The Student
Rick and Morty — Season 4
by Aron Rosenthal, 10/05/20

On May 3rd, pining fans of Rick and Morty were appeased once again with episode 6 of season 4, ‘Never Ricking Morty’. Despite the wait, creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland (who voices both Rick and Morty) returned to television with one of their most ambitious episodes to date. The two protagonists find themselves on a train which is hurtling through outer space. They cannot recall how they came to be there, and every passenger on-board has a story to tell about the notorious Rick Sanchez, an ingenious scientist who drags his endearingly awkward grandson, Morty, on adventures through the multiverse, all the while consuming copious amounts of alcohol and burping his way through sentences.

It quickly becomes apparent that the train is no ordinary locomotive, but rather a story train; that is, a literal manifestation of the story structure. Through some unexplained mechanism, Rick observes that the train is ‘obviously amplifying and linking unrelated narrative fields’. Other passengers on the train include Rick’s former lovers, his would-be assassins, and a startling number of characters for whom he has ‘saved Christmas’. The train’s mechanism works according to what keen-eyed viewers will notice as writer, Dan Harmon’s, Story Circle; a basic guide to constructing a story arc. Rick and Morty must escape from the train, but only if they can do so in accordance with the appropriate narrative devices, including setbacks, unfamiliar environments and challenges they must overcome.

If you’ve never watched Rick and Morty, this will sound utterly absurd, which it is. The characters  battle their way through the train, encountering all manner of alien creatures, one of whom is Jesus Christ. As the viewer chuckles knowingly and pretends to understand what’s going on, Morty says what we’ve all been thinking, ‘I don’t like how meta this is getting Rick’ to which Rick assures him not to worry, as everything will be ‘Nice and grounded, fully immersive from here on out’.

If I haven’t mentioned it already, Rick and Morty is a very imaginative comedy, with episodes that vary from reasonably grounded, self-contained adventures to more free-form, improvisational content. The animation is detailed and immersive but does not distract from punchy and well-crafted dialogue. Never does Rick and Morty take itself too seriously, but that does not stop the writers from exploring more meaningful subjects. The show is fast-paced, and action driven, making for a highly enjoyable watch. Nevertheless, season 4 is not lacking in substance or wit, and the show makes amusing commentaries on various forms of visual entertainment, such as in episode 3, ‘One Crew over the Crewcoo’s Morty’, where Rick and Morty compete with a famous alien heist artist to carry out the perfect heist, featuring guest star Elon Musk as his alternate reality self, Elon Tusk (head of Tuskla).

Season 4 continues to balance the show’s elements well, often teetering on the brink of obscurity but never sacrificing its broad appeal for the sake of eccentricity. The characters of Jerry, Beth and Summer (Morty’s maladjusted family) continue to develop as subsidiary characters and rarely, if ever, feel like plot devices. At times, season 4 overthinks itself, and there is something to be said for returning occasionally to the more straightforward content of the first season. Having said that, the show derives much of its charm from its willingness to take risks and play around with traditional formats. Season 4 has been excellent so far, which bodes well for Harmon and Roiland’s four remaining episodes.

Image: BagoGames via flickr