The All New Rick and the All New Morty
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Season 7
Last year was a tumultuous time for Rick and Morty. The series, which has become a massive success for Adult Swim, saw the firing of its co-creator and lead vocal actor for both Rick and Morty, Justin Roiland, fired from the series over sexual assault allegations (this wasn’t the only series to fire him, either, as Solar Opposites also let go of Roiland for the same alleged incidents). This put the fanbase in something of an uproar with many of the Rick and Morty faithful demanding the return of the co-creator. Fellow co-creator, Dan Harmon, stated that Roiland would not be back, though, and in fact said that, aside from his voice work (which he did primarily via web meetings at that point), Roiland hadn’t had an active hand in the creation of the series for some time and that, in fact, he was glad to be rid of Roiland. This sentiment, it should be noted, was shared by many other staff on the show.
To say the show went through some shit would be an understatement.
After Roiland was let go (permanently), Harmon and the crew went into damage control, working to keep fans happy. Their statements on the matter helped, assuring fans that the creative voice of the series would remain untouched. And they worked hard to find new voice actors for the leads, hiring Ian Cardoni to play Rick and Harry Belden to play Morty. What everyone was worried about was that, when the show returned, it would be different. Somehow everyone would just be able to tell that the show wasn’t the same, that it would feel wrong. Could Rick and Morty survive the loss of one of its co-creators and the voice talent for its leads?
The seventh season finished its run in December of 2023, and now just a few weeks later the episodes are out on streaming (I watched the season on HuluOriginally created as a joint streaming service between the major U.S. broadcast networks, Hulu has grown to be a solid alternative to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, even as it learns harder on its collection of shows from Fox and FX since Disney purchased a majority stake in the service.). And the consensus seems to be: nothing really has changed. Yes the voice actors are different but you can’t tell at all from the performance. I honestly had to remind myself these guys were new since they sound exactly the same. And as for the content of the show, it’s just as weird, fucked up, and dark as always. Anyone that has come to know and enjoy Rick and Morty over the previous six seasons will find another solid season for the series, just like the other seasons that came before. The torch was passed and, thankfully, nothing changed.
To put it another way: Roiland was fired and, clearly, nothing of value was lost.
This season, despite airing week to week without any major breaks, is bifurcated into two storylines. The first half is all about Rick chasing after the other Rick (aka Rick Prime), the one that killed our Rick’s wife, Diane, way back in the day. Apparently Rick Prime didn’t just kill one Diane; he killed them all, in every universe, everywhere. This is what set Rick (and every other Rick as well) on the path to becoming the awful, drunken asshole we all know and love. The multiverse of the show wouldn’t be what it is without the actions of Rick Prime. So Rick chases after Prime for revenge.
And then (spoilers) once revenge is doled out, Rick has to figure out what he’s going to do next. He finds himself in a state of mourning, the loss of Diane finally hitting him in a way he hasn’t allowed in nearly thirty years. Who is he now that he’s not looking for vengeance? Who is he now that he really doesn’t have Diane to hold on to in any meaningful way? Love and loss become the themes, all while Morty grapples with what he has to do, and who he’s going to be, now that Rick is changing.
Change is, in fact, a big part of this season (and not just due to the loss of Roiland). Rick has been going to therapy and working on himself. He’s still a stunted asshole, yet, but he’s trying to work through some of that at least. And Morty has to grapple with his place in the universe. In part that’s because Rick won’t always be there. Morty fears what happens when Rick isn’t around, isn’t there to save him, can’t be relied upon. Deep down, even as unreliable as Rick may be, he’s still a rock that Morty holds onto and if he were gone (or just didn’t show up) what would Morty do? These themes have weight to them and it’s impressive that Rick and Morty is able to tackle them. It speaks well of where the series could go in the future.
At the same time, it’s not like this show is maturing into something truly different. It’s still a crass and disgusting (and for some, awful) show about a very twisted relationship between a scientist grandfather and his teenage son. Well, and the rest of the family now, including mother Beth and her space-adventuring clone (Sarah Chalke for both roles), father Jerry (Chris Parnell), and daughter Summer (Spencer Grammer). The various characters cycle in and out of adventures as needed, and they all have been warped and changed, over these last seven seasons, into people so incredibly adjusted to the weird things going on in their household that they hardly resemble the characters they were back in season one. They’ve seen some shit and it’s changed all of them.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though. The series has embraced its crazy and the fact that the whole family has gotten involved, and become part of the adventures, is a good change. When Summer and Morty get fused together in an episode (Morty becoming her “Kuato”), Summer doesn’t think it’s insane this happened, she just wants Morty removed. But the show is able to let her adjust and explore this weirdness with Morty, and then have fun at all the strange things it can do in a Total Recall riff. A one-off joke becomes the basis for a whole episode, all while a sibling relationship is explored from a new angle. It’s the kind of storytelling the series excels at.
Each family member (aside from Space Beth, who just hangs out in the background for a couple of episodes) gets at least one story this season. That’s actually down from previous seasons where it felt like the family was always involved, as a whole, in the A- or B-plot every episode. I’d argue, though, this shift with a focus more on Rick and Morty was done to facilitate the serialized storytelling this season. The show has things to say about the central pairing and, after six seasons, it finally dug in and really delved into this duo. The long-form stories are about them and do indicate that the show, for however many seasons it has left, will want to reevaluate and change their dynamic. I even expect that an eighth season is going to go further down that route, looking at who Morty will be if he goes on his own without Rick. The season finale (without spoiling anything) points towards that direction. The show will go there, I assume, eventually.
And that’s good. Change is good. While I’m sure the series could coast along forever just doing goofy riffs and weird adventures (and its goofy riffs and weird adventures this season are fantastic) it’s good to see the producers pushing it further. I like that the series is looking to do more, that it’s not just sitting in one place, on a loop, forever. A show like Letterkenny got boring when it was clear the characters were never going to grow or change or mature. Rick and Morty is going in a different direction (or, at least, is pointing the way towards that) and as it lets its characters discover themselves and maybe push forward, we’re going to see the series evolve. It won’t be in the same place at season ten that it was in season one, and that’s for the better.
In the process the series remains as fucked up, weird, and at times disgusting as ever. It hasn’t lost its edge with the “loss” of Roiland; if anything it feels more assured, and more interesting. A change had to happen behind the scenes and it feels like the creative freedom that came from the change let the creative team really push ahead. Maybe this was a one-off season and the next will be more of the same basic Rick and Morty (which is still great). But if this is a sign of things to come, and I think it is, then this was a great season that promises even bigger things ahead for the show. I’m here for it.