Rick, too, has his moments of humanity. In "Meeseeks And Destroy," (considered by many to be the best episode of Season 1) he grudgingly let's Morty pick the day's adventure on a bet, leading them to a fairytale kingdom of fantasy folk and candy creatures that looks an awful lot like a piss-take of Adventure Time's twee hipster whimsy. And, holy crap, is there anything in the animation genre more straight-up ballsy than taking a SHOT at Adventure Time? You might as well drop-kick a Make-A-Wish kid! However, this episode culminates in an alarmingly dark moment where a sentient jellybean tries to rape Morty in a bathroom stall.
It's the darkest moment in a series full of them, even though Morty fights his attacker off and gets away. But the key is watching Rick (silently) put together what's actually happened when his grandson comes sulking back asking to abandon the adventure and just go home. For the first time (that we've seen, at least) he sort of acts like the Magic Grandpa figure he'd be in a non-satiric version of this series. He goes all in to make sure the adventure can wind up as positively as Morty envisioned it and also popping back in, on his own terms, to make sure that the jellybean pays for what he did. If the show has an unspoken rule, it's that NOBODY gets to hurt Rick's family but Rick.
I could spend a whole column talking about everything great from the shows inaugural season: The hilarious (and horrifying) implications of Mister Meeseeks. Rick building a microbe-sized zoo (a Jurassic Park but for infamous diseases instead of dinosaurs) in the intestines of a homeless man. A Titanic (the movie) role-playing vacation hit by disaster when the ship fails to sink. The fact that Rick uses "Cronenberg" as a verb. By the time things rolled around to a "shit just got real" revelation for Morty in the season finale ("Wubba lubba dub dub," Rick's catchphrase, actually has an unexpected English translation), what might've been a maudlin walkback for any other show feels earned and real: "Oooooh. That's what this show is about."
This is easily one of the best first seasons of a series I've ever watched (even Venture Bros. didn't quite realize it could be more than just a Johnny Quest spoof until Trial of The Monarch.) It's doubly surprising to see something arrive so fully-formed on Adult Swim, whose "What the hell, let's try it!" approach to original programming often results in shows that spend a whole first-run figuring out what they want to be. Case in point: Moral Orel, which went from a tiresome one joke premise ("LOL Christianity!") to brutal heartbreaking pathos in a a single episode (and then wrapped up with a series finale that somehow manages to be soul shattering and life affirming.) But this show? It knew exactly what it wanted to be right off the bat, even if it's sneaky about letting you know what that is.
Rick & Morty is the best kind of TV surprise. The show you didn't know you needed in your life. The first season just recently concluded, most of the episodes are online now (and will be incessantly re-run because this is Adult Swim.) If even one sentence in this column sounded intriguing to you, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.