Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty Season 6.
It’s crazy to say that about a show with talking pickles, interdimensional cable and howling suns, but rick and morty got pretty crazy this season. The series has always had a bit of a meta edge, with fourth wall breaking already occurring in the pilot episode. Rick himself has always been pretty conscious of being in a TV show, the same way Deadpool and others do in their material. That is part of the call; meta humor is super popular. But this season took the meta to a whole new level. Now, meta humor isn’t just used for jokes, it’s textually part of the plot and deeply tied to character arcs.
Before season 6, meta humor was mostly for in-jokes and references. Comedic lampshade for their episodes, which were mostly parodies of other things or plain pop culture referential humor. The titles of each episode were still parodied titles of other movies and TV shows, but with the names “Rick” and/or “Morty” embedded in them. When it wasn’t a reference, it was Rick looking into the camera and nodding and winking at a TV show. These meta-references have made rick and morty super nice for advertising too because nothing stopped them from having branded offers just to make jokes about branded offers. From now on, rick and morty has been used to advertise most major fast food chains, Pringles, Sony, Old Spice and the list goes on. It doesn’t even feel like the series is “selling” in any way, because the fact that it’s an advertisement is basically part of the joke.
Before the Rift
But it’s just the humor that has also been a whole metal layer to the show that involves the ongoing plot. For the first five seasons, Rick had a total disregard for all overarching storylines, preferring the stand-alone “classic” rick and morty fairy tale. At times, it even seemed like the show’s creators and writers despised having to write these continuity episodes in the first place. This continues even in the Season 6 opener, where Rick laments his clichéd death in a parody of the Iron Man opening from Avengers: Endgame. He gets so upset that he tries to act like he doesn’t know who Iron Man is, which is what Morty calls him out on. It’s a very odd moment when Rick gets called out for being a nasty no-no, and it’s not the only time it’s happened.
In previous seasons, whenever a major arc ended, the next episode would be Rick solving everything with relative ease. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Season 3 premiere, where Rick undoes the (and surprisingly well-written) Season 2 finale that left Rick’s friends dead, his family threatened and forced into hiding, and Rick surrendering and being sent to a space prison. In the season 3 premiere, he stated his motives as being an abandoned McDonald’s dip from 1998 and the dismantling of the intergalactic government agency that put him in prison and destroyed their finances. It’s fun, but also disappointing, which seemed to be Rick’s goal all along.
At first it seemed like Rick hated these ongoing storylines because he was the voice of the show’s creative who didn’t want the show to do that kind of thing. They just wanted the status quo to reset at the end of each episode to make room for more goofs. But not with the context of season 6, we see that Rick’s disdain for the meta actually stems from his own self-loathing and fear of the consequences his actions cause.
The major plot that was open since the end of season 5 and into season 6 was a large open rift in space that could allow things from other universes to slip into Rick and Morty’s current home universe. On top of that, there was also a common plot thread where Rick had very little portal fluid, preventing him and Morty from using their teleportation abilities for a few episodes.
Unlike previous seasons where Rick just wanted to solve the problem as quickly as possible, most of the early episodes of season 6 have him ignoring these problems as he gets closer to his family, which is the start of that arc of the character that Rick is. going through this season. Instead of wrapping up these dangling threads just so he doesn’t have to deal with the consequences, he actually sits with them and tries to find solutions that help him and his family.
Little Rick Sunshine
Unlike previous seasons, virtually every episode this season is either about Rick helping one of his family members or others, or dealing with his own character flaws. In “Bethic Twinstinct”, he actually gave his daughter advice and supported her as best he could because she… fell in love with his clone… OK, well, it’s an uncomfortable situation, it is. to say the least, but the moment showed. a lot of growth in Rick’s character. In other episodes, he relied on Summer to solve a problem with the Night family. He tried to repair the legacy of a deceased enemy so that his family could remember him fondly. He helped Jerry with his Cookie Curse fortune and showed that he is even developing a soft spot for the one person in the family that he previously only showed contempt for.
In the latest episode, “A Rick in King Mortur’s Mort”, Rick is actually a bit hurt by Morty, who calls him out on his more venomous traits. He spends the episodes helping Morty solve problems and listening to him, and when Morty is wrong, Rick doesn’t even scold him. You spend the whole episode thinking it’s going to be some kind of “gotcha” and Rick has just been playing with Morty the whole time, but the “gotcha” never happens. Rick is legitimately just a good grandpa to Morty.
This kind of character growth has been unprecedented for him in previous years. It shows an extra layer of complexity to the character that the writers haven’t been able to delve into before. Who knew Rick was even capable of doing things like going to therapy and seriously asking for help? This character arc even extends to meta-plots unfolding this season.
Spider-Mort: Across the Rickerverse
The big meta-plot unfolding this season is actually about the meta-plot of the show. Seeing it written like that is a bit confusing, but in the context of the show it makes perfect sense. It starts with Rick ignoring the Rift and the travel portal as it allows him to spend more time with his family. He only gets actively upset when others solve his problems for him, which started with “Juricksic Mort”, where dinosaurs landed on Earth who are much more technologically advanced and smarter than Rick and are just solving the world’s problems . This includes closing the Rift to Rick, who instantly gets mad because they could have dragged this out for at least a few more episodes to get a two-part plot out of it. This is something Rick would never have said in previous seasons, as it would have freed him from the consequences of his own actions.
In the next episode, “Full Meta Jackrick,” Rick brings Morty to battle against these super-powered creatures said to represent various aspects of writing. The villain of the episode is Story Lord, who returns from the story train episode (which was actually written by Ant-Man and the Wasp screenwriter, Jeff Loveness). Story Lord’s entire goal in the episode is to uncover motivation, and he kidnaps his episode writer to write him a better motivation, which ends up being precisely that he’s looking for motivation. (Everyone thinks it’s derivative and kind of lame.) It’s a weird episode where Rick is forced to deal with his own continuity. He can’t just do better with his family and try harder like he did; he also has to deal with his own problems, which Story Lord ends up doing.
In previous episodes, Rick’s lack of interest in the meta stemmed from a place of self-loathing and apathy. He didn’t want to be held back by anything. And now he’s fighting people who try to take it away from him because he wants to be better, for the sake of his family. That is also rick and morty getting too meta? No, not really, at least from a story perspective. It’s just about advancing the characters in the craziest way possible, in a way that just rick and morty box.