Cartoons aren’t going anywhere, and beyond kids, there’s plenty of animated fare out there for adults. The problem is, is that such shows don’t take advantage of a smarter audience, usually recycling quick-fire jokes and marriage problems instead of some genuinely clever laughs. Shows like Futurama which hide a joke behind witty dialogue and absurd storylines are tragically few in number, or worse yet, cancelled. And then you get Rick and Morty, which is a perfect hybrid of smart jokes and dark humour.
On the surface, Rick and Morty sounds like your typical situation comedy. 14 year old Morty is paired up with his eccentric grandfather Rick, a genius inventor and scientist who enlists his help as he travels through the cosmos and alternate dimensions to do science-stuff. From there, the show takes a turn into truly dark territory. Rick is a violent, possibly sociopathic and selfish bastard who is only interested in his research. He’s foul, gassy and isn’t above using less than legal methods to get his work done. Such as one episode, where he turns a vagrant into a theme park for microscopic visitors, dubbed Anatomy Park.
A park that is filled with all manner of Jurassic Park-riffing monsters such as Hepatitis A and numerous other STDs. Then there’s an episode where Morty challenges Rick to dictate the rules of the latest adventure, a journey that has them wind up in a more whimsical world of giants, peasants and weird fantasy creatures. Meanwhile, Mortys family decides to make use of a Meeseeks box,a device that spawns a blue humanoid that will go out of its way to happily assist a person so that it can finally die in bliss once the task is complete.
Everything is going well and smooth in a wacky fashion in the episode, until Morty is almost raped in a dodgy bathroom by one of these strange creatures, done in such a way that it genuinely feels uncomfortable and hits hard. Series co-creator Justin Roiland explained the scene to Animation World Network, and how it almost never made it to air:
That was a sequence that I was very hands-on with. It was a structural component of the story that needed to happen. We had issues with Standards & Practices on it and there was a brief period of time when we were worried the whole story could fall apart due to them saying, “No, you can’t do this to a 14-year-old character on a cartoon show.” I wanted to make sure that we weren’t making light of that kind of thing. I remember the first storyboard I got for it was very cartoony. Mr. Jellybean was climbing up Morty’s back and it was not as weighty and grounded. I was just like, “This needs to feel like a scene from a Jodie Foster movie. It can’t be jokey.
It needs to be feel really straight and dramatic and horrifying because it is.” It’s a horrible thing. It’s such a jarring and unexpected twist in the story. Morty goes into that bathroom like he’s still trying to win this bet and he’s in this whimsical land and he’s inching closer to winning it, and he leaves and he just doesn’t even care. He’s pretty much just learned the lesson that, “Rick was right, this place is chaotic.” It was just such a pivotal point. Luckily, Mike Lazzo really helped explain it to S&P and said, “Look, this is important to the integrity and structure of the episode. If you take this out what do we replace it with?”
Hell, the show barely ever ends on a happy note either. Rick and Morty have witnessed their own deaths several times, destroyed the planet and relocated to a new dimension and have had a strained relationship throughout the series so far. Throw in some great performances from the small supporting cast that includes veteran voice actors Chris Parnell and Sarah Chalke, and the show has some real talent inside of it.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. In rare moments, Rick is actually a human being, while Morty learns to fend for himself. But it’s a series that quite honestly cannot be compared to anything else on TV. And well worth watching. It’s a deliciously demented science show.
Last Updated: April 15, 2014