Print Edition: June 4, 2014
The circumstances that brought Rick and Morty to my door were promising. I was ordering dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with my boyfriend (we ordered the toonie student deal), and the server noticed my boyfriend’s Adventure Time shirt. Of course this led into a conversation about how great Adventure Time is.
Our server then highly recommended not just the seafood fettuccini, but also to watch Rick and Morty. I was sold when he mentioned that Justin Roiland, the voice actor of Lemongrab from Adventure Time, was a co-creator.
Rick and Morty’s other creator is the famous Dan Harmon (Community creator). It aired in December on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim with 11 half-hour episodes for the first season, and has been renewed for a second season.
Rick and Morty centres around two main characters. Rick, Morty’s grandfather, is a scientist very much like Doc from Back to the Future, if Doc had been alcoholic, sociopathic, and very anti-establishment. Morty is an average, perhaps mediocre, and definitely high-strung 14-year-old boy who wants nothing more than to talk to his math-class crush.
They are an unlikely pair, but Rick needs an assistant, and Morty is impressionable and far from assertive. Together they adventure through alternate universes, dreams and space, Rick perpetually drunk, and Morty perpetually panicking.
Rick and Morty has the badassery of Futurama and South Park, and the whimsy of Adventure Time and Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Rick is a force in himself. He is the leader of frantically chaotic yet brilliantly logical adventures. He doesn’t seem concerned about putting Morty in mortal peril for his scientific gains, and Morty is often put in mortal peril.
A recently re-connected grandfather (for unknown reasons, though he is living with his daughter’s family rent-free), Rick has to navigate the family unit to use Morty as an assistant. Morty’s mother is a horse cardiac surgeon, his father a mediocre and slightly desperate low-level advertising guy, and his sister is a conventional teenager (the only unoriginal and tired character of the family).
Of course Morty’s parents don’t like him traversing alternate realms with Rick instead of sitting in class. And seeing the brilliant and egocentric scientist pandering to an average all-American family is hilarious.
Rick and Morty is coarse — nowhere near Family Guy, but you couldn’t call it clean — but smart. In episode two, they enter Morty’s math teacher’s dreams to convince him to give Morty As in math (Morty asks why Rick couldn’t have just spent the time helping Morty with his homework). Inception — “It’s like that stupid movie you’re always going on about, except it’ll make sense,” Rick says — mixes with Nightmare on Elm Street. And it’s a scream.
The thing that took me a long time to put my finger on was that Morty doesn’t want to go on adventures. This is a classic theme — a boy and his crazy scientist grandfather adventuring across worlds. But instead of Morty being filled with curiosity and boyish spirit, and Rick mentoring him in a coming-of-age story, we have hysterical Morty being dragged into this and that by a manipulative and charismatically sociopathic grandfather.
It takes one scene to capture it all: in episode one, Morty drags his feet nervously across a “whole different evolutionary timeline,” (as his grandfather crows), asking when he’ll be able to go back to school. Because he’s “working up some anxieties.”
Rick goes down on one knee, with a fatherly hand on Morty’s shoulder:
“I know that new situations can be intimidating. You’re looking around and it’s all scary and different. But you know, meeting them head on, charging into them like a bull, that’s how we grow as people. I’m no stranger to scary situations, I deal with them all the time. Now if you just stick with me Morty, we’re gonna be — holy crap, Morty!” — (at this moment, a huge monster appears over Morty’s shoulder, and Rick turns and runs, shouting over his shoulder) — “RUN I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE IN MY LIFE WE GOTTA GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE MORTY IT’S GONNA KILL US! WE’RE GONNA DIE MORTY, WE’RE GONNA DIE!”
It’s a parody of a touching grandfather-grandson moment. Morty and his grandfather do have touching moments, though. Just not your usual ones. Like when Rick blows up a pedophile jellybean who tried to molest Morty. Or after Rick and Morty have to bury their own dead bodies in the backyard.
You can watch all 11 episodes of Rick and Morty on Youtube. Give it one episode and you’ll be hooked.