For nearly a decade, Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty has been the channel block’s marquee animated series whose popularity speaks for itself. The Emmy Award-winning series has had its ups and downs in quality over the years, especially with its previous fifth season. Season 5 was regarded as middling, at best, amongst fans and critics, for being not as inventive nor as funny as its predecessors. Co-creator Justin Roiland himself admitted he, too, was disappointed by the season, which was understandably affected by the death of the series’ line producer, J. Michael Mendel. Despite the show’s active hesitance to dive into serialized arcs after multiple seasons of set-up, the fifth season finale was, if anything, the peak.
Thankfully, the long-awaited Season 6 of Rick and Morty has finally arrived. Judging by the two episodes we screened for review, it is safe to say the sci-fi animated comedy is finally back on track with refreshing newness and hilarity.
The fifth season concluded with the epic return and confrontation of Evil Morty/President Morty. He conquered the Citadel of Ricks, only to destroy it. C-137’s Rick and Morty escaped the destroyed citadel while Evil Morty broke the Central Finite Curve to wipe away the multiversal abuse all Ricks had wreaked on Mortys. With the season ending on a cliffhanger that left us all hankering for what comes next, Season 6 opens right where the last left off.
Without giving anything away, the Season 6 premiere episode “Solaricks” continues, strengthens, and wholeheartedly embraces the continuity built in since Season 1 in its classic cynical and self-aware tone that only Rick and Morty can accomplish. It wastes no time elaborating a new status quo for its upcoming adventures, whether it be its fresh episodic character line-ups or new modes of transportation. Given that Rick’s handy, dandy portal gun is out of commission, the season chucks it to the side and says, “No portals, no problem, we’re still Rick and Morty for 100 years” as it retains its satirical nature that is still side-splittingly funny. The tone is consistently dark and sentimental while wearing its self-awareness on its sleeve. That self-aware nature has been transferred onto other characters like Beth and it still works. The writing is confident in exploring how with everything the Smith/Sanchez family has been through thus far, they’ve gotten harder and their dynamics have improved. “Solaricks” excels at the character development between the ensemble and how their relationships with either Rick or each other have significantly changed for the better. No seriously, even Jerry has grown. I will keep reassuring you until you believe me.
It didn’t dawn on this writer how the Smith/Sanchez family developed throughout the years as a family and individuals. Compared to earlier seasons when everyone was at the mercy of Rick, they just bluntly call him out on his bullshit with no hesitation. Surprisingly in the Rick and Morty realm, this change marks for stabilized if not healthier relationships between the family, even if their sci-fi adventures teeter into sitcom territory. At the end of the day, “Solaricks” is on the same level of heft as Season 3’s opener “The Rickshank Rickdemption” where it establishes a new status quo while setting up new stakes for the dangerous misadventures the family will embark on.
After reconfiguring its own wheel, the Season 6 premiere is followed by “Rick: A Mort Well Lived,” a silly and delightfully funny adventure that focuses on the episodic rather than serialized. Set in the alien arcade hotspot, Blitz & Chips, the episode follows the titular duo playing the arcade game, Roy. Meanwhile, Summer must re-enact a Die Hard plot, despite never seeing any one of five Die Hard flicks, against alien terrorists who happen to be Die Hard enthusiasts. It giddily mocks the franchise’s formula and while the joke runs thin, it balances with a pretty funny take on the Roy game that runs the gamut of humor during the episode.
As previously mentioned, with the two episodes I’ve screened thus far, Rick and Morty Season 6 seems to be more ahead of the curve than the previous one. The writing has regained confidence, its storylines are enticing, and the new installments are as endlessly, gut-bustingly hysterical as some of the show’s best episodes. After the crew has admitted the tribulations Season 5 faced, the clear effort to go above and beyond in creativity and characterization is reflected in the final product. Boasting a strong season opener and a delightfully familiar follow-up, if the season retains the style I’ve seen thus far—balancing both serialized arcs and classic sci-fi craziness—this will be high up as one of the best seasons Rick and Morty has offered to date.
Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.