Rick and Morty Is Finally Starting to Fix the Shows Biggest Problem

Rick and Morty season 5 episode 1 spoilers follow.

Rick and Morty kicks season five off in schwifty fashion with a bunch of alternate-reality crystals that hint at the endless possibilities of the multiverse. “Were we Blades in that one?” Rick asks during this cold open. Yes, ever so briefly, we get to see Rick and Morty decked out in their slickest Wesley Snipes attire. And in the episode that follows, Rick and Morty finally starts to open itself up to a more traditional, but no less important possibility.

In this first scene, Morty is in charge for once, and while we don’t know what happened beforehand, Rick is clearly in bad shape. That means it’s up to his grandson to rescue them both, but as their ship crashes through the atmosphere, it appears that all hope is lost. That is, until Jessica calls Morty up and asks if they can hang out.

Driven by his horny teen desires, Morty makes one last go of it and lands their ship in the ocean, bringing them both to safety. Except, they’re not really safe at all, because the sea is a no-go zone for the Smith family. By entering this space, Rick has violated his agreement with Nimbus, an even hornier sea king who is somehow Rick’s “greatest nemesis.”

This opening sets up a typically deranged episode full of time distortion, robot birds, and uncomfortable orgies. Essentially, it’s the Rick and Morty that fans know and love. But more importantly than that, this episode doesn’t reset the status quo, which is a welcome change for this show.

Things are looking up for Morty in season five. Jessica is actually up for hanging out and he survived the crash intact, so that’s also a big bonus. There’s just one problem – his grandfather. With Nimbus heading to the Smith house for dinner, Rick wants his grandson to go fetch him some wine from another dimension, but Morty is fed up of being treated like an errand boy.

The cracks were already beginning to show a bit in season four, but just a few minutes into season five, Morty finally vents his frustrations, complaining to Rick that he hasn’t finished a whole week of school in years thanks to his grandfather. After that, Morty does end up going to get the wine, kicking off an epic revenge story which spans multiple dimensions and eons of time itself. But what’s crucial here is that Morty no longer takes Rick’s abuse at face value.

After years of mistreatment, Morty is ready to stand up for himself, and it looks like all of his inter-dimensional travels have hardened him too. “Sometimes you’ve gotta be an asshole,” Morty says after murdering generations of people who believe him to be an evil god. “My grandfather taught me that.”

Morty’s not the only one who’s changing either. Summer is way more adventurous than she used to be and their parents are also evolving, particularly when it comes to the intricacies of their marriage. And by intricacies, we mean them deciding to bang Nimbus together in a government-approved three-way.

That’s a marked change from season four, which mostly dealt with standalone stories that did little to advance the overarching story. To be fair though, it’s easy to see why that happened.

If every episode dramatically moved things forward, the writers might reach their endgame far too quickly, and that would be tough given the 70-episode order they need to fulfill. The success of one-off adventures like the Emmy-winning ‘Vat of Acid Episode’ further proved that standalone stories are vital to the show’s appeal, but that hasn’t stopped fans from wanting more.

From Evil Morty to that Talking Cat, the demand to see beloved characters and story arcs return has increased more and more in recent years. Fan pressure shouldn’t always be the guiding force behind creative decisions, not by any means, but there is something to be said for character development too. Five seasons in, the Smiths need to evolve and grow more to keep fans invested. And would it be so bad to finally give us some answers to at least some of the show’s biggest mysteries?

If this first episode is anything to go by, then Rick and Morty definitely seems more concerned with tackling these issues in season five. Rick even addresses this directly when he tells Nimbus, “Don’t establish canonical backstory with me.” Is that just a knowing acknowledgement of the show’s new leanings or will the likes of Diane, Rick’s ex-wife, actually resurface at some point soon?

Speaking to Digital Spy recently, show creator Dan Harmon discussed all this in more detail: It’s really weird in animation because obviously Morty has to be 14 forever. Summer is 17 forever. Rick is whatever he is forever. So that question becomes like: do your characters grow and change? I’m firmly against that reset-button-hitting where it’s like there’s no awareness present. I look at it as like smoking meat versus cooking it. You let the flavor itself happen, and let that change things.”

The challenges that Dan describes here are not unique to Rick and Morty. Most animated sitcoms have to balance accessibility with character development for longterm fans, and this issue only becomes more apparent the longer each show is on the air. After all, The Simpsons has already proved that longevity can be a curse if not handled right, but with plenty of seasons to go, it’s refreshing to see that Rick and Morty is now starting to reckon with this more in season five.

“Morty is getting sick of Rick’s crap,” Harmon continued. “And he should. We wouldn’t want to watch him wake up every day and go, ‘I wonder what my loving grandpa has planned for me?'”

Dan’s right, and it’s reassuring to hear him acknowledge this, but that’s not to say everything’s suddenly perfect now. Following the events of season four, it does feel odd that Space Beth doesn’t make an appearance here, and Rick’s downbeat ending is also pretty much ignored.

But for now, we’ll give Rick and Morty the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s impossible to judge an entire season based on just one episode, and writer Scott Marder has promised that fans will indeed get some “epic canon” beyond the first episode. Let’s just hope that the rest of season five invests in more emotional beats along with the laughs or before long, the possibility of another renewal will be looking less and less likely in any dimension.

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