It may not have Pickle Rick, but a brush with the consequences of an immortality planet has the show back to doing what it does best.


spoilers for “Rick & Morty” Season 3, Episode 5, “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy.”>

It’s not as elaborate as the premiere, not as recognizable a template as the “Mad Max” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” diversions, nor is it iconic like “Pickle Rick.” But with “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy,” “Rick & Morty” seems to have regained its guiding principles khổng lồ deliver the best episode of Season 3 so far.

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Cutting to the chase in a quick cold open (that finds Jerry doing even worse than we might have previously suspected), Rick drags Jerry from his dismal apartment và on a carefree trip khổng lồ a planet where death is an impossibility. Protected by a shield of immortality, the two of them kick back with various colored beverages, assuming this consequence-free getaway is the recharge that Jerry needs.

Naturally, that plan is quickly torn asunder by the general manager of the restaurant where the two phối up shop. Another collateral victim of Rick’s space misadventures, this exiled ruler turned middle manager convinces Jerry khổng lồ help him in his revenge plot. When Jerry gets cold feet & thwarts the eventual assassination attempt on Rick’s life, the resulting wreckage leaves Rick and Jerry at odds with each other. Getting off the planet khổng lồ safety also gives them the chance to clear the air & give voice to the simmering antipathy that’s always lingered underneath their shared trang chủ life.

Read More:Every Episode of ‘Rick và Morty,’ Ranked

In many ways, it’s a better, more enlightening therapy session than anything that happened in Dr. Wong’s office. Rick admits that he sabotaged Beth và Jerry’s marriage, while Jerry finally comes to lớn terms with his assumptions that things only got worse once Rick was back in the picture.

Venturing back lớn Earth on a transport shuttle, Rick’s would-be killers reemerge và take the two hostage, a plan made all the easier by a neural inhibitor given to lớn Rick while they ventured through security. Seeing Rick robbed of his powers and having it serve a story purpose was a bizarre source of relief, a reassurance that “Rick and Morty” still has ways of exploring different versions of Rick that don’t rely on merely multiplying him or transforming him into a briny vegetable.

It only takes a few seconds of screen time, but no discussion of this episode is complete without a nod khổng lồ the alien child unwittingly murdering their sibling when the immortality field breaks. It’s twisted to lớn say that this is the best indication of the show finding its footing again…but it is. Rather than building out half-hours of story to lớn be “The Episode,” seeing the show get back to lớn those tiny gulps of pitch-black comedy feels like the show regaining that warped sense of humor in incremental doses.

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And the wormhole vision! Jerry’s cosmic tumblers clicking into place is “Rick and Morty” at its most gorgeous non-sequitur impulses. A melding of the subconscious and the transcendental, this rainbow potpourri of impulses và realizations is the only thing that could eclipse the Jemaine Clement-sung “Moonmen” sequence for sheer, unbridled psychedelia.

Back on Earth, the “Honey, I Blew Up Summer” adventures of the remaining members of the Smith family show this group’s strengths và weaknesses with a small fraction of the screen time. Yes, the divorce is taking a toll on Beth — that garish hoof sculpture is somehow more horrific than what she inflicts on Summer.

And much like Morty still faces all the pitfalls of being a teenager, even after becoming a seasoned veteran of interdimensional adventuring, Summer’s “Mad Max” badassery still doesn’t come at the expense of body issues. Small technological gadgetry malfunction is still one of the show’s most reliable sources of hijinks, và to have that come from Summer’s instincts & not just her accidentally stumbling on it in the garage shows that she’s learning more than just how lớn handle a shotgun. (Plus, the engorging device sets up one of the season’s funniest gags, when the split screen tech tư vấn beings trick Beth into releasing them from customer service captivity.)

Even simply as the protective little brother, Morty’s strange new emergence as the voice of reason in a post-Jerry household gets some nice shading in his payback against Ethan. If Morty is going lớn have khổng lồ be the man of the house, he’s going to vì chưng it his way.

Read More: ‘Rick và Morty’ Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Gets a Deadly Twist in ‘Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender’

After escaping the clutches of his captors (that robotic arm contraption, along with the exploding labcoat, brings up far more questions than answers in the best “Rick & Morty” way), Rick & Jerry come to lớn a fresh sense of mutual understanding. But their final front yard farewell is telling. Whenever Rick settles back at trang chủ base, his relationships have a way of reverting back to stasis: distrust, disapproving jabs, and a general air of superiority. But even when an episode affords him the chance lớn make those strides, for every tiny bit of understanding, there are a thousand intergalactic enemies waiting khổng lồ revisit Rick’s sins on anyone in his wake.

While that might not be heartening for the Smith family, that’s good news for the creative direction of the show. Though it’s often excelled when it widens out its scope, “Rick và Morty” hasn’t necessarily needed intricate, grand spectacles to lớn deliver emotionally satisfying, adventure-of-the-week thrills. It built its mythology on unspooling different truths about various corners of the multiverse & reflected that new knowledge back on how we understand the characters who ảo diệu those adventures.

The Smiths aren’t a perfect family, but this is continuing the lurking arc of the season, that these five misfits might actually be better as a unit than a scattered, fractured group. After a handful of episodes that had sidelined some of that understanding in favor of some pop culture riffing & self-referential trips down memory lane, it’s refreshing to lớn see the show going back khổng lồ what it does best: playing with the infinite possibilities of the world it’s meticulously built for itself.