Vindicators Was The Worst Episode Of Rick And Morty

Rick and Morty season 3 is now over, and work on the next season won’t even start until Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland run out of cocaine money, so you probably won’t be having another blog post from me on the subject for a very long while. Probably never, actually, since once I finish my initial commitment to this whole “blog post every day for a year” thing I am very unlikely to renew it, since it mainly just resulted in lots of filler content like this.

Today, though, I’m still five months out from the finish line and my contempt for certain sections of the Rick and Morty fanbase has not waned, so let’s have another filler post shitting on them.

So, this post is actually more shitting on an episode of the show itself for a change, because Vindicators really was kind of rubbish. Establishing that Morty has gotten completely jaded to Rick’s shenanigans was good and pretty much every scene that revolved primarily around that worked. The problem is, that was intercut with lots of scenes of Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy/general superhero criticism that fell completely flat. The show set up the Avengers (et al) for a takedown, but then introduced us to characters so unlike the Avengers that it doesn’t really work at all.

Rick admits (accidentally) early on that his Saw-inspired traps are hacky and they don’t really deliver at all. The closest drunk Rick comes to actually prompting revelation or conflict is in the first trap, when he has his bit about all the Vindicators being fundamentally the same, a bit that doesn’t even work because we know nothing about the backstories of the Vindicators themselves and so can’t judge whether his criticism is accurate to them, and the criticism as applied to the Avengers just doesn’t work. The traits that are supposed to apply to all of the characters apply to less than half the Avengers each, and when other hero teams do worse it’s usually one of those traits is part of their premise. None of the Guardians of the Galaxy or Suicide Squad play well with others, because they’re bands of misfits who met in prison (even then, Groot’s plenty team-oriented and Harley Quinn and Deadshot are pretty chummy with the rest of the Squad even though they’re hostile to the leadership).

Tragic origin? Iron Man, Hulk, and (sort of) Black Widow have tragic origins, Hawkeye, Captain America, Thor, and Nick Fury do not. Expanding things out to the full Civil War roster, Black Panther, Spider-Man (implicitly), Scarlet Witch, and Winter Soldier join the list of people who have tragic origins, and War Machine, Falcon, Ant-Man, and Vision join the list of people who do not. Unless “tragic origin” means “something has ever gone wrong in this person’s life,” in which case it fails as a criticism because everyone experiences tragedy at some point in their life.

Super power also a burden? Hulk, Winter Soldier and Spider-Man consider their powers a burden, in the latter two cases only as a direct result of their tragic origin. Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Panther, and Scarlet Witch are somewhere between comfortable with and stoked to have their powers. Even if you punt out Hawkeye, Nick Fury, and Black Widow on account of not having powers and insist on Scarlet Witch counting as “powers a burden” because she accidentally killed some people with them that one time, that’s still five Avengers who consider their powers a burden versus four who do not, barely half and that’s by being extraordinarily generous by disqualifying a quarter of the team from the lineup and extrapolating “powers are a burden” from “sometimes weapons cause civilian casualties.”

The only ones that work are “uses powers responsibly” (even then, Iron Man is a clear exception and Black Panther was in it for revenge) and “never gives up,” which, like, who wants to watch a movie about someone who constantly has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the plot? Or about someone who just walks out on the plot? That’s not a movie, that’s one gag. You can set up a scene on it. You can set up a bait and switch like Tales From the Citadel, where an apparent protagonist walks out on the plot and then it turns out the actual protagonist is someone else. You can’t plot a whole movie around it. As an attempt to criticize all super heroes as being fundamentally the same, this particular Saw trap is a total failure.

The next trap is a drunken ramble about Israel, but it does provoke the revelation that the Vindicators killed a planet to catch a bad guy rather than swallow their pride and ask Rick for help. That is neither something any of the Avengers would do nor something that a remotely reasonable deconstruction of the Avengers would do. What kind of person kills an entire planet rather than ask an asshole they don’t like for help? Sure, lots of people will do terrible things for a shiny nickel, but you do in fact have to offer them the nickel. People do not generally have an “eh, fuck it” approach to personally exterminating billions of lives, despite what naive teenagers who think they’re edgy and jaded would have you think.

Then the rest of the team gets killed because of interpersonal conflicts that have nothing to do with anything Rick did. At best, you might consider this a version of Civil War or Batman vs. Superman (i.e. ultimately petty personal drama being escalated to violence) concluding with someone actually dying. That’s fair, but it also serves as a criticism of two movies, one of which is already reviled by the general superhero audience, and doesn’t apply to the majority of the genre. Similarly, Vance Maximus’ breakdown and subsequent death get in a decent shot at Iron Man’s alcoholism and sort of by extension Star Lord’s impulsive hedonism, drawing attention to how they don’t get anywhere near as far in depicting how destructive these issues are as Rick and Morty does, but that’s mainly just a shot at Iron Man, and while Iron Man is the most popular of the Avengers, he is only an Avenger. You can’t claim to be criticizing the entire super hero genre of movies if the only shots that land are ones aimed at a total of four of the sixteen movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, maybe six if you want to give the two Guardians movies to them for their inclusion of Star Lord or Rocket Raccoon (not that either of them are supposed to be alcoholics, just generally impulsive and hedonistic). Again, they’re batting at less than half.

The blows land far more reliably on the DC Cinematic Universe, but only because the DC Cinematic Universe wants every hero in their roster to be Batman. They’re hacks and tremendously less popular, and the Vindicators are clearly aimed at the actual leaders of the genre over at Marvel. They’re meant to be a parody and criticism of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy first and foremost, and they consistently fail in that regard.

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