Of Ricks and Mortys
Now that the dust has settled on Rick and Morty’s third season, it’s easy to say that this season was arguably the strongest season the show’s had. Every episode had some of the craziest science fiction ideas ever put on a TV screen, rivaling Sci-Fi master classes like Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Alien. Hell, many times some of the best and brightest ideas were basically thrown away as background gags or quick, under minute sight gags. But like everything that’s super popular, there’s always going to be some backlash, and in a weird turn of events, that backlash wasn’t because of the show, but because of the fans of the show.
Rick and Morty, at its core, is about a crazy alcoholic mad scientist and his grandson going on weird adventures, and how those adventures affect the family. Sure, a lot of the humor comes from Rick being a complete asshole and acting like he’s aware of every trope and action anyone is going to do, but an unfortunately large portion of the Rick and Morty audience is missing a majorly important aspect of the show: these characteristics aren’t to be looked up to, they show how damaged Rick is, and much of this third season has been focused on not only exploiting this, but showing how Rick benefits from having a family around him.
When this season started, a large portion of fans worried that creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland were going to double down on Rick being a crazy sociopath for laughs. But looking at episodes like “Pickle Rick”, “Vindicators 3”, “Rest and Ricklaxation”, and even “The Ricklantis Mixup” showed that Rick is a severely damaged individual who more often runs from real confrontations than deal with them. For Rick, it’s easier for him to deal with crazy inter-dimensional monsters than it is to sit down for family therapy. When Rick and Morty started, this was a hilarious way of showing how he could avoid the pressures of life without consequence. But this season we’ve seen how it impacted his life in a terrible and possibly irreplaceable ways. Episodes like “The ABCs of Beth” showed small chinks in Rick’s armor, like when he asks Beth to help create a clone, and it seems like the finale is paving the way for Rick to try and win back his family in his own weird way.
It’s this aspect that I feel like a lot of fans misunderstand when it comes to why Rick and Morty is so popular, and also something that I think prevents people from trying out the show. A lot of fans just spew out the random catchphrases (how many times have you heard “WUBBA LUBBA DUB DUB!” in the past two years unprovoked?), or focus on the crazy antics of Rick, and honestly, I wouldn’t blame people for not wanting to check out the show because of the fans. But at the same time, if you move beyond the jokes and outrageous humor, you’ll find some of the most amazing and creative science fiction on TV, and some real heart behind what it’s like to be a damaged person or live with one. It’s this reason why Rick and Morty is one of the best shows on TV currently, not the fact that Rick is constantly “sticking it to the man” or “telling it like it is”. If you think that’s the main point, then Roiland and Harmon’s joke is on you.