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The Show You Should Be Watching: Rick & Morty

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 5 May 2014 16:10
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The premise (setup, really) is disarmingly simple: After a lengthy and still largely unexplained absence (possibly from the planet, possibly from reality itself), aging mad scientist Rick Sanchez has reconnected with his family. He has moved into the average suburban home of his now-adult daughter Beth, her disapproving husband Jerry Smith, annoyed teenaged daughter Summer and younger teenaged son Morty, who has become (not entirely by choice) Grandpa's super-science sidekick.

While clearly designed as a shady version of Doc Emmett Brown, Rick's mad science has (deliberately) more in common with The Doctor. He's a guy who casually travels through time, to other planets and across dimensions, with access to technologies that may as well be magic and the secrets of the universe at his fingertips. You'd think this would make Morty a lucky kid - his grandfather is a time-jumping Science Wizard with alien pals and laser guns! - but as the show opens they've already been at this for a while we're made to understand that the wonder of Grandpa Rick has already worn off. Morty regards him with the weary exasperation of a real life kid whose grandfather is bouncing back from rehab (or prison) rather than transdimensional misadventures.

Instead of making Rick "whimsical" or enlightened, this life seems to have ruined him. His gravelly voice and constant belching/farting betray a (barely) functioning alcoholic, which would be a big deal if he wasn't a habitual abuser of drugs (and worse) culled from across the space-time continuum. It seems like a cheap joke at first ("Huh huh! Doctor Who would totally be a stoner!") but soon makes complete sense. This is a guy who lives on a level Earthlings weren't built for, and his all-too-base vices are probably the main thing keeping him human.

In Morty, Rick may have an accomplice, but also maybe a twisted sort of redemption. A guy who ends up as the Hunter Thompson of the multiverse must have started out as a wide-eyed dweeb like Morty, right? And that's the gimmick: The super-scientist as (occasionally) well-meaning/bad-acting human wrecking ball. If there's a disastrous consequence to a seemingly miraculous sci-fi development, it'll happen to Rick - and Morty will pay for it.

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At one point in the pilot, Morty breaks both of his legs after trusting his grandfather that he can walk down a cliff with a pair of special shoes (that Rick forgot to tell him to turn on.) Rick teleports off to another reality, returning moments later with an over-the-counter "cure for two broken legs" and then casually reveals that he actually hung around the "perfect" alternate universe (since they'd cured EVERYTHING including aging, Rick's rare visible old age made him a celebrity) having orgies with supermodels for a few years just because he could. Morty's dissonance over whether to be mad about Rick taking his sweet time when he... sort of didn't, is hilarious. A darker version comes in a later episode, "Rick Potion #9, where Rick's solution to their having ruined the world (short version: a love-potion meant to help Morty at a school dance mutates into a pheromone-virus outbreak) is to beam off to a near-identical reality where "they" just died and quietly take their doppelgangers places. For Rick it's practically a reflex - crack a beer, integrate and chill out - but a final shot lingers on a Morty's horrified expression: "How many times has this maniac done this!?"

Not that Morty is always the innocent one: In "Raising Gazorpazorp," (which really does play out like they found a great unfilmed Futurama script and switched-out the character names) he begs Rick to buy him a sex robot from an interdimensional pawn shop. Of course, the sexbot turns out to be an alien fertility surrogate which subsequently gives birth to Morty's rapidly-growing monster son, sending Rick and Morty's vapid sister Summer off to its female-ruled homeworld (their universal greeting: "I'm here if you want to talk" instead of "hello") so that Summer can beg Earth's salvation from the Matriarchy on... unique terms. "Maybe on your world separation of the genders is the right thing to do, but on our world a certain percentage of our males... are born gay! Which is why my clothes are so much better than yours!"

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