“Never Ricking Morty” is the kind of narratively ambitious episode that elicits lines of dialogue like “Emergency continuity deployed!” and “Don’t worry, Morty! Nothing out there is canon.” Because through it all, this is an episode of television that’s about story. Dan Harmon’s legendary story circle doesn’t just guide the events of “Never Ricking Morty,” it’s kind of the main character.
Rick and Morty has never shied away from being meta. In fact, Rick’s dialogue at the end of the pilot all but reveals that he knows he’s on a TV show. What the show decides to do here is be meta about its own meta-ness. At first the experience can be exhausting as the episode never lets the viewer catch his or her footing. Expectations for what’s next are established and then just as quickly tossed away. Quickly, however, this lack of expectations becomes exciting. The show has used the natural understanding that we all have for good storytelling and weaponized it against us.
If this all sounds like a bit of a drag and a masturbatory writerly exercise, that’s understandable. A concept so focused on technique very easily could have become boring. But to the show’s credit, it uses its story deconstruction to present some of the most thrilling action sequences ever captured in the series. In fact, much of the most kinetic moments from the Rick and Morty season 4B trailer can be found in just this first episode. There’s also the fact that this is truly a hilarious installment for the show. All of the meta humor about Rick and Morty’s meta humor works. As do several superb running jokes, including Rick and Morty’s continued surprise about new characters having shredded muscles.
Just under a week after this episode of Rick and Morty premieres, two of the show’s producers in Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan will try out another sci-fi animated comedy with Solar Opposites on Hulu. While Solar Opposites looks to be another success, this Rick and Morty episode is a prime example of just how special and unique this show can be when both its creators and the entire writing stuff are firing on all cylinders. “Never Ricking Morty” may not be the best episode of the series ever, but it’s certainly the best example of the kind of singular creativity that Roiland and Harmon can produce when together.