Adult Swim has become an empire for art. It showcases creators who have absolute control of their work, without any sense of restraint or apology. The result is entertainment that is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is ballistically balls-to-the-wall. It’s art, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Certain people, myself included, need that gateway. That fluid mesh of the mundane and the absurd that’s as accessible as it is unpredictable. Enter Rick & Morty.
For those uninitiated, the premise is simple. A sociopathic scientist takes his squeamish grandson on “high concept sci-fi rigmaroles” through time and space. It’s a Back To The Future type adventure that’s simply hilarious, even though there’s nothing simple about it.
“Wub a lub a DUB DUB!!!”
Rick & Morty operates on one rule and one rule only: “Question everything.” This is what makes genre-savvy writers like Dan Harmon so pivotal to the show. Just like Community, Rick & Morty acknowledges all the tropes and tricks we expect and flips them over in ways you’d never expect. And as a bonus, Rick & Morty is grounded in hard science and philosophy. Think of it as South Park meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Most of the comedy comes from juxtaposition. Morty (Justin Roiland) is a wide-eyed high-schooler who’s on the cusp of figuring out who he is, as per your usual teenage experience. Rick (Also Justin Roiland) is a super-genius and wanted criminal throughout multiple galaxies and timelines. Morty’s seen nothing, Rick’s seen everything. Their back and forths practically write themselves! On the side is the B story of Jerry & Beth, Morty’s parents. Jerry (Chris Parnell) is a crushingly average, out of work father struggling to maintain authority over the family. Beth (Sarah Chalke) is the one running the house. She’s unable to resent her deadbeat dad, Rick, and is always on the edge of filing for a divorce with Jerry. These two plots are at constant counterpoint with each other. It’s a show where wild space escapades meets suburban family drama.
“And that’s why I always say ‘shum shum shlippity dop!!'”
The real meat of the series though is the underlying philosophy. On multiple occasions, Rick uses his seemingly endless knowledge of the universe to shatter preconceived notions of cosmic significance. Whether it’s the Interdimentional Cable box that shows TV from infinite channels, the Council of Ricks, or Jerryboree, the cross-temporal daycare centre for Jerrys. The show states pointedly that nothing is special. To quote Morty, “Nobody belongs anywhere, nobody exists on purpose, everybody’s going to die.”
“Lic-lic-lick my BAAAALLLS!! Ha ha haaaa, yeah! Say that all the time.”
It’s as irreverent to the meaning of life as it is relevant to the human condition. Just like Hitchhiker’s, Rick & Morty favours nihilism, the ‘belief’ in an absence of meaning. And the first episode of Season 3 confirms this. Season 2’s finale suggested Rick was on the verge of turning a new leaf, surrendering himself for the safety of his family. This would give meaning and resolution to his character, but “The Rickshank Rickdemption” kicks that idea to the curb. Rick weasels his way back onto the patriarchal throne of the family, all for the completely arbitrary pursuit of a discontinued McNugget sauce.
“I WANT THAT MULAN McNUGGET SAUCE, MORTY!”
But I’m of the belief that Rick & Morty does have sentimentality, albeit in tiny doses. Amidst the rabid cynicism, every so often, the show reveals a kernel of truth to Rick’s character. Little things that show either how Rick stands out among his multitudinous multiverse counterparts, or actions that prove he’s not entirely heartless. But again, to quote Morty “He’s not a villain […] but he shouldn’t be your hero”. The whole point of Rick & Morty is that life, from one end of the universe to the next, exists without meaning. But unlike a Meeseeks, our existence is defined by our quest for answers, and often those answers are going to be what we believe to be the most positive. Rick & Morty is a colourful fart in the face to such ideologies.
“Weddings are basically funerals with cake.”
But I think it’s those odd moments of sympathy for the Smith family, Rick included, that proves Rick & Morty‘s understanding of the human condition. Just like Beth with Rick, we wouldn’t keep watching if we knew the show was truly heartless. If anything, surrounding tiny moments of poignancy with cruel and unusual chaos just makes those moments feel that much more poignant. Rick & Morty proves that having a heart doesn’t mean believing in something, it means feeling something. And not just positive emotions like love but hate too. And sometimes it’s our humanity that predates our constructions of meaning. Holy s***. I’m getting too deep here…
“Don’t break an arm jerking yourself off.”
This is all a long-winded, existential philosophical way of saying: Watch Rick & Morty. It’s absurdly clever and hilarious purely by consequence of its intelligence. You can watch it drunk with friends or rewatch it analytically by yourself in your basement, eagerly awaiting new episodes that won’t be out for another two months (like me).
Wub a lub a dub dub….
My Rating: 9.5/10
For more rickdiculous philosophy, check out this, and several other videos, from Wisecrack. They dig even deeper, using actual philosophic references and everything!