. But this would go for pretty much all of Rick and Morty, so it’s not worth dwelling on.