Movies & TV / Columns

From Under A Rock: Rick & Morty

March 25, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Rick and Morty
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From Under A Rock: Rick & Morty  


My (Michael’s) pick this week is a show that is near and dear to me, as it’s one of my favorite things currently on the airwaves. It’s simultaneously the funniest show on TV while also being some of the best science fiction I’ve ever seen.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Labyrinth. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Rick & Morty.

Rick & Morty
Released: December 2nd, 2013
Created by: Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland
Justin Roiland as Rick Sanchez, Morty Smith, and other various parts
Chris Parnell as Jerry Smith
Sarah Chalke as Beth Smith
Spencer Grammer as Summer Smith

Michael Ornelas: With the current sociopolitical climate, I’ve found myself gravitating more toward things that are just “fun”, between our review a few weeks ago of Black Dynamite, my adoration for your pick of John Wick, and now this week’s pick. But Rick & Morty balances its fun with wits, uniqueness, and a surprising amount of darkness. This blends into a tasty stew that I would only be so lucky to taste every week. We’re now a year and a half since the second season concluded and, with no third season release date in sight, I thought that a revisitation was the way to go. I was right.

Aaron Hubbard: I absolutely love this show. I don’t think there’s a bad episode in the bunch and several are just phenomenal. Adult cartoon comedy is not usually my jam, although I do love Futurama, but I’m so glad Michael got me into this. It’s compulsively watchable and has put a smile on my face every time I watch it.
TV’s Best Sci-fi
Michael: With all due respect to every scifi show this side of Futurama, I don’t think anything compares to Rick & Morty. It deals in complexity on a regular basis and always fits the pieces together in fascinating and flawless ways. Some of my favorite ideas set forth are in the second season. “A Rickle in Time” features a six month-long freezing of time that causes a temporal instability for Rick, Morty, and Summer, and any uncertainty the characters experience causes time itself to split in half and create two timelines in which they are simultaneously living (one for each of the choices about which they were uncertain). Then there’s “Total Rickall”, where alien parasites multiply by embedding memories in the heads of the Smith family, causing them to believe that these zany characters have existed all along, leading to a lockdown of the house by Rick until they figure out who’s a parasite and who’s not. This show doesn’t even need its sense of humor; it’s perfect anyways.

Aaron: I personally wouldn’t go so far as to say the show as perfect, for a reason I’ll explain later, but its ambition is truly impressive. It’s refreshing to watch a TV show that stimulates the brain and feels like it’s ahead of you. “Meeseeks and Destroy” raises questions immediately, but instead of running away from it, it takes it to the extreme and makes it the point of the episode. “M. Night Shaym-Aliens” is hard to follow and is full of twists and turns, and then has a big twist at the end that still works. That’s impressive as hell to me. I love that the show always keeps me on my toes and takes things in unexpected directions.

Michael: Unexpected is this show’s strong point. When you turn on an episode of Rick & Morty, you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. Of course personal taste will dictate how much you’re able to appreciate the show’s styling, but there’s nothing like it. I love that they can randomly do an improvised episode each season, in which Justin Roiland records himself reportedly drinking his way through fake commercials and shows that air on “Intergalactic TV”, and give us a break from the craziness that typically goes hand-in-hand with the series…and it’s still a blast and well-justified science fiction.
Strong, Stand-Out Characters
Aaron: One of the reasons this show stands out for me is that the main cast is small and there’s a clear focus on what each one’s issues are. Rick and Morty obviously have the strongest dynamic with Morty being the long-suffering sidekick on Rick’s crazy adventures, but Morty’s parents are also very well thought-out characters. I think the show benefits by not having them as the main characters, because they aren’t some caricature of the ideal family. They feel more real than any couple I’ve seen in this genre, and remind me of my own parents to an alarming degree. Summer is probably the most cliché, but she’s not annoying and has a lot of standout moments, especially in season 2.

Michael: A strong supporting voice cast certainly helps in this case. Beth, Jerry, and Summer seem cliché on the surface but, as you said, their wants and needs are so fleshed out that we quickly learn what makes these three tick and why they’re anything but ordinary. Chris Parnell (who voices Jerry) is a national treasure and plays “beta male dad” better than anyone I can think of. Sarah Chalke (Beth) plays a character so drastically different than her other most well-known part (Elliot Reid on Scrubs) that it’s apparent she’s having a blast when she works on this show. Justin Roiland is this show, though. The voice of the titular characters has a style all his own that you can’t find anywhere else on TV. Morty’s arc is particularly fascinating to me because he’s working so hard to prove his worth (or rather, that he’s not worthless) because he’s half comprised of his father’s genes, and Jerry is worthless, despite adamantly denying it. Morty does manage to save on the day on several occasions and, as we head into season 3, may be the only one capable of busting Rick out of the Galactic Federation’s maximum security space prison. I’m eager to see where the next batch of episodes take these characters.

Aaron: It’s especially important because I feel the show’s one weakness is its recurring side characters. I don’t like the principal or the weird teacher, Mr. Squanch annoys me, and Jessica bores me. I know this is genre convention, but the main characters are so compelling on their own that I’d rather stick with them. They never overwhelm the show, and there’s some great guest spots like Jemaine Clement as “Fart” in “Mortynight Run”, and Stephen Colbert in “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”. So it’s a small problem.
TV’s Funniest Show
Michael: This one is much more subjective than fact, but I laugh harder at this show than anything else. They “earn” their low-brow humor too, for lack of a better term. This is a show full of fart jokes, but they usually go hand-in-hand with how smart the show is. I adore the fact that this show made me care more about a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole dying than most shows have made me care about anyone dying. The show features outlandish characters with even weirder names on a regular basis, so there’s no indication that we shouldn’t be taking them seriously. Mr. Poopy Butthole in particular was built up to have a storied history with Rick and the Smith family that was right in line with the parasites in the episode that we all knew it was coming. We didn’t realize our hearts would be yanked from our chest when Beth shoots him and he bleeds real blood instead of showing himself to be a parasite like all the rest did. And then the show chooses to devastate us by living in the gravity of the moment instead of giving us a cheap joke. The final shot of the episode (before the post-credits tag) is Beth shakily pouring a glass of wine to drown out the guilt of shooting the long-time family friend. This is morbidly hilarious, and the show manages to pull this off on a consistent enough basis that I can safely say there’s nothing funnier on TV right now.

Aaron: Lowbrow humor is anathema to me, and while I got that there was humor in that character being real, it didn’t work for me. For me, the humor usually comes from situational hilarity. The Meeseeks being unable to help Jerry’s golf game always gets me. The daycare for Jerrys is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I love the Cronenberg horror reality, I love the “A Rickle in Time” concept. But I think the best example of how smart and funny this show is in “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind”. There’s a scene where Rick and Morty are portal jumping through alternate realities and there’s pizzas, couches, phones and people all ordering each other. It ends with Rick and Morty sitting on humans at a restaurant for couches and eating phone pasta. It’s the most ridiculous scenario possible, and impossible to explain out of context but… it’s amazing.

Michael: I’ve now mentioned that I love the label/character humor, you talked about situational humor, so what’s left? The dialogue. I think everything Rick says is a riot. I think his wit is razor sharp, and I’m quoting him all the time. I still think back to the pilot episode when asked for my favorite line in the show. Rick and Morty are running from these insect-like security guards at an intergalactic airport and Rick tosses Morty a gun to cover him while he rigs some sciency thing. Morty is terrified at the notion of ending life, and voices this to Rick who tells him not to worry because they’re robots. Hell, I’ll just show you:

“It’s a figure of speech Morty, they’re bureaucrats, I don’t respect them” is so freaking funny and encapsulates Rick’s essence perfectly. This show is full of lines like that, which makes it impossible to match in its comedic brilliance.

Aaron: Despite some nitpicks, the show is consistently good in every episode, with even the lesser ones being entertaining. At its best, this is one of the best TV shows I’ve ever watched. I’ve already rewatched most of this, and I’m sure I’ll be watching it more in the future. This is outstanding.


Michael: My standards for Rick & Morty are impossibly high at this point, and that’s only because the show has lived up to them week in and week out. I laugh at Morty writhing in pain from his broken legs in the pilot. I choke up at Beth and Jerry finding out that, even in an parallel universe where Jerry is an actor and Beth is a successful human surgeon, they still end up together. I go into deep existential thought when Morty explains how he had to bury his own dead body in the back yard to Summer. The show has it all and makes me feel everything. I love it. I want more of it. It’s amazing, and you should watch it too.


Aaron: Season 3 can’t arrive soon enough. But I’d rather wait for greatness than see this show die a slow death.

Michael: And that’s the waaaaaaaaaay the news goes!

What’s your favorite Rick & Morty moment?

Next week:

Aaron: Well, we love our fast-paced, super fun modern sci-fi. Let’s contrast that with the glacial, super serious and inscrutable brilliance of Stanley Kubrick.
Michael: I’ve experienced this one before, just not in its entirety. “Glacial” is putting it gently, but I’m ready to give it a shot.

Aaron: I honestly expect you to hate this, but I’m going to love talking about it. It’s not a film so much as an experience.

2001: A Space Odyssey; is it a masterpiece, or is it overrated?

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The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
See it. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, just go see it. It's great entertainment, both funny and smart. If you have watched it before, it's worth revisiting again because several episodes are great enough to see over and over (and you’ll always catch something you didn’t notice before). This gets our highest marks.