I haven’t taken a real good stab at what some have called the Evangelion of western animation, the 400 IQ juggernaut whose expertly-crafted storylines and characters are so deep, you won’t fully comprehend it unless you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time within the halls of Reddit, 4chan, or specifically-curated shitposting communities with only the freshest, choice memes.
I am, of course, talking about the One True Cartoon, our Lord and Savior, Rick and Morty.
Before I go hurting your feelings, let’s establish the fact that I personally enjoy Rick and Morty. I think it’s a clever show airing at a time when there aren’t enough clever shows to watch in western animation. Hell, probably in eastern animation as well. But like Steven Universe and Homestruck, the fandom that revolves around this show is full of some of the most autistic people on the planet, and I am using the word autistic in a derogatory manner. I don’t want to, but I cannot come up with any other description for the sort of grown
men adults, who would jump up and down on a McDonalds counter, or even wait in line for what was clearly a completely manufactured, limited-time scarcity event for some shitty sauce. McDonalds knows how to make its own sauces, and can make enough to drown the world. They knew who they were catering to, and it’s roughly the same crowd who tokes up, gets Taco Bell, and watches the other terrible shows on Adult Swim at 2AM.
Now, you’re going to say “That was so long ago, why are you still mad?” I am not mad, but we have to remember just how godawful this fandom has become to frame the meat of this piece, and that is how fairly mundane Season 4 has rolled out, thus far. Which, combined with Season 3, begins to form the basis for how Dan Harmon probably plans on tanking yet another good show, because he can’t get a grasp on his alcoholism and Twitter.
The reason I am writing this is that my wife and I rewatched the first season earlier today in our post-Thanksgiving detox. I remarked about how well the first season of the show was, and how even though later episodes were decent, they lack that succinct flavor that made the show good. Now, this is a classic conundrum among multi-cour shows, hell, sequels of anything. It’s always hard to top the first, because you have to content with how everything isn’t fresh. Although fairly self-contained a adventure-of-the-week, the first two seasons went down a number of arcs that ended in Rick’s imprisonment, Beth and Jerry’s separation, Evil Morty’s rise, and some other odds and ends. Fans really sank their teeth into this show in one part because it was dark comedy, and what edgy fuck doesn’t like that during their formative years? But it also highlighted a show with characters who have flaws. I certainly reveal in taking swipes at ol’ Dan, but he uniquely understands how to make flawed characters in his work in a manner that isn’t blatantly apparent to someone unless they know what to look for. As a fellow autist (probably), I see the 400 IQ play he is making, but it’s not a subtle as one might believe.
Episode 3 of the fourth season is probably the most laziest, real episode of the show when it comes to explaining the people who write it, the people who animated it, the people who watch it, and the bean counters who love it. Like many other moments this season, the people who make this show are going to maximum lengths to shove a lot of meta-commentary at you for obvious reactions. The first episode’s fixation on fascism, anime references that probably refer to anime avatars in online forums and Twitter, Fascist Morty being the cut-out of fans’ insistence on what the show should be about, poop jokes disguised as high-brow comedy, and a bunch of other cameos and references to placate viewers.
I can’t say I totally blame them.
I know I am throwing mixed messages here, but part of the stupid charm with this show is the fact that it knows who watches is, so it knows precisely what will sail over most of their heads, yet create enough schadenfreude from when the people who get it endlessly meme on those who didn’t. That is kind of the primary reason I dislike Harmon’s bitch fits on Twitter with the fan base, because he knows damn well what kind of ecosystem he is messing with, as Rick does in the show, and they both gleefully execute on it because it amuses them. That’s perfectly fine, I respect the hustle, but at least admit as such and stop being a crybaby about it. Fandoms suck. Everyone in the anime business is keenly aware of that, and are even litigating over it.
As for this season, it’s still too early to really take a Rick all over it outright, but if you want my honest take, the show is at its best when it does not try its hardest. Episodes like “Rixty Minutes”, “Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate”, “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender”, “The Ricklantis Mixup”, and even the holiest of holy, “Pickle Rick” are among some of the best episodes because they just take a simple premise and fuck with it for twenty-two minutes. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more Rick and Beth or Summer adventures make their way into a few episodes. Hell, I’m on record after the end of season two saying that Rick could stay in space-prison and Beth could totally mad-science out and become the next interdimensional crazy pants. If you really want to fuck with your fanbase, you’re going to have to borrow a few tricks from George R.R Martin and lose some of your characters.