From layers of depth to moments of tragedy, Rick and Morty isn’t just your every day comedy. We’ve used science to figure out precisely what makes Rick and Morty so good.
Creators of Rick and Morty (and beforehand Community) Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon are seriously clever dudes. With only three seasons under its belt, Rick and Morty has quickly soared to become one of the funniest and most intelligent shows on TV – and that’s a pretty impressive achievement feat when you have to compete with ingenious greats like Two and a Half Men (if I have to clarify, this is sarcasm).
But the success of Rick and Morty isn’t just the result of funny jokes. Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have created something with complex and layered brilliance.
So whether you’ve never watched the show before or are a diehard fan with an Abradolf Lincler tattoo on your chest, you’re bound to find these reasons explaining exactly why Rick and Morty is so good insightful.
1 – Iconic plotlines
One reason Rick and Morty stands out as such a great show is its number of iconic and memorable episodes. Before writing this article, I did a little personal exercise (not the gym kind, don’t worry). I wanted to see how many Family Guy episodes I could remember. Now, Family Guy has been running a lot longer than Rick and Morty, and contains a fair few more episodes. But while I remember funny moments, complete plot-lines felt a little more distant. In comparison, my recollections of various Rick and Morty adventures are vivid.
A key reason for this is the sheer absurdity of the plots. I’m talking think of something ridiculous, times it by 100 and then turn it into an alien fart ridiculous.
Rick and Morty makes the most of its animation medium, using it not as a point of differentiation, but as a platform to fulfil the madness the show desires. There are no boundaries – Rick and Morty can go any where and do any thing.
In fact, Rick and Morty generates a good chunk of its humour just from the narrative. Many TV comedies derive their laughs from dialogue and visual gags. Rick and Morty on the other hand is so blatantly mad that you often find yourself in the middle of an episode laughing at the mind-boggling ludicrousness of the story.
Another source of Rick and Morty‘s unforgettable nature is its often infuriating gags and antagonists. Personally, if I ever have to hear a fucking Mr Meeseeks again, I will roundhouse kick someone in the face (but realistically the waist… and realistically not a roundhouse kick).
But that’s the whole point. Characters and plots like the Mr Meeseeks drive you so mad that you can’t forget it. And that’s often what makes Rick and Morty so good: It is, quite literally, unforgettable viewing.
2 – Balance between humour and tragedy
Rick and Morty isn’t your every day animated comedy (despite it being an animated comedy I watch every day). It is filled with layered and often emotional narrative arcs, guiding us through the episodes like the weird blob guide in stair world. And this is because Rick and Morty nails the balance between hilarious comedy and heartbreaking tragedy.
Let’s take the episode ‘Rick Potions #9’ as an example. Here, Rick gives Morty a potion designed to make his crush fall in love with him at the school dance. What transpires is the most extravagant form up fuck-uppery ever. In the space of about two TV minutes after the potion’s first use, the entire world is head-over-heels in love with Morty, and then somehow transform into giant head-eating monsters, before the teetering on the edge of apocalypse.
Forget all that madness, how funny is it watching Morty’s teachers chasing him down the hallway, begging to give him good marks in return for a lifetime of passion together?
Yet later, when Rick gives up all hope of saving the world, he forces Morty into a parallel timeline where the potion is yet to be used. Everything here is fine, except Rick and Morty have just died. They bury their alternate selves in the garden before trying to carry on with ordinary life.
Morty is deeply pained by this, and the audience watches as he drags his dead self towards a makeshift grave, numb.
Very few shows are able to pull off the fine balance between tragedy and comedy, and it’s one of the reasons why Rick and Morty is so good.
3 – Rick and Morty knows the meaning of life
Yep, Rick and Morty is not just a pretty fa- show. Creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon imbue their comedy with profound philosophy and meditations on life. Primarily, this revolves around the question of meaning – or perhaps, more fittingly, meaninglessness.
I’ll use the follow up episode to the prior mentioned ‘Rick Potions #9’ as an example. After Morty’s sister Summer discovers how much of an unwanted pregnancy she was, Morty uses the harrowing self-burying experience as a piece of life advice. He exclaims: “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
In this short bout of dialogue we witness Rick and Morty’s entire philosophy. If you’re looking for some greater purpose, forget it. We’re all going to die. So why don’t we stop worrying and enjoy what makes us happy, like spending time with family?
The bulk of this existential exploration is embodied in Rick. Rick is very aware that life has no greater meaning, and, a dribbling alcoholic, is arguably depressed because of it. But as a result, Rick structures his life around what makes him happy: Scientific exploration and his family.
In one episode, Bird Person (classic) explains to Morty that Rick’s catchphrase, “Wubba lubba dub dub”, actually translates to “I am in great pain, please help me”. Later in the episode, Rick freezes time to clean the house from their massive intergalactic house party. But instead of cleaning, Rick spends most of the time having fun with Summer and Morty. When Morty asks why Rick doesn’t say “Wubba lubba dub dub” anymore, Rick responds that he has a new catchphrase: “I love my grandkids”.
Rick chose to freeze time for six months, just so he could maximise time spent with the people who give him the most happiness: his family.
The lesson is fairly simple. Like Rick, we need to embrace life. We should stop taking things so seriously and stop searching for a greater purpose. Because once we can accept that life is about nothing, we will be free to actually live it.
4 – Human characters
The depth of Rick and Morty is helped by the believable nature of its characters.
We wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon had chosen to simply make Rick and Morty an exhibition of crazy sci-fi adventures, without a secondary layer of meaning. With an entire universe of madness to explore, human nature could very much take a back seat.
Instead though, the characters in Rick and Morty all just feel so… real. Jerry is so achingly familiar; Morty and his impressionability is fantastically relatable. Amazingly, despite its animation, Rick and Morty has a level of believable humanity that surpasses many non-animated sit-coms.
As a result, when shit hits the fan, we’re not just invested because we’ve been taught to be invested in our protagonists. We’re invested because we care about the characters. In moments of heartbreak, we don’t just feel sad, but we feel effected.
Rick and Morty is an exploration of humanity, and one that teaches us what it’s like to be alive.
5 – Hilarious lines
Who would I be kidding if I didn’t say the jokes are a big part of why Rick and Morty is so good. Outlandish, clever, and often disgusting, the show is filled with belters. Here are some personal favourites:
Bottom line is, Rick and Morty becomes more than just your standard comedy. It fuses moments of real darkness with moments of hilarity, and it works – seamlessly. This is a nuanced, brilliant, and totally irreverent commentary on our world. And it is absolutely mad.
So why is Rick and Morty so popular? You’re just going to have to watch.