The popularity surrounding Adult Swim’s greatest original show has been one of the most interesting phenomenons in pop culture history. Over the last few years, series like “Archer” and “Bojack Horseman” have helped to redefine animation on television. However, “Rick and Morty” has taken the emotional gravitas and humor of those shows while combining it with “The Simpsons” versatility. Creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have used this versatility to touch on anything and everything they feel can contribute to the zeitgeist. “Rick and Morty” can be anything in any episode but keeps a fairly consistent formula across the stories it tells. In doing so, the show takes a dash of family comedy, sprinkles in a some Sci-Fi, and emerges as one of the best series on TV today.
“Rick and Morty” follows the Smith/Sanchez family through the trials and tribulations of a sci-fi world. Rick Sanchez (Roiland) is a brilliant but nihilistic scientist, who is essentially pure Id. Morty (also Roiland) is Rick’s grandson, and the two frequently go on spontaneous and dangerous adventures. They’re occasionally joined by Morty’s sister, Summer (Spencer Graham), a strong but cynical teenage girl. Rick’s daughter, Beth (Sarah Chalke), is married to Jerry (Chris Parnell), the unemployed and down on his luck father to Summer and Morty. The family is the picture of dysfunctional, yet the bonds that hold them together are extremely visceral and emotional.
The first episode of season 3 premiered on April Fool’s Day and nearly crashed the internet. The season 2 finale left Rick incarcerated and Earth in the hands of a galactic government. The 18 months that followed the finale were excruciating for fans of the show. It also may have been the best thing for the show. In that time, thousands of fans discovered the series, and the premiere of season 3 became one of the most anticipated premieres of TV in years.
The first episode follows Summer and Morty’s attempt to find their grandfather, while Rick masterminds an escape from prison. Jerry is successful under the new government’s rule, but Beth is a disaster. Rick, Morty, and Summer dominate the storyline for most of the episode, both emotionally and with their humor. Rick takes a taxi down a dark road, and whether or not the revelations of his arc are true or not, they reveal Rick’s underlying motivation that family is something worth fighting for.
The second episode focuses on a “Mad Max” inspired dystopia, but utilizes the setting to discuss Jerry and Beth’s divorce. Beth becomes a cold and unfeeling killer in the dystopia, and in Furiosa fashion, becomes one of its leaders. Meanwhile, Morty projects his feelings onto Summer, only to display high levels of violence that prove he is equally affected by the separation. Rick worsens their situation, as he often does, in pursuit of treasures and isotypes. The three cannot fully process the impact the separation will have on their family, but rely on each other to find their way through the process.
In the episodes, it’s clear the 18 months of waiting led to a strong start to the season. The series is back to strong parody and may have displayed two of its best episodes so far. The joke per minute ratio is frankly insane, especially considering the physically violent gags it pulls off. No moment may be more hilarious than Morty’s arm “Armethy” having flashbacks to its own revenge story. Then again, who thought a dipping sauce made to promote a late Disney Renaissance movie would impact the cultural zeitgeist.
Roiland and Harmon have created a monster here, one that only presents itself as nihilistic paradise, but is one of the most emotionally deep series on TV today. Each character is so thoroughly fleshed out, that each has a way of burrowing into the audience’s subconscious. While Rick and Morty remain at the center of the show, each character brings something invaluable to the table every episode. If this season continues to delve into the plots laid out in the first two episodes, there may not be a better series on TV. This show has already conquered the dangers of depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction in meaningful ways. Roiland and company seem to have a lot more to say about what makes us human.