When my friends were telling me to watch Rick and Morty, they told me it was weird. It wasn’t a bad thing to me—I love weird shit. But they definitely oversold it. Rick and Morty is definitely out of the ordinary, but it wasn’t as bizarre as I was promised. This isn’t a Superjail level of psychedelia or the improv feel of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Rick and Morty isn’t simply weird—it’s inventive.
Inventive is what comes to mind as a descriptor of the first episode of the show’s second season. Most of “A Rickle In Time,” is an elaborate interface gag—Rick, Morty and Summer have fucked up time, creating four separate alternate timelines that we all see on screen at once. It seems like a deceptively simple concept until you understand the detail of its execution. The dialogue is all spoken at once, and the show decides what’s audible. Often the contrasting lines are unintelligible, rendering the scenes chaos, until all the timelines converge on a relevant piece of information or a great joke. The incomprehensibility even works as a joke itself—Morty and Summer trade lines in different timelines, speaking over each other, and at one point, one of the Rick’s make them trade places so they’ll match with the other three panels.
Rick and Morty has never wasted a good idea, and tries really hard to push all of its plots to a logical extreme. By the end of the episode, the number of timelines has expanded so much that the screen is completely overtaken by teeny, tiny panels of the trio completely panicking. This expansiveness, combined with their always excellent guest stars (this episode featured Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as testicle headed alien time police) is the reason why I keep watching. Rick and Morty never goes for an easy joke—they want you to appreciate the run up to their punchlines as much as they clearly do.
As for this episode’s B-Plot, well… the best I can say is that they seem to have a better handle on how to use Beth and Jerry than last season, when a lot of the time they were standing around inconvenienced or irritated by whatever Rick got up to. They also make good on the one off visual gag of Beth being a horse doctor, a fact that makes me laugh under my breath whenever I remember it, but hadn’t yet paid off in the show. While at times it reaches the absurdity of the show at its best—Beth and Jerry are wrapped up in an almost serious medical drama involving a deer Jerry hit with his car—it pales in comparison to what their children are up to. At least it serves a narrative purpose, which is probably why it’s here. Because their marriage is so dysfunctional, the audience does need a reminder on why they stay married every once and a while.
To say that Rick and Morty is simply weird does it a huge disservice. It’s not just fucked up—it’s smart. It isn’t relying on shock humor or simply being as bizarre as possible. There’s thought here, there’s polish, they want to make sure you can see the work put into this. As a season opener, “A Rickle In Time,” could hardly have made me more excited. I’m so glad Rick and Morty is always going to be looking for a new way to make me laugh.
Gita Jackson has dedicated her entire adult life to wading through the marginalia of popular culture and finding gold.