The Walking Dead‘s creator, Robert Kirkman, described Rick & Morty as “the BEST THING BEING MADE THESE DAYS” in a recent Reddit AMA with fans – and yes, that’s his caps lock button going haywire, not ours. The animated sci-fi comedy is set across a vast, varied galaxy of hilarious awfulness, and it centres on the Back To The Future-style relationship between ageing alcoholic genius Rick, and his kind, impressionable grandson Morty. It is currently recording its third series, but several episodes of the show are free to watch on Adult Swim’s website – so if you haven’t yet experienced the madness, here’s why you should get caught up.
1. It’s really dark
Rick and Morty treats all its characters as playthings. The only one who’s exempt is Rick, the boozy old scientist who brings his grandchildren on adventures under the pretence of teaching them when actually he’s just using them. In this clip, he leaves Summer in his spaceship with the command “Keep Summer safe”. She ends up mentally scarred.
2. It makes philosophy accessible without dumbing it down
The central grandfather/grandson pair are totally different from one another and because of their opposing views, they frequently delve deep into philosophical issues from odd angles. Here Rick & Morty argue about ethics while playing an unhealthily deep videogame that may remind you of the first ten minutes of Up – only much bleaker. You’ll often be pondering the significance of your existence while also laughing at Rick’s blithe attitude to everything in the universe, and questioning whether or not he’s right.
3. It may be ridiculous, but its characters are still perfectly drawn
Jerry is Morty’s petulant dad and Rick’s son-in-law, and he’s a secondary character most of the time. In this scene, he’s in hospital on an alien planet, where he’s asked to give up his penis to save the life of the most important being in the universe, and his decision says everything about his character.
4. There’s loads of action, which is generally pretty mad
In this episode, Rick & Morty visit a lovely planet where everything is peaceful – except for one day a year, where there’s a ‘purge’ and people commit every crime they can think of (mostly murder). This is that day, and Rick & Morty get stranded on the ground.
5. The central dynamic is brilliantly toxic
Frequently you’ll see Rick drinking, drooling, being totally irresponsible and using his grandson as a mule. Morty is always exasperated but would probably do anything for Rick, which is almost incredible when Rick’s attitude towards Morty is so blasé. This bizarre duo is the dark, beating heart of the show.
6. The sci-fi elements are bigger scale and more cogent than big-budget movies
Rick is horrible to Morty most of the time; this is probably the one instance where he shows some affection for him. Here, Rick, Morty and his sister Summer accidentally divide reality into multiple different fragments, leading to the garage they’re in getting surrounded by a black void full of Schrödinger’s cats (plural, yeah) and an almost-fatal space/time divide. It may be outlandish, but it makes more sense than Interstellar did.
7. As well as being complex it’s also really funny
This mind-parasite episode combines murder mystery with memory-implanting aliens and it’s among the funniest R&M episodes to date. This is it, in a nutshell:
8. It’s not all about the sci-fi
Thrown in with all the fantastical madness is married couple Jerry and Beth’s relationship, which is a horrible, codependent mess and constantly entertaining.
9. The weird voice acting is part of the charm
Many people in the Rick & Morty universe pause, stutter and repeat themselves all the time – especially Rick, who probably says ‘Morty’ more often than the word ‘and’. This makes all the scenarios they’re in even more offbeat and funny. The guy responsible for this? Justin Roiland, who voices both the titular characters and who created the show with Dan Harmon (also the guy behind the excellent Community). Check them out doing a live table read below:
10. Rick’s ridiculous catchphrases
Among his burps, constant drooling, and frequent pauses in speech – things you have to get used to – Rick also has a wealth of catchphrases. These are usually uttered in between periods of deep psychological stress, to lighten the mood. In this clip, Rick has frozen time after a blowout party so that he, Summer and Morty can clean it up. And then he does a dance. It’s not all philosophy.