The Beginner’s Guide to Rick & Morty


A borderline sociopathic old man drags his grandson from dimension to dimension, supposedly as an assistant but more often just for the company, and simultaneously exposes the kid to an endless parade of mind-scarring horrors. Or more simply, “wow, the whole mad-scientist-and-kid-protégé gimmick is pretty screwed up, isn’t it?” That’s more or less the premise of Rick & Morty (which originally grew out of a pretty X-Rated flash animation parodying Doc Brown and Marty McFly), an Adult Swim title that already has a cult following to rival The Venture Bros. and the critical praise to match. While it’s definitely not a show for everyone (I could give a list of content warnings the length of my arm), it is undeniably well made with a deceptively affectionate touch in regards to its characters.

The show, co-created by Community’s Dan Harmon and animator Justin Roiland (whom you may also know as Lemongrab and Blendin Blandin), aired its first season (ten episodes and the pilot) back in 2013, and will be kicking off another ten episode season on July 26th (there was a leak, but let’s try not to be part of the problem, shall we?). What’s more, I’m going to be recapping that second season right here. But don’t worry if you missed out on the original airing. You can currently see the whole first season on Adult Swim (which is region-free) and Hulu. And if you’re on the fence still? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Also, there will be spoilers. That’s kind of the point.

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Let’s Talk About the Rick and Morty Leak

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It’s been a dreadful summer for creative teams in the animation industry: not long ago Disney dropped the ball and leaked an episode of Gravity Falls on the UK iTunes (not even the next episode due to air, but the one after that) when the show was finally on the verge of coming back from a five month hiatus, and this past week the first two episodes of Rick and Morty season two found their way onto the internet.

And while I’ve seen a fair amount of justification along the lines of “well it’s out there now, just live with it” there are still a hell of a lot of issues, creative and financial, that we need to discuss here. Because whatever else might be true, this is an awful thing. Continue reading

Endearing Awful People: Or, How I Accidentally Fell in Love With Rick and Morty


Comedic sociopathy – the effect produced when a show’s prioritization of jokes over relationships ends up giving off the feeling that no one involved has the capacity to feel for other human beings – is generally the furthest thing from my cup of tea. While shedding emotion for punchlines can work beautifully in short standalone works (one need look no further than classic Looney Tunes shorts to prove that), it tends to clash badly with anything requiring continuity.

You’ll find this as one of the foremost reasons people give for checking out on Family Guy and later seasons of The Simpsons, for example. And yet it’s far more rarely an accusation laid against British comedy, whose most famous works (Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, the Monty Python canon to an extent) pretty much run on flippant cruelty. The crucial difference is the format: the latter shows tend very much toward absurdity, asking nothing of the audience but to point and laugh at the hypocritical jackassery before them; while American comedy born from that sitcom mold finds itself married to the emotional resolution, often building the shape of what should be an emotional dynamic only to discard it when inconvenient. The disconnect between familiar beats relying on the audience’s emotions and the cruelty required to sell the jokes (comedy, after all, is pretty much always seeded in some kind of pain) becomes jarring over time, and has a way of breeding resentment in the audience. At the very least, yours truly has little use for them.

All of which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that Rick and Morty is, eight times in ten, a black-hearted grotesquery with more interest in its odd, world-hopping scenarios than building any kind of warm and fuzzy feelings. And after 11 episodes I am more invested in its world and characters than any adult comedy of the last few years. In fact, it might be Adult Swim’s best program since the indomitable Venture Bros. Continue reading