‘Rick & Morty:’ Terrifying & Terrific
Matt McMahon | Monday, March 17, 2014
The Adult Swim animated series “Rick and Morty,” created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon of Channel 101, began its first season in early December of last year. After a break during the Winter Olympics, the show returned on March 10th to finish up the back half of its first season run. Only a few weeks into its airing, Adult Swim renewed the series for a second season, and high ratings in its timeslot ensure that the show will continue to be around for a while.
“Rick and Morty” centers around a crackpot scientist, Rick, and the outlandish, technology-influenced misadventures of he and his unsure, nervous grandson, Morty. The concept comes from Roiland’s disturbing animated short positing what “Back to the Future” might have been like if Doc Brown were a child molester. Scaling back from that crude, one-note parody and steering away from the movie series in general, Roiland and Harmon developed the show for an interested Adult Swim. Together, they combine the former’s familiarity with weird fantasy from his work on “Adventure Time” with the latter’s penchant for somber heart in wacky comedies, showcased throughout his live action sitcom “Community.”
The duo’s unique backgrounds and expertise have aligned immediately, given the strength of the first seven episodes. “Rick and Morty” tends to tackle some fairly deep ethical and moral dilemmas concerning highly advanced, perhaps manipulative, sciences. The show has already dealt with hyper-intelligent pet dogs overtaking their owners, a controlling, fully matriarchal society, an all-consuming love potion and the extorting of a homeless person’s internal body for a profitable amusement park, just to name a few scenarios.
In one of the best episodes so far, Rick introduces his family — each member already well-developed and three-dimensional — to a being that can be created to complete any simple command, after which it ceases to exist. When one of these beings — called a Meeseeks — cannot help Morty’s father better his golf game, the Meeseeks creates another one to help out; this quickly escalates and a group of Meeseeks have an existential crisis about their existences. The writers raise unsettling complications in most of the stories involving these distant, sci-fi inventions, going further than simply offering them up as comical ideas.
Still, the show is not only smart, but it is also uproariously funny. Even better, the humor does not solely come from the wit regarding the imagination and execution of the scientific premises. The main characters are being fleshed out, contributing to laughs as a result of understanding the tendencies and history of Rick, Morty and the rest of the household. Furthermore, in the vein of any Adult Swim series, the writers mix the low-brow humor of Rick burping consistently while speaking, with such high-ingenuity concepts as multi-tiered simulations run by aliens attempting to dupe the titular characters — aliens that, still, have an absolute fear of nakedness, resulting in the duo running around in the nude for much of the episode.
While rather demented and crude, the show manages to display its heart when necessary. In fact, it does so in a stark manner often not seen in any television series, let alone a ridiculous, animated show for adults. Particularly, this realistic melancholy comes from the relationships between the show’s five family members. Morty’s parents have their issues as husband and wife, and Rick’s ongoing endeavors surrounding their family only act to exacerbate them. With all the sci-fi notions, these character beats and conflicts remain believable due to strong voice acting, animation and writing, and they help to ground even the most absurd moments in bitter reality.
Each episode that has aired thus far has featured at least two or three major talking points to explore, both within the context of harder science and social humanity. This speaks volumes to the strength of the series, ably melding the two while staying supremely funny in such a short amount of time. Expectations remain extremely high for the final few episodes of the first season, as well as the already confirmed second season.
Adult Swim and the show’s staff have done very well with making the episodes available for free online, whether on YouTube, the Adult Swim website, or even releasing an episode early via 15-second videos on social media site Instagram. Catch-up through these services and watch Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.