RICK AND MORTY IS THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION

Film Crit Hulk explains why the Cartoon Network show is so damn good.

OR AT LEAST THE MOST INTERESTING.

TO HULK IT'S THE SAME DIFF. AND MANY OTHER FEELS THE SAME WAY. HULK'S FRIEND MATT EVEN TEXTED AFTER THIS WEEK'S EPISODE AND MADE THIS SAME PROCLAMATION OF RELATIVE BEST-NESS. IGNORING ANY POTENTIAL ARGUMENTS IN COMPARING TO OTHER SHOWS, HULK JUST WANTS TO CONVEY THAT WE HAVE TO TAKE A MOMENT TO CLARIFY THAT SOMETHING SPECIAL IS HAPPENING HERE. NOT ONLY IS EVERY RICK AND MORTY EPISODE SOMEHOW BETTER THAN THE LAST, BUT THE SHOW IS KEEPS TAPPING INTO THE KINDS OF THEMATIC STORY EXPRESSIONS THAT COMPLETELY ELECTRIFY HULK'S BRAIN.

IF SOMEONE ASKED "WHAT'S THE SHOW ABOUT?' THE ANSWER WOULD BE DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE: IT'S A FUCKED-UP VERSION OF BACK TO THE FUTURE WHEREIN OUR GENIUS, DRUNKEN-SCIENTIST GRANDPA RICK TAKES YOUNG 14 YEAR OLD MARTY ON ALL SORTS OF CRAZY SCI-FI ADVENTURES. BUT WHAT SOUNDS LIKE MERE FODDER FOR HUMOR AND A FEW  GOOD YARNS IS PUSHED MUCH, MUCH FURTHER THAN THAT. IN THE WORDS OF HULK'S FRIEND MATT "It's just fucking bold. It's like Futurama gone all the way." BECAUSE THERE'S NO SHOW THAT PUSHES ITS CONCEITS TO THE EDGE OF WHAT THEY COULD REALLY MEAN. NO SHOW THAT QUITE POKES AND PROTRUDES AT OUR SENSIBILITIES. NO SHOW THAT SO READILY MOCKS OUR DEPENDENCE ON CONVENTIONAL STORY OUTCOMES. BUT INSTEAD OF JUST BEING FLIPPANT ABOUT IT, THE SHOW GOES RIGHT TO THE MOST HEART-BREAKINGLY HONEST TRUTH AT THE CENTER OF THESE STORIES AND STARES RIGHT AT THE VOID OF EXISTENCE ITSELF. WHY WE DO MUCH OF ANYTHING AS A SOCIETY? WHAT IS THIS REALLY ABOUT? YOU WOULD BE TEMPTED TO CALL IT CYNICAL SHOW. BUT REALLY IT'S JUST CLASSICALLY EXISTENTIAL. AND ASIDE FROM FINDING SOME DARK-AS-NIGHT HUMOR IN THAT VOID-STARING, IT ALSO MANAGES TO FIND THIS WEIRD WAY OF CLARIFYING HOW THERE IS A KINDNESS TO MOST OF SOCIETY'S RELATIVE INSANITIES.

... THIS MAY ALL SOUND RATHER ABSTRACT.

SO LET'S GET CONCRETE: THE EPISODE "RIXTY MINUTES," OPENS WITH SHOW'S NUCLEAR FAMILY IS SITTING AROUND WATCHING A GARBAGE BACHELOR-TYPE SHOW. RICK EXPRESSES HIS DISGUST AND THE FAMILY'S PROTEST LEADS HIM TO INSTALLING HIS OWN CRAZY CABLE BOX, WHICH BROADCASTS ALL THE CHANNELS ACROSS INFINITE DIMENSIONS AND TIMELINES. WHAT BASICALLY FEELS IN PART AN ATTEMPT TO DISPLAY ODD-BALL COMEDY (AND CLEAR NOD TO DAN HARMON'S CHANNEL 101 DAYS) SOON TURNS INTO A COMPLETE DIEGESIS ON ENTERTAINMENT ITSELF. BECAUSE WHEN THE DAD, JERRY, DISCOVERS THE FACT THAT HE IS A CELEBRITY IN ANOTHER REALITY, IT SENDS HALF THE GROUP ON A KICK WHERE THEY DO NOTHING BUT USE V.R. HELMETS TO INDULGENTLY EXPLORE THEIR ALTERNATE LIVES, (SPECIFICALLY WHERE THE PARENTS BROKE UP AND PURSUED THEIR DREAMS, WHICH ARE ALL VERSIONS WHERE THE ELDEST DAUGHTER WAS ABORTED... YEAH, DARK). BUT OF COURSE THIS INDULGENCE COMES AT THE COST OF EXPLORING THE SPECTRUM OF THE KINDS OF ENTERTAINMENT ODDITIES THAT NOW ARE AVAILABLE TO THEM. IT'S A COMPLETE METAPHOR FOR THE WAY WE CONSUME SO MUCH MEDIA AS PURE INDULGENT MASTURBATION, A WAY OF ELATING OURSELVES THROUGH VICARIOUS MEANS. BUT DON'T THINK IT MORALIZES ON THE SIDE OF THE NON-INDULGENT MEDIA-EXPLORERS EITHER, AS IT CONVEYS THE IDEA THAT ANY INTER-DIMENSIONAL PROGRAMMING, WHILE STRANGE AND INVIGORATING, STILL AMOUNTS TO PASSIVELY SITTING ON THE COUCH DRINKING BEER. MEANWHILE, OUR V.R. ALTERNATE-LIFE-MASTURBATORS GO THROUGH ALL THE WISH-FULFILLMENT THEY POSSIBLY CAN, REALIZING THAT EVERY REALITY WHERE THEY PURSUED THEIR DREAMS THEY ALWAYS COMING TO PLACE OF TRUE EMPTINESS, ALLOWING THEM TO FIND SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT ALL THE THINGS THEY WISH THEY HAD IN THE LIVES, ACTUALLY PALE IN COMPARISON TO THE SMALL BITS OF CONTENTMENT THEY'VE UNLOCKED BY SACRIFICING FOR EACH OTHER.

THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF CHARLIE KAUFFMAN WINS OSCARS FOR.

BUT SINCE IT'S A CRAZY ANIMATED ADULT SWIM SHOW, WHAT, THAT MAKES APPARENTLY MAKES PEOPLE REFRAIN FROM THE COMPARISON? THIS IS EXACTLY WHY HULK IS SO OBSESSED WITH HOW SOCIETY MISTAKES FORM FOR FUNCTION. IT'S WHY HULK IS SO DEAD SET ON ERASING OUR ASSUMPTIONS FROM SURFACES OR "BROW-RELATED" CONTENT. BECAUSE SO MANY HIGH-MINDED TEXTURALISTS ARE TURNED OFF A CARTOON WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER BURPS A LOT. THEY SEE IT AS AN OBSTRUCTION TO THE INTELLECTUALISM INSTEAD OF THE WAY MOST PEOPLE ARE LET IN. AND EVERY DAMN EPISODE OF RICK AND MORTY GETS TO CONCEITS LIKE THIS. THERE'S A SKEWERING OF INCEPTION (WHICH HULK ADORES, BUT THIS ON POINT) ALL HAPPENING WHILE A DOG GAINS SENTIENCE AND UPENDS SOCIETY (ONLY TO TURN INTO A LESSON ON HOW DOGS' EMPATHY IS GREATER THAN OUR OWN). OR AN EPISODE ABOUT THE HELPFUL MESEEKS, BORN FOR SOLE THE PURPOSE OF HELPING YOU IN A SINGLE TASK, ARE DRIVEN TO TRUE MURDER-SUICIDAL INSANITY BY THEIR INABILITY TO IMPROVE JERRY'S GOLF GAME ("STRAIGHTEN YOUR BACK!" "NO, FOLLOW THROUGH!"). AND THERE'S A ALIEN SEX ROBOT SURPRISE THAT RESULTS IN 14 YEAR OLD MARTY HAVING TO SIMULATE THE ENTIRETY OF PARENTHOOD ACROSS 2 DAYS. THERE'S EVEN A SMALL D PLOT OF A ROBOT REALIZING HIS MEANINGLESS EXISTENCE IN THE FACT THAT HIS ONLY PROGRAMMED JOB IS TO PASS THE BUTTER. HECK, THERE'S EVEN AN EPISODE WHERE RICK AND MORTY HAVE TO CORRECT A HORRENDOUS LOVE-POTION MISTAKE AND THE ONLY SOLUTION IS JUMP TO AN ALTERNATE REALITY WHERE THEY DIE AND THUS GET TO GO ON LIVING LIFE AS NORMAL, WHICH IS JUST AS A THROWAWAY JOKE ABOUT HOW TV COMEDIES PRESS THE RESET BUTTON AT THE END OF EVERY EPISODE. ONLY THAT IDEA IS TURNED ON HEAD IN THE NEXT EPISODE WHEN THE CHARACTERS BEGIN TO WRESTLE WITH DEEP MORAL COMPLICATIONS OF WHAT THEY'VE DONE, ALL WHILE STARING AT THEIR OWN GRAVES EVERY DAY (LIKE, HOLY FUCK). YOU'LL NOTICE AT THE CENTER OF ALL THESE CONCEITS IS THE IDEA OF UNENDING CONSEQUENCE. IT'S THE STORYTELLING MODEL OF "THE SINGULARITY" WHERE TECHNOLOGY IS MOVING FASTER THAN WE DO, THUS MANIFESTING IN THE WAYS OUR ORIENTATION CHANGES EVEN IN REGARD TO STORIES THEMSELVES... SERIOUSLY, THIS SHOW EXPLORES ALL OF THIS.

BUT IT WAS THIS WEEK'S EPISODE THAT FINALLY PROMPTED HULK TO SAY SOMETHING.

HERE'S THE MOST GENERAL DESCRIPTION WITHOUT RUINING WHERE IT GOES: THE SHOW EXPOSES THE FACT THAT ALL INFINITE REALITIES VERSIONS OF RICK AND MORTY HAVE BANDED TOGETHER TO CREATE A WORLD THAT ALLOWS THEM TO HAVE GREATER EASE IN NAVIGATING / FIGHTING / IGNORING THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE - AND NOW OUR RICK HAS TO BATTLE AGAINST THE ORGANIZED SOCIETY VERSION OF HIMSELF (WHICH IN TURN INDICATES HOW MUCH OF OUR ETHOS / IDENTITY IS DICTATED BY POWER DYNAMICS AND THE SITUATION ITSELF). THE EPISODE THEN GOES ON A REALITY-HOPPING CONSPIRACY YARN. YOU CAN IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES (COMPLETE WITH MENTALLY-HANDICAPPED RICK BEING THE ONLY ONE THAT FUNCTION WITH HIS FAMILY), BUT IT'S ALSO THE KIND OF STORY WHERE AT ONE POINT THEY WALK INTO A UNIVERSE WHERE A PIZZA IS SITTING DOWN ON THE PHONE ORDERING A PERSON... HARDEEE HAR HAR, RIGHT? BUT TWO QUICK UNIVERSE JUMPS LATER AND THE JOKE OS INVERTED TO A PLACE WHERE ANIMATE FURNITURE IS SITTING ON INANIMATE PEOPLE USING PIZZA TO ORDER A PHONE TO EAT. AND RATHER THEN LET THAT JOKE GO AWAY AS A ONE OFF BIT OF INSANITY, WE HANG OUT IN THAT WORLD FOR AWHILE AS ANIMATE FURNITURE IS AMAZED QUIETLY AMAZED IN THE BACKGROUND TO SEE PEOPLE ACTUALLY BEING ALIVE, THEN TYING IT BACK INTO THE PLOT.... DO YOU EVEN REALIZE WHAT THAT IS FROM A WRITER'S PERSPECTIVE? IT'S MAKING FUN A DUMB JOKE, TURNED INTO AN INVERTING THROWAWAY GAG, TURNED INTO PUSHING THE JOKE TO THE FURTHEST POSSIBLE POINT, TURNED INTO A MAKING IT REAL SO WE LIVE IN IT, THEN TURNED ALL OF THAT INTO PART OF THE PLOT ITSELF. NOTHING IS A THROWAWAY IN THIS SHOW. THE COST AND CONSEQUENCE OF EVERY DECISION COMES BACK TEN-FOLD. IT'S REALLY JUST THE BASIC TENET OF SCI-FI BROUGHT TO A PLACE THAT GOES FAR BEYOND A SINGLE CONCEPTUAL INVERSION. THEY'VE TURNED THE TWILIGHT ZONE INTO WORLD BUILDING, CRANKING IT UP TO 2000 MPH, ALL WHILE STILL SOMEHOW KEEPING THE STORY DRIVEN AROUND (OFTEN AWKWARD) CATHARSIS.

YOU'LL NOTICE AT THIS POINT HULK HAS NOT TALKED ABOUT THE CHARACTERS' SENSE OF HUMOR, NOR THE TIMING OF THE JOKES, NOR THE INCREDIBLE VOICE WORK, NOR THE ANYTHING ABOUT THE CRAFT. HULK HAS ONLY DESCRIBED WHAT HAPPENS ON THE SHOW...

WHICH MAKES THIS EXCITING.

NO, WHICH MAKES THIS WUBBA-LUBBA-DUB-DUB EXCITING.

BECAUSE WHAT IT REVEALS IS HOW THIS SHOW REPRESENTS THE HEIGHT (AND MONSTER SUCCESS) OF PURE IDEA-DRIVEN STORYTELLING. AND IT'S SO DAMN RARE NOWADAYS. AS WE HIT THE SATURATION POINT IN OUR TROUBLESOME ADORATION OF ANTI-HEROES, GRAVITATE TOWARD EDGY AND SUPERFLUOUSLY-SEXED SHOCK-FESTS, DERIDE OUR COMFORT SHOWS FOR NOT DOING EXACTLY AS WE WISH, OR LOOK DOWN ON REAL-LIFE PEOPLE MAKING ASSES OF THEMSELVES IN VACANT ACT OF PURE SCHADENFREUDE, THEN THE SHOWS LIKE RICK AND MORTY AND COMMUNITY BECOME ALL THE MORE CRITICAL (THANKS DAN HARMON!). MOST OF ALL BECAUSE THEY ARE UNCOMPROMISING IN TERMS OF THE PURSUIT OF WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY AND HAVE LOCKED ONTO A DRAMATIC AND COMEDIC WAY OF EXPRESSING IT.

THE THING IS THAT HULK'S HAD NUMBER OF CONVERSATIONS WHERE SOME PEOPLE HAVE EXPRESSED THAT THEY DON'T LIKE RICK AND MORTY BECAUSE IT MAKES THEM FEEL... UNCOMFORTABLE. SURE, THEY AGREE IT IS OFTEN FUNNY, BUT IT PUTS THEM IN THE SPACE WHERE THEY FEEL UNEASY. AND WHEN YOU ASK THEM TO TRY TO ARTICULATE WHAT IT IS THAT IS EXACTLY BOTHERING THEM, IT BECOMES PAINFULLY CLEAR THAT THEY ARE WRESTLING WITH THE FACT THAT FOR ALL THE SHOW'S UNDERLYING HUMANITY, IT GENUINELY FUCKS WITH THEIR BRIAN ORIENTATION.... WELL, IT MAKES HULK FEEL THAT WAY TOO. AND AS MUCH AS WE ALL JUST WANT TO COME HOME AT NIGHT AND FEEL BETTER AND RESTED, SOMETIMES WE NEED MORE THAN THAT. WE HAVE TO TAKE OFF THE V.R. ALTERNATE REALITY GLASSES SOMETIMES. SO YEAH, IT'S A SHOW THAT WORLD FEEL STRANGER, BUT THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE TO RECONCILE. WE ARE SUDDENLY AT ODDS WITH WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE WANT. WE ARE IN A NEW PLACE WHERE WE REALLY DON'T KNOW HOW TO FEEL...

AND FOLKS... THAT'S WHAT ART IS SUPPOSED TO DO.

<3 HULK

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