I'm not a big cartoon person. Sure, I watched my fair share of them as a child, but overall I stuck to live-action fantasy shows like Buffy and Supernatural and Charmed. (With a few sojourns to Law & Order etc)
Over the past few months, I've gone down the rabbit hole with shows like Rick & Morty.
It started with Adventure Time
A quirky series of twenty minute episodes, the universe fully realized, it felt like falling into a brand new dimension in the middle of dinner and knowing you've missed something. Eventually you get the story, but it takes some time. Still, in the meantime, the adventures you go on are entertaining. And things certainly start to take a serious turn as the series progresses. (I'm on season 3 but I know enough about later episodes to know that shit gets real very fast.)
Then it was Steven Universe.
That show came out of nowhere for me and slammed me right in the feels when I was least expecting it. It's a show about space rocks. Queer space rocks. Queer as hell badass space rocks fighting for us puny humans. I didn't expect for that show to legitimately make me cry. But it has. That show is important for quite a few reasons. Beautiful queer representation, only one among many.
But I just finished watching last week's episode of Rick & Morty, and I'm filled with feelings right now.
In the next paragraph, I'll be talking about spoilers so if you have not yet watched the episode from September 27th, please click this link and watch a Steven Universe youtube video that will give you feelings.
Okay, so last week's episode features Rick and Morty just kind of chilling in space, talking about how nice it is just to hang out. A bug hits the ship, and they've gotta land to get some fluid to wash the windshield. As such things go, they land on a planet that isn't as pleasant as it appears. Right out of The Purge, it's literally The Purge. This planet is perfectly peaceful except for one night a year when everyone goes fucknugget batshit insane and kills each other.
Rick, as he does, is gung-ho to stay and enjoy the show, but Morty is very much against that. Well, Rick delays their exit, leading to a series of events that end up leaving them stranded on a planet where everyone wants to kill them. They contact Summer to try and get help--which works, eventually. But in the meantime, this conversation happens:
Rick: Morty, if we're gonna survive this, you're gonna have to harness your repressed rage.
Morty: I don't have any!
Rick: Sounds like someone with repressed rage.
And at the time of the conversation, it's funny. But as the episode progresses, Morty begins to express more and more rage against those around him. He even aims it at Rick, screaming, "This has been a long time coming!!!" and threatening Rick.
Suddenly, it's not funny anymore.
At that point, Rick knocks Morty out. The plot of the episode plays out, and they're back in their ship, on their way home. Rick tells Morty that his aggression through the day was due to a chemical called Purgenol in a candy bar from the beginning of the episode that increases violent urges in those who consume it. And the last shot we have is the wrapper of that candy bar, exclaiming "NOW PURGENOL FREE" -- revealing the lie Rick has told.
When I first started watching this show, I thought it was going to be a lot like the rest of Adult Swim's shows -- all dick and fart jokes, insensitive bullshit, with no substance. But this show is so damn deep, it hurts my chest.
Rick is watching Morty go further and further down this dark path of anger, stemming from all the trauma his grandson has experienced in his young life. And it kills him. There is this shot of his face, shocked and horrified by what Morty has done and it breaks my heart. He knows this is wrong and he has no idea how to stop it. He knows that by holding on to Morty and continuing to take him on these adventures is twisting him, breaking him in the same ways that Rick is broken, but Rick can't bring himself to stop. He loves Morty, but he is so dependent on him.
I truly believe that Rick loves Morty. But it's a one sided dependency that will either end Morty as we know him, or it will end Rick.
And I'll be honest: I think Rick is, somewhere in the back of his mind, hoping that it will be Morty left standing. Because maybe then he'll get some peace. Maybe then this pain that haunts him and drives him to such desperate depths will finally go away.
Rick & Morty is an important show. Is it appropriate? Not really. It has some significantly disturbing scenes--but many of them are played exactly the way they should be, as violent and horrific actions that should be dealt with accordingly. But it also doesn't play a broken marriage off as a joke. It shows that you can't truly know someone's pain until they show it to you. It does show the love and support between family members, pushing past differences. It's also fun and exciting. (Bird Person is the best and most perfect character.)
Would I let my 12 year old cousin watch it? Hell no. But I'll be tuning in on Sunday for the next episode, ready and willing for my heart to be broken again.