“Rick and Morty” has come a long way. Starting as a webseries about parodied versions of Doc Brown and Marty McFly from “Back to the Future,” the first episode was centered on Marty licking Doc’s balls to get them both out of trouble. The show was a twisted yet humorous take on a classic mad-scientist/student relationship, but it was a one-dimensional gag. Since it was picked up by Adult Swim and morphed into “Rick and Morty” proper, the show has evolved tremendously. Wisely using its first season to develop its characters and universe, “Rick and Morty” is not only the most cohesive animated program on Adult Swim, but it is one of the best shows on television this year.
Created and mainly voiced by Justin Roiland, known for his work as Lemongrab on “Adventure Time,” “Rick and Morty” is meticulously crafted. Roiland’s voice work is phenomenal; he captures both the sociopathic, alcoholic mad scientist Rick and the hesitant, sheepish grandson Morty with the perfect tone. Rick and Morty’s relationship constantly balances between abusive and tender, but through this tension, we get a better understanding of these characters, usually along with a few laughs.
Yet the strongest element of “Rick and Morty” is simply the show’s boldness in exploring morbid themes and critically toying with the universe and its characters. One episode has Morty nearly being sexually assaulted. However, this scene is not used for pure shock value and instead is utilized to explore Morty and Rick’s relationship along with the harsh realities of their universe.
The show’s willingness to adhere to bold plot points is commendable as well. At the end of the mid-season episode “Rick Potion #9,” Rick and Morty destroy the world by creating everyone into Cronenberg-esque monsters. Instead of fixing their world, they travel to an alternate timeline, kill the alternate versions of themselves and take their place. It would be easy for the show to move on and forget this grim situation, but instead, this becomes a crucial plot point in future episodes, even laying the foundation for the emotional crux in the episode “Rixty Minutes,” the best episode of the show thus far.
For a series that started as a crass joke, “Rick and Morty” has evolved into one of the smartest and most hilarious and demented shows on television. And with a second season slated for next year, there will be plenty more of this twisted universe to explore.
Art Siriwatt covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].