Surrounded by dozens of literal Schrödinger’s cats, a mad scientist and his two grandchildren must find a way to fuse together separate timelines caused by the grandchildren’s inability to make decisions. In a race to make sense of this confusing reality and avoid being murdered by the other timelines, Adult Swim’s cult cartoon hit “Rick and Morty” starts Season 2 with its two best qualities: absurdity and dark humor. While the first season of this unpredictable show introduced us to creator Justin Roiland’s unique mannerisms and improvised scripts, the second season plays off those mannerisms and expectations for a more intense experience.
After a two-year break, Rick and Morty picks up exactly where the last season left off, sort of. Rick (Justin Roiland) and his grandchildren, Morty (Justin Roiland) and Summer (Spencer Grammer), paused time at the end of season one and goofed off for six months while everything else stayed still. The first episode of season two begins with them unpausing time.
The pseudoscience gets stranger as the season continues: Rick becomes romantically involved with an entire species at once, a parasite creates more and more ridiculous characters for the show to deal with, and the parents, Jerry (Chris Parnell) and Beth (Sarah Chalke), create physical embodiments of their relationship that almost start a war. These situations sound ridiculous, yet Roiland’s universe, both limitless and aware of its own absurdity, lets preposterous situations play out in unexpected and hilarious ways. More risky still, the funniest moments often rely on the darkest situations, with even death and murder eliciting genuine humor.
There are a few moments in Season 2 that come up short. The second and fifth episodes are largely humorless, with nothing to fill the vacuum. I don’t think it’s because they are the first and only musical episodes in Rick and Morty. Rather, I think these episodes suffer because they both focus almost exclusively on Morty and his evolution as a character. Morty, as the show’s perpetual pre-teen, has multiple contradictory developments. In the second episode his main struggle is with the value of an individual life, yet in the ninth episode the major punchline is his murderous rampage.
While Morty’s inconsistent actions, not to mention his family’s total lack of development, fail to produce compelling drama in these problematic episodes, Rick shines in every moment he has on screen. His personality and mannerisms are the most consistent source of humor throughout the new season, its few serious moments focused almost exclusively on Rick. As the center of both the humor and drama, Rick stands out from the other characters, making clear that his character arc was the biggest addition to this season. Even with the little foundation for serious moments in Season 1, Season 2 is able to use Rick to expand both the humor and drama.
The show’s new season challenges the expectations set by its first season, which was looser, lighter, and more balanced. While losing some characterization of the family, Rick’s character arc overshadows the entire season. The humor is more intense and even funnier, but pushes the boundaries into a darker and more violent humor. The first season established Rick and Morty as one of cable television’s few brilliant and unique comedies. The second season demonstrates that Roiland and crew won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Building off the first season’s strange universe, Season 2 combines both humor and drama with only a few weak episodes in a hilarious new season.