We are officially into the third season of the anomalous Adult Swim property, The Adventures of Rick and Morty. The amount of hype is near-palpable, and the series has undergone huge changes in a very short space of time, from the dramatic conclusion of Season 2 where the Galactic Federation had “incorporated” earth… to the destruction of the Federation, the Council of Ricks, and Beth and Jerry’s marriage. So why does the series keep getting bigger, and where does it go from here?
In between Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub and Mr. Poopybutthole there’s a surprising amount of very clever commentary and philosophical thought. The longer the series goes on, and the more we get those little emotional connections to the characters, and the more series creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland play on it. Let’s take this week’s episode as a prime example, in which we see how Morty and Summer are coping – or not coping – with their parents divorce, Summer’s complete disconnect and avoidance and throwing herself into the hands of the first bucketheaded lunatic she stumbles across, and Morty struggling to express his frustration through violent outbursts channelled through a hyper-strong arm with memories of it’s own demise.
Through ridiculousness and exaggeration Rick and Morty approach a vary serious subject with a kind of sensitivity you don’t expect, and this may be a major contributing factor to their success, because there’s another cartoon that takes a similar path: South Park. It’s another show that raises interesting talking points by blowing them comically out of proportion, although where Rick and Morty excels is where it gets subtle.
In the last episode, did anyone pick up on Rick commenting that he wasn’t coping well with his daughter’s divorce? Despite his nihilistic tirades, and committing extradimensional genocide of himself, he still cares intensely. He’s an outsiders view of emotion if you will, having seen it all, done everything and murdered or otherwise exploited most of it, and yet he’s not beyond emotion, he’s invested in his family.
To get uncomfortably deep into the philosophies behind the show take a look at this video from Wisecrack.
In an internet driven society where high-level intellectuals finally have a playground big enough to play in, and can unify their disparate fields of study, we’re seeing a growing number of Cicada 3301 level easter eggs planted into TV shows and games. Portal’s radio stations, the codes embedded in Archer, and Rick and Morty is hellbent on breaking free of the confines of television and becoming a less that metaphorical part of our world and vice-versa. Easter Eggs span from Battlestar Gallactica to Gravity Falls, and look at the impact of the whole szechuan sauce matter, and the madness of the fan campaign.
There’s a terrifying glimpse into the pre- and post-federation earth in the website Fedconnect, a kind of buzzfeed for aliens learning (badly) to integrate humanity into their society, and taking a lighthearted look at the collapsed post-economy society for the former Federation. Or look to the Adult Swim business format of not giving a damn about a business format, living for their own hype even when it costs them money. They’ve gleefully aired the first two episodes of the new season for all to enjoy no matter where they are in the world, because the frenzy that it drives will propel their popularity into other sales, such as merchandise and digital downloads.
There’s a single, far bigger question: whether any of this is actually intentional or whether Harman and Roiland are just kids playing with the biggest and expensive toy, public perception. It doesn’t matter of course, they’ve struck some kind of awesome gold and it’s working, so if we’re reading too much into this slap-dash shambles of fart jokes and sci-fi-hi-jinkery then that makes it artistic enough for my liking.