This review contains spoilers.
3.7 The Ricklantis Mixup
My deal is that a show can get away with a lot if I’m impressed by the plotting. There have been funnier, more moving, and more devastating episodes than The Ricklantis Mixup, but this was an absolute stunner of a storyline. So, yeah, I loved it.
A bait and switch, this episode is not actually about Rick and Morty’s Atlantis adventure. They do go on one; we just don’t get to see it. Instead, we get to see “Tales from the Citadel.” At the beginning of the season, Rick destroyed the Citadel of Ricks, but it’s now being redeveloped and there are still quite a lot of Ricks and Mortys living out their lives there. The Citadel is revealed to be a much more expansive location than previously shown, with a countryside, an inner city, and a class system.
It makes for an episode that’s kind of like this show’s take on the classic Simpsons episode 22 Short Films About Springfield. At first we seem to be jumping between four separate plotlines, just showing the day-to-day of Citadel Ricks and Mortys. However, what’s really cool is that, though the different plots don’t exactly directly feed into one another, they all dovetail thematically. In each storyline, there’s a Rick or a Morty wishing for a life that the Citadel won’t permit and (with one major exception) they are all beaten by the system.
By the end of The Ricklantis Mixup, a clear picture of the Citadel’s oppressive society and the citizens who suffer under it has been painted. This is remarkable because this is a brand-new setting (we’ve seen the Citadel before but it was never this developed, so it is effectively a new place) filled with completely new characters. Yes, they are all Ricks and Mortys and our understanding of the core qualities of these characters goes some way towards making the episode work. But I’d argue this actually makes it an even greater feat of writing. Since every Rick and every Morty is functionally the same character, each plot must distinguish them all enough to make them feel like they’re not.
This is done, at least in part, by tapping into some tropes in charming and clever ways. The four Mortys who decide to go on an adventure to make their last day at Morty School memorable is a classic coming-of-age movie tale, a la Stand By Me. My personal favorite storyline is the Training Day-esque one following a rookie Rick cop and his jaded, corrupt Morty partner. I can just see the writers realising how much funnier (and messed up) it’d be to go with a jaded Morty character rather than the far more obvious jaded Rick. It works brilliantly.
As I’ve mentioned, there have been funnier episodes this season but I still laughed out loud quite a few times throughout this one. “You’re pitching the policeman’s ball to a black teenager here” is a wonderful analogy. It’s really funny that “aw, jeez” is Morty street slang. And that one Morty’s wish that “incest porn had a more mainstream appeal… for a friend of mine” hilariously came out of nowhere.
Finally, the kicker of this episode is the twist at the end: the return of Evil Morty. The only weakness here is that I guessed the twist the moment it was suggested there was a big, bad secret about presidential candidate Morty. However, it still succeeded as a cool, dramatic reveal regardless, helped immensely by the reuse of Blonde Redhead’s For The Damaged Coda. It’s a kick-ass, haunting track and it’s awesome it’s now officially Evil Morty’s theme.
The Ricklantis Mixup drew us into an entirely new setting full of lots of new characters and made it all work. This is one of the best-written episodes the series has ever done and, to top it all off, it was the reintroduction of the show’s most interesting and formidable antagonist. Great stuff.