Earlier today, Dan Harmon (creator of Community and co-creator of adult swim series Rick and Morty) shocked the internet when he took to twitter to announce a history-making undertaking. He has uploaded, in its entirety, the latest episode of Rick and Morty entitled “Rixty Minutes” to Instagram–days before the episode is set to officially air. Broken up into 110 bite-sized, fifteen-second chunks, the episode is surprisingly effective given this week’s ‘clipshow-esque’ format. In fact, not only did I find this to be the most uproariously funny episode of the series to date (a very high watermark, considering this is shaping up to be one of the most unique and hilarious animated shows ever), but having it broken up into so many tiny bits actually made it funnier for me. I love these types of comedies where the jokes fly fast and don’t wait up for a laugh-track-safety-net for them to land, but examining each segment in fifteen second bursts gave me more time to process just how funny those jokes were. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so many times.
The basic premise of this week’s early-release episode plays with another classic Sci-Fi trope. It is also a bottle episode (if that industry term makes any sense at all in the context of an animated setting) putting inter-dimensional adventures on hold for a while as the family spends the entire episode in the house, essentially watching television. How meta! Rick Sanchez is determined to show Jerry and the rest of the family how mundane and boring their version of television is by installing a device that can transmit cable programming from “every conceivable reality” (except for those without cable, of course!). Jerry excitedly asks if that includes Showtime Extreme, to which Rick nonchalantly replies, “How about Showtime Extreme in a world where man evolved from corn?” flipping to a station playing exactly that. In the B plot, Rick gives Summer and her parents an Oculus Rift-type head-mounted display that allows them to see through the eyes of their parallel universe counterparts, leading them to question the choices they made and once again bringing Jerry and Beth dangerously close to the edge of a failed marriage. Morty opts to stay and watch wacky alternate reality cable programs with Rick, proclaiming “Hey I don’t give a crap about myself, Rick! Let’s watch some crazy stuff, yo!”
The A plot is played strictly for laughs, and my god is it funny! The cable shows and commercials take on a loose, improvisational quality (which the characters openly discuss in a particularly meta moment). I found this entire concept unbelievably funny as it sounds like Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland entered a sound studio together and made all the dialogue up off the top of their heads, before animating the end result. Sometimes characters on the tv shows and commercials would actually break character and start laughing. The two co-creators sounded like they were having a ton of fun one-upping each other with crazy scenarios and ridiculous dialogue. I have never seen anything like it on a scripted show and their amusement was infectious. Both Dan and Justin each did a phenomenal job on the voice work with this episode.
As per the norm with Harmon creations, the episode not only succeeded in being incredibly funny, but it also infused the proceedings with sober revelations about life and striking moments of pathos. The show has never been afraid to wander into very dark emotional territory and sometimes it enjoys moments of quiet contemplation, but these moments are often balanced out with genuine warmth and tear-jerking catharsis. Tonight the B plot was laden with them.
The episode also showcased another Harmon signature, so far mostly absent from Rick and Morty; his fondness for callbacks and detailed continuity. Not only did the show wink at last week’s episode with “Gazorpazorpfield,” an absurdist rendering of the Garfield show where the sarcastic cat is part Gazorpazorp and abuses his owner with a foul-mouthed zeal, but it also called back to the darkest, most poignant moment in the series thus far. Morty points Summer to his own grave in the backyard (calling back to the heartbreaking Mazzy Star montage from “Rick Potion #9,” my personal favorite moment in the series) in order to explain how life has no purpose, so she should… you know, cheer up and watch tv? Like I said, this show gets dark.
The episode officially airs Monday, March 17th, but if you want to enjoy it now in a unique medium check out the show on Instagram: