Recommendation: Rick and Morty

Posted on June 12, 2016 by Richard Goulter

“What? It’s way existential.” – Cher, describing Ren & Stimpy, Clueless

This is a strong,weak recommendation for Rick and Morty.
It’s not completely outstanding/amazing; but where it is, it’s great, and when it’s not it’s still not bad. (Overall, the start of Season 2 is much stronger than the rest).

Without spoilers

Rick & Morty (R&M) is a cartoon, loosely in the spirit of, say, Futurama. Episodic adventures, with sci-fi themes. Loosely, Rick & Morty are bastardised Doc & Marty from Back to the Future.

It’s quite subversive:
It delights in being utterly gross. A lot of the humour is crass, or quite deliberately making the audience uncomfortable. (Family Guy’s Peter Griffin ‘knee injury’ is the same kind of humour).
It’s also subverts tropes & narrative expectations. Usually. – I wouldn’t exactly call the show ‘meta’, but it’s almost as if it plays around with tropes as if they’re as integral to a narrative as its plot & characters.

Often the characters get into quite a mess, it’s emphasised how bad the mess is, then the mess gets worse. Rick’s kindof like a cat-in-the-hat, I guess. – Something I found a bit discomforting about the show, though, at first: you tend to expect that the mess gets cleaned up, that all is restored with the world, that the ‘hidden world’ remains hidden. – R&M doesn’t particularly bother, it doesn’t care.

I can’t say the setting of R&M is as inherently intriguing as, say, “Inside Out”, “Zootopia” or “The Wire”. – It’s sci-fi, Rick has a portal gun to visit other realities; various magic items to present or solve problems. – What’s nice is that the magic is never used as a means-to-an-end, hardly a deus-ex-machina without further problems.
– The problems it presents are quite ‘fun’ in themselves.

So, at times, it’s kindof a filthy show.
And with its massive universe (infinite alternate realities, astronomical number of worlds within the reality), it’s certainly got an “everything is arbitrary” existential bitterness to it. It adores slaying sacred cows, more than it adores anything else.

And yet, at times, it’s capable of being quite sweet.

I can’t say it’s a show where it’s valuable for its plot, but just to discuss more specifics:

With Spoilers

Some of the episodes are pretty cute.

God’s Batteries

I quite liked the “Recursive Other World” theme they use several times.
My favourite was this one:

You, as a brilliant scientist, make an “electric battery”. It’s actually a mini-universe, in a time-dilation field; you found a planet where you introduced electricity.
This planet produces electricity for themselves, but also produce enough electricity (as a ‘by-product’ of the electric generator you gave them) for their mini-universe to function as a “battery” for you.

Problem: A brilliant scientist finds a way to generate electricity without the by-product. (i.e. your battery loses produces no charge). – They make an “electric battery”. It’s actually a mini-universe…

– At the end of the episode, after Rick’s visited the battery-planet (and the battery-planet’s battery-planet..; and the battery-planet’s scientist realises the recursion), he asserts that his battery now works. “It’s simple: either I return & find a broken battery [which I dispose of], or I find my battery works.” Shots are shown of the battery-planet’s people working as before, and a very bitter battery-planet scientist.

E Pluribus Unum

By far the best Rick and Morty episode was S02E03.
It’s gross. At times not great. Packs a lot of fun questions about some tough issues. And just a little heart-wrenching/sweet. – Kinda like R&M on the whole.
It’s also the one of the few times we see can sympathise with Rick.

Roughly, the sci-fi toy was this:

The idea of suppressing an individual’s freedom is gross, right?

Wouldn’t a collectivist-system be much better, though? (If all were operated by one collective mind:) People could fulfill the roles they’re best suited to. The world would be at peace. No crime, etc.

Short of that, people are destructive and awful: people easily fight against each other, separating into tribes based on arbitrary, insignificant differences.

Not exactly a ringing criticism of J.S. Mill,
but I guess what was great about the episode wasn’t its sci-fi parts.


Probably the most striking sci-fi toy R&M makes use of, (apparently the 2nd episode they wrote), was from the episode “Rick Potion #9”. Basically:

Given an infinite number of alternate-universes, and the ability to travel between them:
If ever you make a bad mistake, you can ‘probably’ find a universe where things are exactly the same as your universe, except: no bad mistake, alternate-you is indisposed. (Chances decreasing to infinitesimally small after some iterations).

Everything is arbitrary, huh.

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