Rick Sanchez, a flask swigging, morally relativistic, quantum party animal and super-genius inventor, has returned after a lengthy absence to live with his daughter Beth, an equine surgeon, her insecure, unemployed husband Jerry Smith, their impressionable teenage daughter Summer, and their nervous, fretful son Morty. Rick has enlisted Morty to be his wing man and fellow adventurer in a series of inter-dimensional, trans-temporal, and routinely hair-raising capers.
Belching, stammering, chin perpetually slathered with drool, Rick occupies himself crafting marvels in the family garage for his own amusement from household odds and ends and exotic minerals from other worlds, exposing himself and Morty to a googolplex of dangers, with warning advisories typically issued just after the nick of time.
“I know that new situations can be intimidating,” Rick assures his grandson. “You’re lookin’ around and it’s all scary and different. But, you know, meeting them head on, charging right into them like a bull, that’s how we grow as people. I’m no stranger to scary situations. I deal with them all the time. Now, if you stick with me, Morty, you’re gonna be… Holy crap, Morty! Run! I’ve never seen that thing before in my life. I don’t know what the hell it is. We gotta get out of here, Morty! It’s gonna kill us. We’re gonna die!”
Dispatching him on an emergency mission into the internal organs of a dying man, Rick slams a helmet on Morty, positions him on a miniaturization platform, and punches a control button, mentioning at the last moment, “Hold your breath until the process is over or your lungs will collapse.”
Rick is not merely the smartest man on earth. He is the smartest man in the universe. He has fashioned a handheld device to twist open portals to an infinity of parallel universes. In the infinity of timelines every possible Rick or Morty does or does not exist. Regardless where his portals lead him, Rick’s wave function rarely collapses from uncertainty.
He is impatient and unsparing. “There is no God, Summer.” Rick coaches his granddaughter. “You gotta rip that bandaid off now. You’ll thank me later.”
Rick invents a miniature robot with artificial intelligence to pass him the table butter. “What is my purpose?” the robot asks. “You pass butter,” Rick says. “Oh, my God,” the robot slumps in despair.
Arriving at the Blips and Chitz arcade for a holiday of electronic abandon, Rick raises cash by peddling a weapon to an assassin. “You sold a gun to a murderer so you could play video games?” a scandalized Morty cries. “Yeah, sure. I mean, if you spend all day shuffling words around you can make anything sound bad, Morty.”
Rick has built himself a car equally well equipped for road trips or space jaunts. “The first rule of space travel, kids, is always check out distress beacons. Nine out of ten times it’s a ship full of dead aliens and a bunch of free shit! One out of ten times it’s a deadly trap, but I’m willing to roll those dice.”
When alien parasites attempt to populate the earth by assuming affable characters and implanting bogus fond memories of themselves in their human hosts, Rick must lock down the Smith house to stymie the confusing proliferation of invaders.
“Dad, why does our house have blast shields?” his daughter inquires in surprise.
“Trust me, Beth. You don’t want to know how many answers that question has.”
Landing on a planet to refill his wind shield wipers, Rick informs Morty, “It’s a purge planet. They’re peaceful. And then, you know, they just purge.”
Morty: “Tha… that’s horrible!”
Rick: “Yeah. You wanna check it out?”
To power the battery in his car, Rick siphons energy from a micro-verse of intelligent beings he has created, endlessly churning treadmills that they think supply the juice for their own world. They have evolved a genius of their own called Zeep who replaces the treadmills with energy captured from a mini-verse he has invented that in turn has evolved beings who have created a teeny-verse they can sap for power. A battery failure pulls Rick and Morty through levels of micro-travel to solve the energy crisis. Rick and Zeep face off in the teeny-verse, trading jibes.
Zeep objects, “That’s what you use my universe for, to run your car?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Rick sneers. “There’s always Triple A… Someone has to bring a little culture. And it certainly can’t be someone whose entire culture powers my brake lights!”
Meanwhile, Summer has been left behind in the car, shivering in fright as the car executes its vague order from Rick to “keep Summer safe” with heartless efficiency and horrific consequences.
Some of Rick’s inventions run off the rails with catastrophic results. A love potion he gives Morty to help him seal a romance triggers a storm of rabid suitors for Morty’s attention and Rick’s concoction to offset the love potion “Cronenberg’s” the entire human species into mantid monsters that decapitate their mates. Rick and Morty escape to a parallel reality where everything is identical except that they are dead and must bury their own bodies in the Smith’s yard in order to effect their seamless substitution of themselves.
In a subsequent episode, Morty implores his sister not to run away from home. He points to the back yard from Summer’s bedroom. “That out there? That’s my grave. On one of our adventures, Rick and I basically destroyed the whole world. So we bailed on that reality and we came to this one because it wasn’t destroyed. And in this one we were dead. So we came here an… an… and we buried ourselves. And we took their place. And every morning, Summer, I eat breakfast twenty yards away from my own rotting corpse!”
“So you’re not my brother?”
“I’m better than your brother. I’m a version of your brother you can trust when he says ‘don’t run’. Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everyone is gonna die. Come watch TV.”
The animated Rick and Morty series (2013), created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, was introduced on the Adult Swim network (a prodigious cradle of invention for humorists working in video media). Roiland provides the voices of the title characters. The featured voice actors are Sarah Chalke, Chris Parnell, Kari Wahlgren, and Spencer Grammer, supported by a multiverse of regular voices and an impressive roster of guest appearances, including David Cross, Stephen Colbert, Tom Kenny, Alfred Molina, Keith David, Alan Tudyk, Ice-T, Dana Carvey, and others. Ryan Elder composed all the music, kicking off with a pulsating Rick and Morty theme reminiscent of Doctor Who that throbs like an accelerating heartbeat.
Writers and story board artists drive the concepts and dialogue: Ryan Ridley, Tom Kauffman, Wade Randolph, Eric Acosta, and others too numerous to list.
Rick and Morty is a teeming comic thicket that bristles with sharp stabs at family values, formal education, sexual mores, species chauvinism, conventional science fiction tropes, and Panglossian optimism. Is this the best of all possible worlds? Let’s hope not. Let’s party. Wubba-lubba-dub-dub!
The pilot episode concludes with Rick’s fervid lubricated rant: “It’s just Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty and their adventures, Morty. Rick and Morty forever and forever a hundred years Rick and Morty. Some… things… Me and Rick and Morty runnin’ around and… Rick and Morty time… a- all day long forever… All a- a hundred days Rick and Morty! Forever a hundred times… over and over Rick and Morty… adventures dot.com. W W W dot at Rick and Morty dot com W W W… Rick and Morty adventures… Ah- hundred years… every minute Rick and Morty dot com… W W W a hundred times… Rick and Morty dot com…”