Season two of Adult Swim’s latest breakout hit, Rick and Morty, started off with one of the most high-concept episodes of any television show this side of Community and ended with a surprisingly intense non-stop rocket-fueled punch to the heart. Basically, what I’m saying is that if you didn’t watch any of the new Rick and Morty episodes this season, you missed out on some of the best television of 2015.
Rick and Morty’s debut season still stands as one of the biggest surprises out of Adult Swim to date. The channel is usually known for its one-note ideas (Adult Johnny Quest! The dog is also Satan! This cop is a literal ass!), but the new show from animator Justin Roiland and cancellation legend Dan Harmon rose far above its parody roots of an alcohol fueled Back to the Future. Not only did the show develop a wittingly self-aware voice for itself, but episodes occasionally dipped their toes into some pretty dark concepts like chaos theory, family abandonment, and even desensitization through the pursuit of knowledge—but only just a little at first.
If season one is where Rick and Morty got audience acclimated to what strange ideas it had to offer, season two are those exact same ideas put into full practice with absolutely no restraint.
Where season two holds up best is in how the show is actually structured a bit more like a typical show, but much to its benefit. Whereas the first season left all the fantastic adventures to the mostly drunk mad scientist Rick and his stammering grandson, Morty, the new season gets the entire Smith family involved in more of the weirdness. The biggest benefit being that Morty’s older sister, Summer, makes more appearances in every episode and even gets some great A-stories, making a more competent pairing with Rick than the idiotic Morty.
At the same time, the new episodes also took their bizarre ideas even further. The season premiers with Rick, Morty, and Summer actually ripping the space-time continuum into multiple realities, displayed by slicing the screen right down the middle. This repeats until the episode actually climaxes into 64 different screens at once and staying that way until the anomaly gets resolved.
In any other show, an idea this crazy would be enough to confuse and alienate an audience away for good, but Rick and Morty embraces this and draws us in even closer with just how ostentatiously crazy it’s willing to get. How crazy? Other highlights include an Ice T alien actually made out of ice, an alien parasite that induces a clipshow that so fake that it has to be real, an entire planet of cat people who engage in a The Purge style celebration, and even Rick becoming trapped in a teenage clone of himself who becomes the most unquestionably beloved cool kid at school—and that’s just barely scratching the surface of how inventiveRick and Morty’s sophomore season gets.
The season does run a little disappointingly short at just ten 22-minute episodes, but then again, leaving us wanting more is a sign that a show’s doing something right. Many fans may be disappointed that only a few one-off characters from the first season make returns, but this can be forgiven just for how many new characters from Rick’s varied past. The best of which is arguably an appearance from Stephen Colbert in the episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.”
Colbert plays Zeep, a skeptical alien scientist who lives the world of a battery that Rick invents to fuel his ramshackle spaceship. When Zeep discovers that his entire world exists just to power a battery, he turns on Rick and Morty and tries to escape to wreck vengeance on their universe. As the all-knowing scientist character of the show, Rick can definitely command the direction of every episode, so it’s an absolute joy to see Rick evenly matched by his own intellectual equal—not to mention that Colbert’s performance fits wonderfully for the know-it-all Zeep, putting his own annunciated character acting to hard work.
For as much fun as the show has with itself this year, it does end many of the episodes with the same shockingly dark overtones as the infamous “Rick Potion #9” episode from the first season. Much of the ruthlessness and directionless suicidal depression of Rick is teased throughout the entire season as well as the effect that his self-destructive life has had on his daughter, Beth and the rest of the Smith family. This all leads up to a phenomenal finale where it finally comes to a head with an amazing emotional payoff. If the big question of season one was “does Rick truly love Morty,” season two asks if the family really needs Rick or if he’s the one dependent on them.
The season does end on a massive cliffhanger, though, so it stands to beg if we even get a final answer by the end of the tenth episode. The stakes are raised, the world of the show has changed dramatically, and many sacrifices are made along the way. Rick and Mortyrivals another show for the most intense television wedding by the end of it all.
So is Rick and Morty season two worth watching? Most definitely, yes. A lot of the show is still pretty the same as before—the same unrestrained raunchiness, the same direct nods to obscure sci-fi productions, and the same disgustingly beautiful designs, it’s all there. Where it does improve though, is in the writing and in its use of characters. By the time the season had wrapped up this fall, the clunkiness of some of the first season’s episodes could be seen when compared to the stronger and more economical stories of the second.
If you found the writing of the first season awkward or off-putting, the second may just have more of the meaningful stories you were looking for out of Rick and Morty. After all, this is the show that has Werner Herzog going on an entire monologue about how depressing the human race’s obsession with penises is, and honestly, where else on television or film are you going to find that?
Until season three debuts, I’m going to have to say, nowhere else.