By Benjamin Lucas
Is there a better testament to a show’s success than when, six episodes in, it has a loyal cult following and dozens of go-to catchphrases? Rick and Morty has already been renewed for a second season and doesn’t seem to be running out of ideas any time soon. So far, we’ve had inter-dimensional smuggling operations, hyper-sentient house pets, disastrous love potions and a riff on Inception that manages not only to give it the Nightmare on Elm Street crossover it deserves, but also make more sense than Inception.
Morty, an awkward teen living in a broken suburban household, continually finds himself roped into his alcoholic grandfather Rick’s ill-advised science experiments. That these experiments will spiral into apocalyptic mayhem is a guarantee, so naturally this takes a toll on Morty’s schoolwork and social life (or lack thereof). At times, Morty is less a willing participant in Rick’s schemes and more a personal lab rat.
Why does Morty always tag along? Mostly because he has nothing better to do. To his daughter’s dismay, Rick sets up shop in the garage, where he parks his B-movie spaceship and tinkers with his latest gizmos. My favorite is a box that generates kooky otherworldly beings that have no purpose other than to complete a singular task given by their summoner. Just make sure the task is simple; they don’t like existing for very long.
Since this is Adult Swim, their adventures are more likely to end in Morty sporting a thousand-yard stare on his living room couch than learning any lessons.
It’s hard to call it friendship, even when Rick has the occasional selfless moment, but what would you expect from a booze-guzzling mad scientist? It’s still a stronger bond than what he has with his bickering parents and disinterested sister.
The worst-case scenarios often play out as a result of Rick helping his family with a seemingly menial task. In a monkey’s paw-esque turn of events, a love potion ends up causing a full-scale zombie outbreak. (“That spread fast!” “Yeah, I really outdid myself this time.”)
Co-creator Justin Roiland voices both halves of the titular duo with a clumsy, stammery banter that perfectly highlights Morty’s lack of assertiveness and Rick’s unrelenting narcissism. He previously lent his voice to Earl of Lemongrab on Adventure Time, so it’s no coincidence that a parody of the show pops up in “Meseeks and Destroy.” Chris Parnell voices Morty’s bumbling father, who gets a few of the show’s biggest laughs when he is unknowingly transported aboard an alien spaceship and shoved into a not-so-realistic simulation of Earth in “M. Night Shaym-aliens!” (The episode titles are just spectacular).
Much of Rick and Morty involves skewering classic sci-fi tropes, and it’s here that co-creator Dan Harmon’s involvement presents itself. His zest for genre-subversion makes for some of the best episodes of Community (which most recently came in the form of a floor-is-lava send-up), and here it serves to show how horribly, uncomfortably awry these otherworldly travels can go.
Neither Roiland nor Harmon is afraid to undercut the hilarity with jarring cynicism, which (unbelievably) happens to be toned down from the initial internet shorts. A confrontation with King Jellybean sticks out as the darkest so far. It’s odd that a show like Rick and Morty would go out of its way to show, say, a realistic human toll amongst the zaniness.
Adult Swim puts the latest episode on YouTube, sans advertisements. It’s apparently killing it in the ratings too, so expect to see more Rick and Morty in the future.