Rick and Morty finished its fourth season just last week, and even a few moments ago I briefly questioned why I pencilled in a blog post dedicated to the Adult Swim show this week, rather than something much more important (you can probably take a guess at what I’m referring to, and don't worry, it is coming in two weeks). The truth is the show has a knack for seeming good, but not special, until you actually watch it again.
I binged most of the latter half of the fourth season during my almost bi-weekly depressive episode (which is an improvement from pre-lockdown don't worry), not expecting too much, again that changed when I started watching.
Before I delve too much into the technicalities of why Rick and Morty is pretty special let me give you context. Rick and Morty was created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, the former holding a particularly dear place in my heart for being the creator of Community - a cult-ish comedy show which aired for six years in the mid 2010s about a group of adults in community college. It was renowned for its meta and societal commentary amongst its cast of lovable characters.
Rick and Morty is essentially about an alcoholic grandpa and his anxiety-ridden teenage grandson going on adventures across the galaxy. Think of it like an adult Gravity Falls or a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with more curse words.
What makes it so special?
I alluded to my first reason a little earlier: the creators. Justin Roiland is an extremely talented voice actor, appearing in: Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Robot Chicken and much more. From his dynamic career, he manages to give Rick and Morty voices authentic to their characters. Meanwhile the parallels between Community and Rick and Morty in terms of writing are undeniable and you can see Harmon’s knack for detailed and outright smart comedy reflected in them both. Meta, obscure pop culture references, political satire and sometimes just stupid!
Like Community, who made a whole episode about a lead character losing her pink pen (clip here), Rick and Morty is no stranger to being utterly dumb. I don’t mean that it’s an indie, pretentious, “shock-factor” effort from the Rick and Morty team to seem “cool”, it is purely that they have no fear to not make sense - but somehow no matter how far-fetched they go, it still makes sense, they make this weird little universe with so many weird complexities just make sense. Improvisational intergalactic TV channels which boast the most nonsensical content (you can watch a little bit of Interdimensional Cable here but it does include explicit content), the circular but quite traumatic nature of “The Vat of Acid Episode” and even Pickle Rick, who may be overrated now but still original!
It’s also complex and intellectual. It asks questions of what we’re doing here and what one’s purpose is. It touches on feminism, mental illness, racism, corrupt governments, potential child exploitation in an enlightening and engaging way. To strike a balance between silly and poignant whilst not being obtuse or offensive is a huge achievement which makes the show so special.
Rick and Morty is a small pocket of free intergalactic fun in a climate where its creativity and commentary is needed. It's not perfect, but it is special: it does what it wants, without offence or gaudiness.