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Rick and Morty has only one eleven-episode season so far, but it’s on its way to being my new favorite cartoon. Film Crit Hulk has a great article calling it the best show on TV, citing its incredibly dense episodes, and the show’s ability to take its jokes and scenarios to their furthest possible reaches in a way that no other show has managed. I completely agree with everything in that article, but I want to expand on it a bit.
See, Rick and Morty is a sci-fi comedy series about the titular duo travelling through space-time on all kinds of wacky adventures. What makes it special to me though is how, perhaps more than anything else I’ve seen, Rick and Morty truly appreciates the gravity of the idea that there are INFINITE possibilities.
Other shows play around with these concepts, and if there’s a show that makes for quickest comparison to Rick and Morty, it’s probably Futurama, which is a similarly colorful and fun adventure show with a strong undercurrent of empathetic and endearing storylines. But in comparison, Futurama feels like it’s playing normal mode, while Rick and Morty’s kicked it up to Dante Must Die.
The show cuts right to the heart of existentialism like a hot knife through butter. Where a show like Futurama might use a dramatic scenario to prove a point about existence, Rick and Morty will slap you across the face with an existential crisis every other minute and ask why the hell you’re lagging behind. To pick one moment that perfectly captures the presentation of this show, in the first episode, in the middle of a chase, Morty crashes into an alien huka with a fetal alien inside. While still running, he pukes up the green alien slime, which ages from infancy to death in a span of a couple seconds–at which Rick says, “don’t think about it,” and the chase continues.
What’s really incredible is that we even understand what’s happening, and the show holds together. It pushes unshakable truths in our faces while thrusting us headlong into the infinite unknown of a universe where every possibility is reality. It bounces between soul-crushingly poignant moments like it’s never satisfied. And that’s exactly what it should do when the main character is the universe’s greatest genius, who’s been everywhere and done everything.
If there’s one show that really has some answering to do at Rick and Morty’s feet, it’s the Doctor Who series, which Rick and Morty was partially modeled after. It makes the idea of a sci-fi adventure show wherein the aliens always act like people, and half the stories take place in London, seem like a giant waste of time. Someone once said that Doctor Who features an inordinate amount of running, but its heart rate must just be slower than Rick’s cause he can’t sit still for a second (unless he’s surfing the infinite channels of multiverse TV).
You know, it’s one thing to have the Doctor: a creature who preaches empathy, always trying not to let anyone die and acting like the permanent good cop; but I think there’s something even more gripping about Rick’s attitude of understanding how people work, and wishing the best, but not giving a single fuck about anything that impedes his way. After all, if you’ve come to terms with the pointlessness of existence, the inevitability of death, and the scope of the universe, why bother with anything but mindless self indulgence? Not to the detriment of self or others, but in the hopes that others can be a part of the fun?
If one thing holds Rick’s manic character together, it’s that underlying heart–his very real desire to have everyone be as cool and crazy and smart as he is. He gets aggravated with others easily, but it’s only because he’s always right–and he knows that’s hard to deal with for others, but there’s nothing he can do about it. We hardly feel sympathy for his son-in-law Jerry, who’s constantly picked on by the show and yet somehow always seems to earn it–and that’s how we find ourselves in Rick’s shoes. Through our frustration with Jerry, we understand Rick’s perspective towards the world at large, and why he’s chosen to laugh it all away.
This show gets to some really powerful messages and never undersells or undercuts them; but it also never dwells on them. You won’t get a sentimental heart-string grabber with this one, just a constant barrage of punches that you’ve gotta roll with. And god damn, is it satisfying to roll along, and embrace that chaos, darkness, fun, and happiness, all at once.