Not many animated shows have had the same meteoric rise that Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s animated ode to sci-fi pop culture, Rick & Morty, has experienced since its 2013 inception.
The series follows the misadventures of the cynical genius scientist and inventor Rick Sanchez and his naïve, well-meaning but neurotic grandson Morty Smith as they navigate both interdimensional travel and the even more dangerous modern suburbia.
So, after five seasons, media coverage of a group of wonderful fans abusing minimum wage employees over some discontinued sauce, and just so many memes I finally decided to give the show a crack and it’s not half bad.
I ended up binging the entire first season and I’ve picked the first three episodes to run through today in case anyone else is in the same position as me and isn’t sure if it’s worth watching the show.
Let’s get into it.
S01 E01: “Pilot”
The episode (and show) opens with a dark room. It’s peaceful, it’s serene. All for the brief second before a blackout drunk Rick Sanchez bursts into the room, turns on the light and disturbs Morty from a restful sleep, and dragging him half-naked from his room.
What’s the reason for such a rude awakening of Morty by his intoxicated grandpa? Well, Rick’s made a new flying machine, which looks like it’s been conjured up from some nightmare landfill. What does he want to do with it? Take it for a test flight with his grandson and a neutrino bomb he also cobbled together during his bender of course.
During the flight, Rick gives Morty a strange offer: he can activate the neutrino bomb, obliterating humanity back to before the Jesus times and leave just Morty and his crush Jessica on the new world in an “Adam and Eve” scenario.
Morty’s not really up for that so after a brief squabble, Rick reveals it’s a test to see if he could trust Morty enough to take him on his adventures with him. He then promptly passes out and leaves Morty to diffuse the neutrino bomb all by himself.
A couple of days later, Morty’s parents are called into school with the principal informing them that Morty’s absences from school are becoming problematic with all of Rick’s adventures keeping Morty out of school for an entire semester.
Rick’s latest adventure has the duo travelling to an alternate dimension where there are Mega Trees from which Mega Seeds are harvested which Rick wants to gather for scientific research purposes.
However, intergalactic customs are going to claim the seed away from him so of course, Morty’s gotta stick the seed up the old prison wallet. What follows is just a cascade of everything going wrong as the duo stage a daring prison break type surge to freedom as they gun down bureaucratic bugs.
For most shows, the pilot episode is where the audience gets a glimpse of the show’s potential and then make a snap decision whether to abandon the show in search of another or continue on in the hope that the glint blossoms into a diamond.
Luckily for Rick & Morty, they’re the exception to the rule. The pilot has a razor-sharp wit, cheeky references, and homages and is completely confident in a way that fans of Harmon’s other works (mainly Community) will be familiar with. It leaves you with a great first impression – stoked for the next episode.
S01 E02: “Lawnmower Dog”
In the second episode, the Smith family dog, Snuggles, keeps going to the bathroom on the carpet, much to Jerry’s chagrin. He begs Rick to help him with the Snuggles situation and after sustained begging, Rick relents. He crafts a helmet that increases the dog’s intelligence and allows him to perform tasks like a human.
After that brief distraction, Rick reveals to Morty his grand plan for the episode. He’s going to enter the dreams of Morty’s maths teacher – Mr. Goldenford – and influence him to make sure he gives Morty higher grades in his class so Jerry and Beth won’t stop Morty from coming along on more adventures.
Yes, they’re going to pull an Inception on him just with 75% fewer suits and 25% less talking about levels.
They descend through the many layers – from plane to S&M dungeon to a labyrinth being chased by a “legally safe knockoff” of Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger called Scary Terry. While this is all going on, Snuffles has been busy. He’s managed to tinker with the helmet so that he can talk (albeit in stilted English) and built a Mecha suit. To top it off, he’s changed his name to Snowball and enslaved the Smith household.
Rick and Morty discover this after they survive their Inception journey by way of curing Scary Terry of his self-doubt and in return Scary Terry blasts through the different layers and convinces Mr. Goldenford to give Morty better grades.
Snowball recruits other neighbourhood dogs and along with copies of Rick’s helmet overthrows the entire planet with humans powerless as the dogs take over into a dog eat dog world… that is until it is revealed that it’s all going on in Snowballs mind *insert Inception horns*.
If the pilot made a good first impression, then the second episode blows it away. It’s got the first appearance of the dark and delicious sense of humour the series has become known for along with a huge dump of meta and references that keeps this episode fresh as you discover something new every time you watch.
S01 E03: “Anatomy Park”
For our final episode, it’s Christmas time at the Smith house but the festive nature of the holiday season hasn’t stopped Rick from being his usual destructive self. He shrinks Morty down to a small size and injects him into the body of a homeless man named Rueben in order to save his life.
Rueben’s body is the site of a new type of park, a park all about the body processes called Anatomy Park *insert Jurassic Park Theme and Jeff Goldblum memes*. Before Morty can even get his bearings, he’s introduced to the park’s staff – Poncho, Roger, Annie, and the Richard Attenborough stand in Dr. Xenon Bloom.
It turns out that much like Jurassic Park, all is not well in the park. Rueben’s got an entire smorgasbord of dead
ly diseases floating around his body. They discover after being chased from gonorrhea to the lungs that Rueben also has Tuberculosis and subsequently dies before Rick can develop a cure.
The plan now shifts from saving Rueben to escaping from him. As the team is cut down one by one by the rampaging diseases, it seems to be the end for Morty and Annie but they manage to escape after Rick enlarges Rueben to the size of the US and blows him up like a water balloon.
There’s also a B story that focuses on the rest of the Smith family and Jerry’s parents but I didn’t enjoy it as much and wouldn’t spend time on it here.
This episode was a bit of a mixed bag. It has some nice references and nods to pop culture and most of the jokes land but I just didn’t find some of the bits as funny as the show thought I would and these drag on a bit too long that they tried my patience.
Overall, I’m a fan of the show but just be aware that you might not like everything that the show throws at you. Check it out and see what you think.
What are your favourite moments from season one of Rick & Morty? Let me know in the comments or on my socials.
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