This Rick and Morty review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 1 Episode 1
Before Rick and Morty was everybody in the entire world’s favorite show, it was just a goofy new sci-fi Adult Swim cartoon from the guy who made Community and the psychopath who voiced Lemongrab. Nobody knew it would blow up the way it did—oh yeah, except for me! I knew!
I’m serious! I wrote a thing on my blog back in May 2012(!) mentioning that Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s previous collaboration, Mr. Sprinkles, was one of my favorite shows ever, insinuating that the upcoming Rick and Morty had the potential to also be the best. I’m sure I nagged my editors, told them I’d be happy to review it before the A.V. Club caught wind of it and stole all our traffic, but no! I was ignored until Episode 4, by which time it was shaping up to be a bona fide phenomenon. No joke, the A.V. Club started reviewing it at the same time we did it, eclipsing my good and objectively superior content.
But there’s a silver lining: the editor-in-chief of Den of Geek must now acknowledge and consider everything I say as potentially being worthwhile, even though most of the time we communicate I’m just trolling him. This is his curse, his burden, self-inflicted, and deserved.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: I do not actually deserve any of this)
Anyhow, now he wants me to go back and review the first three episodes I didn’t get to the first time around in a retrospective sort of fashion. In this way, I’ll have reviewed every Rick and Morty episode ever and, with a pedigree like that, I dare my parents to call me a failure ever again!
And so, here we are at the pilot. When I first watched it back when it aired, it didn’t blow me away as much as I’d hoped it would, but then again Mr. Sprinkles had raised my expectations awfully high. My main issue was that Sprinkles had a lot of heart and also wasn’t afraid to get deeply, unsettlingly dark at times. Rick and Morty’s pilot was dark, but not in any lasting way, and it was relatively anti-heart, ending with Rick ranting over a convulsing Morty.
However, watching this episode now, knowing all that follows it, I quite enjoyed the pilot. The show got sappier only one episode later with “Lawnmower Dog” and delved into the super-darkness starting with Episode 5, “Meeseeks and Destroy,” so that this episode is simply a basic introduction to how madcap this shit could and would get works just fine.
It’s not exactly an integral series plotline; Rick is generically ruining Morty’s life for his own gain (specifically he wants him to smuggle alien super seeds from another dimension up his butt), but the dynamic of their relationship is well-established and a lot of other groundwork is laid. Summer doesn’t get too deeply fleshed out beyond “teenage girl,” but we at least get a good feel for Beth and Jerry’s dysfunctional union (honestly, their plot is kind of tiresome and based a lot around watching them bicker, which is a problem that plagues Beth and Jerry plots regularly).
But, again, aside from establishing the show’s framework, the pilot is mostly a vehicle for fucked-up jokes and sci-fi sight gags. And there are some classics in here. We get the show’s first ever (duh) chase sequence, featuring the amazing bit of animation where Morty accidentally inhales an alien drug and coughs up a humanoid creature that instantly ages through its entire life cycle and then dies. “Don’t think about it!” shouts Rick. Speaking of, a few of the series’ all-time best one-liners are in this too, like when Rick tells Morty the Gromflomites he’s shooting at are robots and then, after Morty shoots one and witnesses him clearly bleeding to death, Rick explains, “It’s a figure of speech, Morty! They’re bureaucrats! I don’t respect them!”
And, of course, we also get the iconic “Rick and Morty forever, 100 years” ramble at the end, which is emblematic of what I enjoyed about rewatching this pilot. It’s got a lot more Justin Roiland adlibbing and stumbling over lines than the show would go on to have. As Rick, he ends just about every sentence with “Morty” and horrible belches interrupt his speech, like, a lot. It was this sort of thing that initially turned some people away from the show and, especially as it grew more plot-heavy, it made sense to scale this stuff back. But the main charm of the pilot is that it has a bit of a scrappier feel that allows for Roiland to adlib for lengthy periods and doesn’t mind expending a portion of the running time holding on a shot of Morty writhing in agony after breaking his legs.
All in all, a simple, yet solid episode to start a series with. Not as complex or as emotionally affecting as Rick and Morty managed later, but, hey, for the storyline it has, it’s well-plotted and, furthermore, it’s pretty funny. Can’t ask for much more from a pilot.
Editor’s note: this feature originally ran in July 2017. It’s being repromoted in advance of Rick and Morty Season 4.