Reviewing Rick and Morty through season four has been a privilege and a challenge. How do you criticize a show that is miles ahead of everything else on television? What do you have to compare it to? Every episode is a surprise bag full of entertainment goodness and you can never guess where the show will take you next. A review for Rick and Morty ends up becoming a defence for why it is the best series on television. And nobody with the 20+ minutes to spare is arguing against that fact.
The truth is, Rick and Morty is on another level when it comes to television programs and adult animation. The series does more than push boundaries which helped other shows like The Simpsons, South Park, and Big Mouth find success. It is redefining what sitcom television can be.
Rick and Morty adds all of the inappropriate jokes, mixes in some existential theories, and delivers it in diverse episodes that each take their own unique direction.
That formula helped to establish the show in season one, and by season two they had it mastered. And many Rick and Morty fans were concerned that by the third season we would have seen the best the show will ever be. Valid considering that mass majority of television shows tend to peak around the second to fourth season. So, after an extensive break between new episodes, Rick and Morty had to return to season four proving that it can be just as ground-breaking and diverse as ever. Especially considering that extended break resulted in a contract promising an astounding 70 new episodes. Which, if sticking to the ten-episode season format, will take the series to season ten, a milestone only a handful of adult animated programs have ever reached.
Season four delivered in a big way to shut down any criticisms or concerns. The fresh batch of episodes included a slew of thought-provoking plots, unexpected twists, and inappropriate humour galore. With such diversity in the episodes, the series has gone beyond being a sci-fi nerds wet dream to becoming a leader and influencer in storytelling. In one episode you can be dropped in on the main characters waking up in a puzzling situation while the rest of the plot unravels that. The next episode could be a classic camping-trip trope twisted and turned upside down and backwards.
The unexpected and unique is the foundation that Rick and Morty is built on. It doesn’t just rethink and retool classic storytelling formulas; it takes turns that no one would expect. Where another show can make multiple episodes about a crazy ex reappearing in the characters lives, Rick and Morty takes it to another level. “Childrick of the Mort” featured Rick reuniting with his ex-sex partner, but his relationship involved having sex with a planet. And his wacky aftermath wasn’t just him trying to avoid responsibility, instead, he raises a civilization and fights a god.
Not only does Rick and Morty demolish your notions of sitcom television, it is its own force. Case in point is this season’s anthology episode “Never Ricking Morty” which unwraps some of the most overused tropes in television writing. Besides the self-mockery for redoing another episode full of vignettes, the plot involves Story Lord (Paul Giamatti) intending to harvest the main characters “story potential”. The only trope powerful enough to defeat the enemy involves Rick and Morty finding Christianity, the perfect way to destroy any potential for good writing.
Even plots that are traditionally intricate and exciting as a good heist story are turned on their head. “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty” is Rick and Morty’s version of the heist and it tore the entire genre down with its mockery. The episode leads up to a climactic battle between Rick and his Heist-o-Tron creation deliberating on who was one step ahead of whom. But the punch to the gut comes when Morty pitches his own heist story to Netflix who are willing to buy the lame story simply because of the genre.
The show even broke its own rule this season by deciding to incorporate time travel. Thankfully it was done in just the manner to show us how convoluted adding time travel can actually be. The headache of trying to decipher which snake was a Nazi, and which was trying to save the future in “Rattlestar Ricklactica” was enough for us to never need a time travel plot ever again.
Rick and Morty cannot even resist itself from twisting its own created tropes. It has already been established that Morty gets to choose every tenth adventure. For the series that means once a season the show focuses on giving Morty the centre stage.
We were fooled to believe it would have been “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” when Morty got a pet dragon only to have Rick “soul bond” with it. But Morty did get his adventure in “The Vat of Acid Episode” when he essentially becomes immortal. The poor kid even forgets about Jessica and establishes a real relationship with a nameless girl. Of course, the results were not quite what he expected, but it did make for arguably the best episode of the season.
Even its own self-imposed limitations cannot stand in the way of Rick and Morty delivering top-shelf stories. Continuity and family drama continue to play their parts in the subtext of the series.
Then, every once in awhile, it all comes to the forefront like the season finale “Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerry”. Finally, we got to see the results of Beth’s internal conflict with being tied down to Jerry and family. Meanwhile, Rick’s own morals begin to wear on him as he loses track of his real daughter and loses another fight, this time to his former best friend. But Morty and Summer became closer, so that’s something.
With all of that said about the incredible writing, this review seems to have glanced over some important notes. Like how the animation has developed so far that anything is possible as seen when Rick and Morty travel through dimensions in “Never Ricking Morty”. Or the multiple memes that have spawned from this season alone. Or the fact that A-list celebrities like Taika Waititi, Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, Christopher Meloni, and Matthew Broderick have all become a part of this show.
Even Elon Musk made a cameo this season.
It is impossible to dissect everything about this show in one article. Some of these episodes require multiple viewing just to grasp all the intricacies that float in the background. Many of the jokes or theories won’t even find their payoff until future episodes. The series may not always be perfect. However, you have to appreciate the effort that Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon, and crew go to make it the best possible show. Never dull, never boring, Rick and Morty continues to deliver the most unique and entertaining experience on cable television.
This has been my defense that Rick and Morty is the greatest show on television right now. Thank you for coming, and please don’t @ me.