Pickle Rick will go down as one of the best episodes ever of Rick and Morty for its violent absurdity and mindful reflection. Rick proves his mettle as the world’s most badass pickle when he MacGyvers his way through evil rat-infested sewers and hordes of henchmen. I’d take John Wick vs. Pickle Rick over McGregor vs. Mayweather any day of the week. Look past the ridiculousness and you will find at least three poignant themes in this episode: stoicism, choice, and avoidance.
Rick embodies the stoic spirit of resourcefulness, turning a shitty circumstance into a less shitty one. Much of stoic teaching revolves around focusing on what is in your control and accepting what isn’t. For stoics, the obstacle becomes the way, through perception, action, and will.
Rick may have turned himself into a helpless pickle, but he still perceives his predicament as a test, as opposed to a death sentence. He takes action and manages to kill everything in his path. He forges an exoskeleton out of the very rats trying to end his life, escapes the sewer, then firefights his way out of a guarded fortress while making an ally (Jaguar) out of an enemy along the way. Rick’s sheer will to win helped him take out all of his enemies. If that isn’t stoic, I don’t know what is. Props to Pickle Rick.
Dr. Wong drops some “real talk” at the therapy session ultimately pinning the family’s problems on the choices of Beth and Rick. Beth lies to cover for Rick. Rick lies to get out of therapy. He literally puts himself in a pickle by turning himself into a pickle.
Dr. Wong addresses Rick:
“Everyone in your family uses intelligence to justify sickness. You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse… 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 you 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. Some people are ok going to work and some would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.”
Dr. Wong (voiced by Susan Sarandon) drops a bomb that hit me harder than anything else on this tv show had. You have to put in the boring, monotonous work to maintain some of the most important things in your life. It’s not pretty, but it must be done. You can’t stop sweeping the floor just because the dust will be back tomorrow.
You either choose to do the dirty work boring as it may be, or avoid what you know must be done. Life is best when order and chaos are balanced. Avoidance always leads to too much chaos in the long run. Rick is avoiding accepting responsibility over his mind and choosing to live a meaningful life. Beth is avoiding her own shortcomings in a failed marriage. Both of these choices are catalysts for the kids fucking up in school. Unfortunately, Beth and Rick fail to acknowledge the effects of their choices and ignore Morty and Summer's wishes to see Dr. Wong again.
Our choices echo through eternity no matter how mundane they might seem. Choose the work you know you need to do.