Rick & Morty

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 6 reviews.

tl;dr: Brilliant, genre skewering television wrapped up in an animated show that pulls some surprisingly intelligent punches. It had a slow start but it has continued to build steam and shows no signs of slowing down.

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Animated Sitcoms

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Rick and Morty is a bizarre, confusing, superbly twisted... something or other. Honestly, it's pretty hard to explain what Rick and Morty actually is. Coming from the creative mind of Dan Harmon, there are clear parallels with Community, the frankly amazing cult classic that made Harmon's name. Both do one thing, in particular, extremely well: taking a piece of pop-culture and dissecting it with laser focus. They also both play with their own genre's tropes, consistently break the fourth wall and generally take liberties with our pre-conceived notions of how TV should work.

It definitely wasn't love at first sight thought, so if you do decide to try out the internet phenomenon my one piece of advice would be: stick with it. The episodes are short and, as mentioned, rarely re-tread the same ground, so if one part leaves you a little cold then you're unlikely to come across it again. To be honest, I was very unimpressed by the pilot, which was full of bad puns, body horror animation (harking back to the 90's Cartoon Network – I hated it then, I hate it now) and childish 'adult' humour that felt like it was aiming at South Park but fell far short. I pushed on and the worst parts became less prevalent, whilst the characters and their interactions grew in interest. A couple of episodes really piqued my interest, with decent parodies of the likes of Jurassic Park, The Matrix and Inception, and these were topped off by consistently clever references and humour. By the end of the season I was happy to nod along and keep watching. Rick and Morty looks set to be well on the way to cult classic status, and possibly much more on top.

Rewatch

With the hype around season four, I decided to rewatch Rick and Morty again. I don't regret that decision at all. Interestingly, even now knowing the characters, I still found the pilot weird and largely intolerable. It was better than the first time around, but it's still just a bad introduction to the show.

In every other way, season one only improves on rewatch. There are some subtle nods to future story arcs which are great to pick up on, you don't have that initial pain of trying to like any of the immensely unlikeable characters because you've already gone through that journey, and instead you get to just sit back and revel in the weird comedy genius that the show makes so effortless. Top marks.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

When I compared Rick and Morty to Community I noted that both shows are particularly intelligent in subverting the precise TV tropes you expect them to embrace. Season two provides a prime example of just that with its ending.

For two seasons, the show has slowly been building some relatively clever, but not massively complex, characters and interactions. Subplots are weaved in and out of each episode but largely they appear to exist as single, relatively unconnected snapshots; continuity is preserved, but you don't expect that to always be the case. As a viewer, you will likely have built up a fairly good idea of "what the show is". But, then the final episode of season two rolls around and tears down your assumptions like a rabid E. coli. You discover that all those little subplots were actually building to something pretty epic and the show uses them to pull off an emotional gut punch that launches out of nowhere. It briefly returns to what you would expect as the credits roll and a fourth wall breaking call back to an earlier episode appears. Except, rather than alleviating the darkness, it just reaffirms it and tells you, without exception, that there isn't anything more until season three. It masterfully keeps you hooked, thinking at any minute a punchline will surely drop and everything would be okay, but nothing ever arrives. It toys with you, with your emotions and with your sensibilities about what a TV show like Rick and Morty ought to do. And then it ends.

In other words, if I had any misgivings about my loyalty in season one, by the end of season two I have become a full-blown Fan! (note the capital "f"). There were still a couple of dud episodes (I'm really not sure why the inter-dimensional clip show had to come back for a second round, it was one of the worst ideas from season one) but these were spread thinly between some stunning ones. The screen-duplicating antics that took place in the opening episode, A Rickle Through Time, were some of the cleverest uses of animation and syncing I've seen, and both Auto Erotic Assimilation and Total Rickall provided clever and thought-provoking genre parodies. Overall, Rick and Morty has become one of the cleverest, most intelligent and genuinely intriguing shows I've watched in a while. Onwards to season three!

Rewatch

A Rickle in Time remains one of my favourite episodes of this show. There's something just incredibly clever about using the TV screen into a grid as part of a storytelling device. It's brilliant.

Elsewhere, season two really takes time to develop the various cast members, but in particular Rick. Getting to see his past relationship with Unity is a great dissection of his personality, whilst the episode involving his car battery (and the civilisation within) is a wonderful expansion of his ego. At the same time, the wedding therapy episode is brilliantly funny and a very clever look into Beth and Jerry, whilst the Purge gives Morty some needed catharsis.

I still feel like I could have done without a return to Interdimensional Cable though, but it's made up for with that finale. The whole revelation around Tammy and the sheer destruction is brilliant, but that cliffhanger still gets me, even though I know what's coming next. TV gold.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

What. Just. Happened. Having praised Rick and Morty for the slow-build, background plot arcs that led to the season two finale, season three just explodes them all in a glorious ball of fire and revenge. It's beautiful. The entire opening episode is fantastic, with the whole mind-swapping angle really giving Rick a chance to think extremely quickly. I loved every second, including the Nathan Fillion cameo and the bizarre Szechuan sauce angle. I mean sure, why not 😂

If season two expanded a lot on Rick, Beth, and Jerry, then season three is gunning hard for Morty and Summer, as well as the ongoing impact Rick is having on everyone's lives. The Pickle Rick episode is a particularly strong one in terms of ridiculous action somehow complementing an otherwise slow-paced and personal character arc, but my favourite is the toxic-sludge clones episode. The entire setup had me hysterical, with both characters utterly distraught and the ridiculous adventure we never get to see, but the payoff with what it means for their relationship is brilliant.

I was a little confused by the Vindicators episode, so much so that I actually paused it and Googled around to see if I'd missed something. But no, it's just Rick and Morty doing their thing and fucking with the audience. Bravo sirs, bravo *slow clap*. I also infinitely preferred Morty's Mindblowers to more intergalactic cable – more of that please!

As for the finale... I think it's the weakest so far, but it had fun and wrapped up a few other plot threads. Personally, it pales in comparison with the earlier revelation that the Evilist Morty has taken over the Citadel and I do wonder why they didn't end on that note. Maybe they preferred to end on the character note this season, which I'd get. Still, the setup there for season four is great and has me pumped for more.

Rewatch

The Vindicators episode almost got me again. Dammit. In other news, I thought Jerry's arc was a lot stronger than I remembered, but overall it's just another brilliant season. Pickle Rick is great, Morty's Mindbenders is better than I remember (and that's saying something), and yeah, the standout episode is still the Evil Morty arc. The finale is definitely a little lacking but it has heart so I'm okay with it.

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