Rick and Morty S1 episode-by-episode review

Link to Season 1 review

  1. “Pilot” 8.8
  2. “Lawnmower Dog” 8.9
  3. “Anatomy Park” 8.7
  4. “M-Night-Shaym-Aliens!” 8.9
  5. “Meeseeks and Destroys” 9.1
  6. “Rick Potion #9” 8.9
  7. “Raising Gazorpazorp” 8.6
  8. “Rixty Minutes” 9.6
  9. “Something Ricked This Way Comes” 8.5
  10. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” 9.2
  11. “Ricksy Business” 8.7

By Colin Hart

 

1. “Pilot”

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8.8

The improvised nature of the dialogue, the crude yet imaginative animation—the only aspect where Rick and Morty falters are the side characters.  The at-home sitcom nature of Jerry (father), Beth (mother) and Summer (sister) is somewhat at odds with the infinite zany possibilities provided by Rick (genius scientist grandpa) and Morty (dimwitted but lovable grandson).  Nevertheless, this is a pilot that sets a high bar—the absurdity of Adult Swim with the smart, meta-hilarity of The Simpsons (or Community, Dan Harmon’s other show).


2. “Lawnmower Dog”

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8.9 

Rick and Morty is a show full of infinite possibilities, thanks to its super-cynical and super-scientific lead character.  Two extremely funny and well-written plots—a semi-spoof of Inception, and dogs taking over the Earth—carry this episode and make “Lawnmower Dog” an endlessly inventive half-hour.  Creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have really got something here—this has cult classic written all over it.


3. “Anatomy Park”

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8.7

Rick and Morty is fun, even when it’s not funny, which is expected of a great animated TV show.  And I’ll say it: Rick and Morty is a great animated TV show.  “Anatomy Park” finds Morty going on a Spielbergian adventure inside some old hobo’s decaying body, while the B-plot featuring Jerry and the rest of the family is just as solid despite not featuring any sci-fi shenanigans.  The greatest strength of this particular Rick and Morty episode is not its humor, but “Anatomy Park’s” ability to balance the fantastical with the humanistic.


4. “M-Night-Shaym-Aliens!”

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8.9

Another great, complex plot that seems too smart for an animated TV show, yet is a high-concept only befitting of such a high-caliber animated TV show.  Rick and Morty find themselves captured by aliens and trapped inside simulations within simulations, offering up both excitement and hilarity, mindfuckery and megajokes.  A separate sector of the aliens’ simulation, operating at minimal capacity, ends up bringing out the best in Jerry, in what is actually the episode’s funniest storyline.  Rick and Morty is intelligent, but it knows to stick to a tried-and-true sitcom trope: solid A-plot and solid B-plot.


5. “Meeeseeks and Destroys”

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9.1

The concept of “meeseeks”—beings whose sole purpose is to complete the task for which they are summoned—and their inability to get two strokes off of Jerry’s golf game makes this the funniest ep yet.  Jerry, who just might be the most likable character on the entire show, finally gets the lead spotlight, while Rick and Morty search for adventure and build their relationship in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness and unscripted manner.  That element of semi-surrealism leads to the fourth-wall breaking end—a meta-awareness of the show itself and the medium it belongs to.  And you know how much critics love that…


6. “Rick Potion #9”

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8.9 

Rick’s extreme cynicism provides the show with a somewhat-relatable and somewhat-dark central philosophy: the universe is a chaotic shitstorm and nothing really matters.  Case in point: a love potion goes horribly wrong and the titular pair end up turning everyone in the entire world into deformed, Cronenberg-like monsters.  Luckily, one half of the titular pair doesn’t share the other’s negativity.  “Rick Potion #9” is a win for Morty’s idealism.  The episode’s ending—set to Mazzy Star’s elegant dirge, “Look on Down from the Bridge”—aims for prestige.  It doesn’t quite hit the mark, at least not for me, but how many other animated sitcoms are even aiming this high? BoJack Horseman and that’s it.


7. “Raising Gazorpazorp”

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8.6

This is a minor R&M episode, but it’s still funny.  The plot, while imaginative, isn’t as imaginative as previous installments, but that’s alright.  Wubba-lubba-dub-dub, amiright? An episode that proves the show isn’t just smart, it also has its head in the right place (pro-feminism instead of pro-misogyny), even if Rick is a huge asshole this week.  While the jokes aren’t as rapid-fire as other episodes, granddaughter Summer finally gets to prove her worth.  Now the title of “most useless character” solely belongs to mother Beth.


8. “Rixty Minutes”

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9.6

“Rixty Minutes”: in which creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon aim for prestige and nail the target.  I’m convinced that this is, by far, the show’s best episode—the funniest, the deepest and the most aesthetically pleasing.  There’s a meta-awareness of TV itself, a loose, improvisational tone, a legitimate emotional journey and rewarding continuities.  And there’s also the elusive Magic Center, a touching moment in which the series’ core philosophy is voiced (by Morty): “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody is going to die.  Come watch TV?


9. “Something Ricked This Way Comes”

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8.5

After the “I’ve officially arrived” wallop of “Rixty Minutes,” what could you want from the best animated show currently on television? How about something a little less high-stakes? Jerry and Rick go to Pluto, while Rick and Summer have a run-in with the Devil.  Sounds hefty, but seriously—these are low stakes as far as this show is concerned.  Instead of looking at the harsh realities of metaphysics or examining human nature from a maximalist perspective, “Something Ricked This Way Comes” takes the time to examine these flawed character relationships.  Not the funniest installment of Rick and Morty—even the DMX soundtrack warrants only a chuckle—but a necessary one for a show that has prestige ambition on its mind.


10. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind”

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9.2

In season two, Rick and Morty will examine the notion of infinite alternate realities and what that says about the nature of these characters.  We have seen multiple perspectives at times in season one (“Rick Potion #9”, “Rixty Minutes”), but “Close Rick-counters” is where the seeds of this central idea are sown.  Our Rick is framed for the murder of other Ricks in different timelines and is arrested by the interdimensional Council of Ricks.  It’s interesting to see this duality-ad-infinitum play out—all Ricks are fundamentally different, yet all are fundamentally the same.  And, of course, with infinite individual Ricks, there are infinite individual Mortys.


11. “Ricksy Business”

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8.7

Season 1 of Rick and Morty has been a revelation, a blessing from the Peak TV era.  The finale decides to play it fast and loose: while Jerry and Beth are away, Rick and Summer throw a party.  To those of us who have grown infatuated with the show because of its intelligent humor and high sci-fi stakes, “Ricksy Business” is disappointing.  The writing is somewhat lazy, Rick’s prickishness is grating and the expletives are piercing.  A cliffhanger (the Sanchez residence frozen in time) is set up, while the fourth wall is broken (“That’s season one, motherfuckers!”) and I am already looking forward to bingeing season two.  But, for the time being, let it be remembered that “Ricksy Business” took the easy way out.

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