Appearing in the 9th episode of the 1st season of “Rick and Morty” titled “Something Went Wrong”, the Oil Robot is perhaps as close as the franchise has come to embodying Rick’s nihilistic view of the universe in a single moment. However, the joke got even darker when the franchise killed a tiny robot, sprinkling salt on the wound of its unambiguous existence.
An oil robot is exactly what it looks like—a small robot that Rick creates to pass him oil at the family dinner table. Cruelly speaking, Rick gives the little robot enough intelligence to think about his purpose in life. When the robot asks its creator for an answer, Rick answers: “You pass the oil,” and the robot looks at his hands before muttering, “Oh, my God.” Rick answers: “Welcome to the club, buddy,” communicating his view of the universe as a functionally meaningless set of random events, where at best there is no sense of purpose, and at worst it is crushingly disappointing.
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However, this is not the last time fans of the franchise have seen an Oil Robot. In “Rick and Morty #50” (from Kyle Starks, Mark Ellerby, Sarah Stern and many other creators), the comic book series returns to the format of “Morty’s Mind Fuses”, where Morty discovers unbearable memories extracted by Rick. out of his mind, so he will be ready to continue the adventure. One such flashback is the death of an Oil Robot who is trying to help free Rick and Morty while they are under guard in an alien prison.
In this flashback, it turns out that Morty adopted an Oil Robot after his television debut, teaching him that, contrary to his plan, he can do whatever he wants. The oil robot is filled with a new purpose, seeing Morty as a hero and even copying his hesitant speech. Unfortunately, as soon as the Oil Robot actually tries to help, it is immediately crushed by the foot of the couple’s alien guard, and Rick points out that this was an obvious result, since the robot was designed solely for oil transfer.
The death of the Oil Robot is grim, but it is also the perfect complement to its “birth”. Rick and Morty’s original joke about the oil robot was about how demoralizing it is to meet your creator and find out that you don’t have a great goal. However, with his death, the Oil Robot overcame this disappointment and is trying to determine the meaning for himself… only to be destroyed, because he really is not capable of much other than his original intent. This is an existentially terrifying end to a melancholic character, as he is defeated twice because of his frustrating goal- first because he lacks some more important reason to exist, and then because he cannot achieve something more.
“Rick and Morty” have never been afraid to put very dark messages into their jokes, but the tragic birth and death of an Oil Robot are not inferior to the toughest arguments of the franchise about the human condition. it just lacks an innate sense of meaning, but even creating that meaning may ultimately be impossible.