After a not-so-great adventure involving a fake vat of acid, Morty goads Rick into inventing a save spot that allows people to save their progress in real life and reset if they want to. Morty, of course, has fun with this not realizing that there is a price to pay later down the road.
This is what I love Rick and Morty for: High concept ideas with below the belt humor and a story that you can never really predict. “The Vat of Acid Episode” is the best episode to come out of the show in the last couple of seasons. It didn’t feel pandering, it didn’t feel like it was trying to wallow in how smart it was, it just had good old classic Rick and Morty fun with a whacked out concept rooted in nihilism and mean-spiritedness… but in a way that is fun to watch and not uncomfortable.
Basically, this episode was Rick’s long con into keeping Morty in line and, when you look at it that way, it’s incredibly dark… darker than you would have thought. The entire point of the episode was to basically trap Morty in a hell of his own choosing and then use it against him later when the consequences catch up. It’s not an idea that is overthought or overly analytical, it’s just Rick being a jerk in a roundabout way.
I wouldn’t call the episode “brillant,” but it was smartly written. What appears to be a collection of seemingly unrelated gags involving Morty’s reset button all culminate and gel together nicely and the prolonged sequence of Morty finding the love of his life and the plane crash and aftermath was actually very deep, showing that Morty valued it enough that he chose not to rest things when he had the chance, choosing to stick with the scenario no matter how bad it got because he would rather have love and suffer than have no love at all. The end of that sequence, both sudden and expected, was both heartbreaking and hilarious… another consequence of the curse that Morty had no idea he was living under.
Moreover, I think that “The Vat of Acid Episode” shows us that Rick, though he would never say it out loud, craves acceptance from Morty. He craves the adoration and the awe and only becomes agitated when he realizes that Morty has no intention of giving in to that desire. Perhaps Rick is more needy than we believed him to be? Of course, this makes the ending all that much more dark because, if this is the case, Rick is abusive. Not borderline abusive, but just out and out abusive.
But, anyway, this is the kind of Rick and Morty adventure I’ve been waiting for. The season so far hasn’t been my favorite, though it hasn’t been bad by any measure, but this is the best episode in a long, long while.