Created by famed voice actor Justin Roiland (Adventure Time, Channel 101) and Dan Harmon (Community, Channel 101) the immensly quoteable Back to the Future parody cartoon Rick and Morty has proven to be the little show that could, receiving critical acclaim for Season 1 when it premiered back in 2013.
It may seem unlikely that an animated series that features a character called Mr. Poopy Butthole and has an episode wherein 14-year old Morty Smith gets molested by a Jellybean creature in a public bathroom could ever be described as charming or compelling but yet somehow it is, and it's been picked up by the internet fanbase in a big way.
Creator Justin Roiland himself has said that he wasn't expecting the intense reaction the show received:
"I've been surprised with the reactions across the season. We went into the premiere thinking the first episode was going to be received poorly, and it wasn't, and then I think that trend has just kept going across the season. It's definitely not for lack of our hard work and trying to make it as good as we possibly could. I think, if anything, we're just our own harshest critics, so we're beating ourselves up for no reason."
I've loved Rick and Morty from Episode 1, and yet as a show the individual components don't really seem to fit together. The dialogue is as clunky as it is hilarious; the Simpson-ish animation has a strange, often-unsettling aesthetic; the voice-acting oscillates between deadpan and ear-splittingly whiney, the tone between outright crude and quietly thoughtful (mostly the former). Titular character Rick Sanchez drools and belches his way through each episode, his dialogue punctuated by shuddering bodily functions and hip flask swigs.
And yet, somehow it works beautifully.
It's easy to see markers from Community, Harmon's darling sitcom, here in the way Rick and Morty's slapstick and gross-out humour is punctuated by moments of genuine emotion that are often glossed over or immediately revoked for comedic purpose.
This dynamic allows the show to broach issues of abandonment, dissatisfaction, depression, family troubles, alcoholism and broken hearts interlaced with wacky space adventures and humour that's less tongue in cheek and more like having a sledgehammer rammed into the side of your head. It doesn't try to offer any answers or solutions to these questions though, because sometimes there aren't any. Besides, thorough introspection wouldn't really befit the characters.
"There’s pretty much literally nothing that you can’t do in an episode of Rick and Morty... All bets are off. There’s no fourth wall you can break too much. There’s nothing too taboo. There’s no tender, tender heart that you can break by going left or right." - Harmon
A parody amalgamation of numerous stereotype and character traits associated with high intelligence, Rick is a sociopathic, alcoholic, Sherlockian character, too removed from the spectrum of emotion to be able to interact with others, even his family, on any kind of meaningful level. The moments where we're allowed to glimpse below the surface are telling, and the darker for it.
None of the family are really what we would consider functional. Morty is a well-meaning but overly emotional teenager who is ruled by his hormones. Summer is a self absorbed girl in that tricky period between adolescence and adulthood. Jerry is paralysed by the notion that he isn't good enough for his family, a fact underscored by the reintroduced presence of patriarch Rick in the household shortly before the outset of Season 1. Beth, a disillusioned horse-surgeon, worries that she married beneath herself to let family destroy her chance for a meaningful career, and on several occasions exhibits her father's knack for alcoholism.
The finale of Season 2 left the Smith family in a bad place. Birdperson killed by the Galactic Federation at his own wedding and Rick sacrificing himself in exchange for the freedom of his family after overhearing them talking about how much they care for him. An uncharacteristically selfless gesture, it was a nice way to end the season and gives the writers a solid narrative upon which to jump-start Season 3.
Rick and Morty Season 3
In case you missed the post-credits sequence from the last episode here it is below, courtesy of Adult Swim. Mr. Poopy Butthole recuperates after being shot by Beth earlier in the season, assaulting a pizza delivery boy and promising that the show will be back, but not for a long while yet.
Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland spoke about the show's reception and their ideas for Season 3 in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. They didn't give much away though, as from the sounds of it there's not much to tell yet.
"I've been jotting ideas down, yeah. Nothing super fleshed out, but there are definitely little seeds." - Roiland
Meanwhile Harmon wants to revisit scenes and characters from Seasons 1 & 2, excited about the scope that the show now has to explore:
"I re-watched both seasons a couple nights ago, and now I'm excited about revisiting stuff in season three because I was so phobic about revisiting stuff in season two. Now, we can fade in on Blips and Chitz because we've already proven that the show isn't going to start eating itself, and that will feel even more limitless if we go back to a couple things that we really enjoyed doing."
Lastly, Harmon has promised a second episode appearance from a Season 1 fan-favourite, so there's that to look forward to as well. Don't even trip, dawg.
"I'm going to make that a personal promise to myself. I'm going to force Mr. Meeseeks into season three."