‘Rick and Morty’ is an intergalactic joyride

NOSELL

Adult Swim

 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 4:35pm

Calling “Rick and Morty” Adult Swim’s most accessible show sounds ridiculous, but this is technically accurate. In its first two seasons, the show blended the late night network’s bizarre flavor of comedy with more conventional plots and pseudo-philosophical themes. Along with “The Eric Andre Show” — calling this show accessible is stretching it quite a bit — “Rick and Morty” is one of the rare Adult Swim series to breakthrough to larger audiences than the network’s usual niche fanbase. In many ways, it rivals “Bojack Horsemen” as one of the best animated shows of today.

Devout “Rick and Morty” fans are a peculiar breed, treating the show like a religion. Many of the existentialist themes struck a chord in plenty of viewers, and the show has since acted like a Philosophy 101 crash course for many. But despite its misguided fanbase, the show is truly smart. Every episode takes us on an intergalactic adventure with Rick and his grandson Morty as they flee from crisis, usually caused by Rick’s stubbornness and nihilistic tendencies. Summer, Morty’s older sister, occasionally gets dragged into the conflict, along with their constantly bickering parents, Beth and Jerry.

In its season three premiere — which aired months ago as part of Adult Swim’s annual April Fools special — the show returned in top form. Rick, imprisoned after turning himself into the Intergalactic Federation, fights to escape jail. The rest of his family back on Earth, which is occupied by the Federation, fights to rescue him. As expected, the episode takes many unexpected turns and manages to resolve itself. By the end, Rick returns to Earth, though only for the purpose of getting McDonalds Szechuan chicken sauce. Morty’s parents divorce after Jerry makes Beth decide between him and her father, Rick — needless to say, she chooses Rick.

From now until the fall the show will air weekly, a blessing for all worshippers of creators Dan Harmon (“Community”) and Justin Roiland (“Krampus”). Although not technically the premiere, the second episode further lays the foundation for the rest of the season as if it were. Jerry and Beth have separated and Rick takes his grandkids on an excursion to try and distract them from the stresses of the divorce. They find themselves in an alternate version of Earth populated by warriors called death stalkers resembling the post-apocalyptic landscape of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Summer develops feelings for Eli, voiced by Joel McHale (“Community”) and Morty grows a muscular arm with a mind of its own that seeks revenge — what else would we expect?

It’s these “excursions” that make the show so brilliant. Each episode feels like its own sci-fi thriller, all somehow ending happily. If you don’t let the show’s rabid, pseudo-intellectual fanbase ruin it, finding something to love about “Rick and Morty” is easy. Whether it's the convoluted parallel universes, the biting insults or the hilarious characters, the show is layered with creative genius.