It’s here. It’s finally happening. Rick and Morty is back, only 25 months after the season 3 finale. (But who’s counting?)
It will be a short season, and as of now, only the first episode has been released to critics. But I’m exceedingly happy to report that it’s good.
It’s very good.
It shouldn’t be surprising. Rick and Morty is a fantastic show. But it’s been overshadowed, in some people’s minds, by a small vocal faction of fans. Every fandom has them, but for some reason, the Rick and Morty ones have struck a particular societal chord.
And somewhere along the way, people confused dismissing the bad fans with dismissing the show itself, which is a terrible shame. (I’m especially aware of it because of the bizarre amount of ire I draw every time I post about it on One Perfect Shot). I was loath to bring it up at all, planning to let the show speak for itself simply. But then the show chose to address it.
There’s a small but very real chunk of the episode that acknowledges some of the conversations that have been surrounding the show during its hiatus. It’s a serious knock against the more toxic elements of the fanbase, and against fans who want the show to stop getting political, to stop doing meta-commentary. The ones who just want a return to simple, fun, classic Rick and Morty adventures, and by god they’re going to get it even if they have to force it.
The show — and Rick — do not take kindly them. It’s not over the top, nor is it dwelt on for too long, but it’s a stance that’s hard to miss.
You could miss it, though, if you’re busy being distracted by the excellent A plot that’s unfolding simultaneously. That’s because despite claiming that it can’t be forced into “classic” adventures, the show delivers just that. I won’t get into any specifics since it’s best just to watch it unfold naturally with no hints or expectations. Suffice it to say it is deftly weaving sci-fi tropes and references into an original, horrifying, and shatteringly funny story. It does feel, for all the world, like vintage Rick and Morty.
It’s an interesting line to walk, insisting that it doesn’t need to please anybody while at the same time offering something so gosh-darned pleasing. But the show walks the line well, proving that it’s capable of making something great and being damn clear that it’s going to do it on its own terms.
And in case you didn’t catch that assertion during the rapid-fire events of the episode, it doubles down on it during the traditional final-minute tirade — by now a season premiere staple — in which the characters scream at each about what the nature of the upcoming show will be. According to this year’s yell-fest, the fourth season will split the diff with a little of this and a little of that, a little classic, a little not… whatever it takes to keep from getting in a rut.
As opening salvos go, it’s a strong one, and the right one to go with.
Are the fans who want a return to old adventures going to notice the slight against them? Maybe. It’d be nice if they did. Are the ones who want even more meta-textuality going to appreciate the very fun, old-style adventure? I really hope so.
During that interminable wait between seasons, the prospect of the show returning just as strong began to feel like a pipe dream. But with its fourth season premiere, Rick and Morty has achieved something I’d almost stopped daring to hope for: an absolutely solid episode that everyone is going to like. Because it’s a brilliantly crafted show that’s keenly aware of its bizarre social standing, however, it doesn’t shy away from rapping on the fourth wall as it does it, and the result is sublime.
The show is well aware of the complaints it’s gotten from all sides, but it isn’t going to be swayed from its mission, and it’s going to do what it wants. This is excellent news for us since what it wants is to keep producing inimitably good content. Even if we’re only in for half a season, this first episode is an excellent hint of what’s to come. Let’s buckle in for a little of this, a little of that, some classic stuff, some whatever, some not even doing anything at all. The show knows what it’s doing. Let’s trust it.
Rick and Morty season 4 begins Sunday, November 10th, at 11:30pm ET/PT on Adult Swim.