What with Futurama cancelled and unlikely to be uncancelled anytime soon and the Venture Brothers taking its sweet time, I recently turned to Rick and Morty for a dose of adult science fiction humor. I was turned off from this show after seeing the pilot two years ago. I heard a bunch of recent endorsements for the show praising it as one of the smartest shows on television. After bingeing the series over the course of a week, I do not regret my decision to watch this show.
The best that I can describe Rick and Morty is as a mix between Futurama, The Venture Brothers, The Simpsons, and Adventure Time. And it’s rated R. The gist is that an aged mad scientist named Rick Sanchez enlists his moronic grandson Morty to be his sidekick in his strange adventures. The two go tramping around through the galaxy and through alternate timelines and universes.
There is a lot of black comedy at work. I cannot stress that enough. Much of it is morbid and there’s quite a lot of nihilism at work. A few laughs are guaranteed each episode but a feeling of self-esteem is not.
Rick is an amazingly fascinating protagonist. He somewhat reminds me of Doctor Venture. Thing is, Doc tries to put on the appearance of being a good father to his children. Rick is far too much of a sociopath to put on appearances most of the time. He manipulates his family for his own selfish reasons. He is also an alcoholic and a drug abuser.
Regardless, the man is a technical genius. He assembled a functional spaceship out of junk that he found in the garage. He built a portal gun that can traverse space and alternate dimensions. This is a character who could seriously advance human civilization if he cared to.
It is heavily implied that his drug abuse is meant to dull emotional scarring and suicidal tendencies that were brought on from years of trauma involving mad science. His sociopathy could be a defense mechanism to push people away for fear that they’ll be hurt by proximity. Rick is shown to have a soft side on rare moments. He cares about his grandchildren and will go to surprising lengths to protect them.
The show has some surprisingly serious moments that get really depressing. Rick tries to commit suicide at the end of one episode after getting dumped by a lover but fails because he is too drunk. There are also at least three instances of attempted rape over the two seasons that are not played for laughs.
One aspect of the show that I find interesting that most shows would have found dull is the rest of the family. Morty lives with his parents, Jerry and Beth, and his older sister, Summer. The pilot episode suggested that the family would be ignorant of Rick and Morty’s sci-fi adventures while they dealt with their more mundane issues. This concept was quickly done away with when the family quickly became aware of Rick’s works as a mad scientists. The Smith family knows that aliens exist and that there are a bunch of time travel and radioactive gadgets in the garage.
Summer is a typical teenager who texts a lot and is much more socially adjusted than Morty. Jerry and Beth have a dysfunctional marriage and often get into arguments. Beth loves Rick and is glad to have her father back in her life but Jerry has contempt for Rick, who he sees as a bad influence on their son. Beth is a successful veterinarian who operates on horses and Jerry is often insecure with his own intelligence (or lack thereof).
Strangely enough, the one part of Rick and Morty that I really don’t care about is Morty himself. I just don’t find his personality interesting or enjoyable. He is mildly stupid and is hinted at as having some sort of learning disability, though no one is sure what. He never really grows or changes or learns anything significant throughout the two seasons. He gets shocked and traumatized by the bizarre and disturbing things that he has seen but this has no effect on how he goes about his adventuring business. It should be noted that I really don’t hate Morty. He does show some initiative on occasion, which I like.
This post was written shortly after the season two finale. And what a finale it was! There are hints of a larger story arc at work involving alternate universes and a large Galactic Federation. The status quo has been seriously changed and I do not know if it will change back to normal or change to something else entirely. Regardless, it will be hilarious.
I eagerly anticipate season 3!