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television
Review
An opinion piece that you describe, praises or criticizes, on the whole or partly, to cultural or entertainment work. It must be written by an expert on the matter

‘Rick and Morty’ are back in top form

Recovering nicely from co-creator Justin Roiland’s abrupt dismissal, the show’s seventh season has its mojo back

rick and morty new season
A scene from 'Rick and Morty' (HBO Max).
Laura Fernández

Rick and Morty (HBO Max), the hilarious animated television series by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, is just like the universe itself, expanding to infinity and beyond — it has a beginning but no end. Co-creator Roiland acknowledged the problem before being abruptly fired in early 2023 after being charged with felony domestic battery and false imprisonment. But Dan Harmon had 70 more episodes to make — such is HBO’s level of confidence in the adventures of the “smartest scientist in the galaxy” and his clumsy, incorrigible grandson. Major changes like Roiland’s departure can threaten the very existence of a show — see Chris Chibnall’s abysmal decision to recast the Doctor Who character as a woman. But fear not, Rick and Morty fans — all is well.

Roitland is history, which means that Rick and Morty doesn’t sound like it used to because he voiced the character of Rick. A maxim from the Marvel universe: change is inevitable, yet paradoxically things must change to ensure that nothing changes. In the seventh season of Rick and Morty, something similar occurs. Not only because the voices of two relatively unknown actors, Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden, were chosen, but also because the Roiland earthquake brought the series back to a kind of starting point. Ian Cardoni has only a few TV movies and a film (The Challenge) under his belt, while Harry Belden is mostly known for his role in Christmas Again? The seventh season has mostly self-contained episodes, injecting a freshness that had disappeared in previous plot-driven seasons.

A caustic homage

The anthological first episode (”How Poopy Got His Poop Back”) of this seventh season makes it very clear. Poopy, more formally known as Mr. Poopy Butthole, is in dire straits. His wife has left him, and he never sees his son anymore. Poopy’s a mess, drinking more than he should, alone in the dark corner of the Smiths’ house. The character who broke the fourth wall (it’s a long story) is himself completely broken, and that speaks volumes about the series itself, or what remained of it after the Roiland disaster. The first episode backburners the Rick and Morty characters to pay caustic homage to a group of friends who had a hilariously disastrous night out (imagine a scatological version of Oh, What a Night). The episode seems to parallel what’s happening with the show overall, not to mention that Roiland used to voice the character of Mr. Poopy Butthole.

The storytelling device of an unpredictable mutating object in each episode has not gone away. It serves as the centerpiece of Rick Sanchez’s adventures, a universe of universes, a complex space-time continuum. Rick and Morty not only pays homage to other stories, but also constructs a world that continuously reinvents itself. This metafictional artifact embraces all possibilities and characters, expanding in all directions simultaneously.

A few of the animated characters in 'Rick and Morty' (HBO Max).
A few of the animated characters in 'Rick and Morty' (HBO Max).

The existence of infinite Ricks, Smiths, Mortys, Jerrys, Beths and Summers not only ensures the longevity of the series, but also enables the exploration of limitless possibilities. Much like The Simpsons, this show fearlessly delves into narratives that mutate to the point of pure madness, pushing the boundaries of fiction and achieving what science fiction promises. Take, for instance, the episode where Rick and his clueless son-in-law Jerry share minds and thoughts, ultimately becoming inseparable as their essences meld together. They not only get along but truly adore each other, unable to live without one another, like two halves of a whole. The show’s remarkable ability to delve into each character, treating them as their own universe, and skillfully orchestrating collisions with their deepest fears is truly commendable.

The question at hand is not so much about whether Rick will finally encounter his nemesis, Rick Prime, the version of himself responsible for the tragic loss of his wife and daughter. Instead, it delves into how these characters, including their various incarnations, will intertwine once again to expand the narrative. Rick and Morty, with its irreverent charm, skillfully explores the depths of existence. The notion that Rick’s ultimate adversary is himself challenges our identity and self-perception — it forces us to ponder who we once were and who we truly are.

Rick is searching for redemption, but aren’t we all? Everything could have played out differently, and yet it didn’t. We yearn for a different outcome, one that remains elusive. As for Dan Harmon, his journey with Rick and Morty may not last much longer. It’s never easy when you find yourself navigating creative challenges without your trusted partner. But judging by the exceptional resurgence of Rick and Morty, recapturing the brilliant spark of the early years, it seems that the path ahead may not be as daunting as anticipated. The world, after all, finds more and more reasons each day to wield a portal gun and set about repairing itself, much like our vulgar yet beloved duo, Rick and Morty.

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