Rick and Morty is a science fiction comedy cartoon series geared toward adults and produced by Adult Swim. Rick is a genius, alcoholic scientist who has moved back in with his daughter’s family, often recruiting his dopey, kind-hearted, and easily distressed grandson Morty to accompany him on his misadventures.
The origin of the series starts from a Back to the Future parody cartoon done by one of the creators Justin Roiland for film festival Channel 101. Rick and Morty are based on the two characters from this show, but from what I have seen the ties to being a Back to the Future parody are largely shaken, with the series instead taking on ideas from across much of popular science fiction. Their adventures take them across time and space — and even other universes — via Rick’s portal gun, juxtaposed with Morty’s dysfunctional family life.
It was several months ago that I saw the first two episodes, and while I liked them, I didn’t continue the series until more recently. I liked what I saw at first, but it didn’t have me hooked right away. As I eventually watched through the rest of the season over a short period I got a lot more into it, but for different reasons than I thought I would.
I want to note that I find the humour to be very on point. The dynamic between Rick and Morty is fantastic, the colder, apathetic logic of Rick playing off of Morty’s more emotional, dimwitted nature very well. This is especially effective because Morty is often just as in awe at the things he experiences as he is horrified, and Rick occasionally shows a more emotional side toward his grandchildren despite always trying to come across as a logical person. This latter aspect of the show is a big part of what got me invested in it beyond its humour.
Factors like these make the show great to me because it shows that the characters have more dimension than their more outward characteristics. Were it nothing but Rick criticizing his subpar family and dragging them along on traumatizing adventures it would lack a lot of the heart at the core of the show. His ability to show caring and an awareness of his family’s woes, however small the instances may be, send a big message to the viewer about who he is, making him likeable and sympathetic as a character. He’s clearly a deeply troubled person, who perhaps wants to be closer to people but fights with his own nature too much to do so.
The show also came to be surprisingly dark, introducing concepts and putting the characters through permanent changes that I found almost as disturbing as Morty did — making him a good proxy for the audience in that regard. I don’t want to give anything away, but a huge change in particular happens that doesn’t actually change anything about the status quo, only making it more disturbing to think about.
The only aspect of the show I find to be a little poor is the relationship between Morty’s parents, Jerry and Beth. Their failing marriage is often explored and put through challenges. While these plotlines are funny much more often than not, they always revert to the status quo level of dysfunctionality despite any progress a given episode will depict. This may be a rather accurate portrayal of a shaky marriage, but when a trial includes learning about alternate versions of themselves having the successes they couldn’t have because they stayed together, only to learn that those versions lament leaving one another, you have to stop and wonder why their relationship isn’t more on the mend.
All-in-all, I think Rick and Morty is a phenomenal adult cartoon and black comedy, the likes of which I have not encountered in quite some time. I recommend it to anybody with a good sense of humour, a taste for darker content, and a love of science fiction.