Rick and Morty and Harmon's meta ending of season 3

TV Oct 15, 2017

Or what season 3 really means.

The phrase “you’re not smart enough to enjoy Rick and Morty” is interchangeable with: “You said a show I like for reasons I can’t explain is bad, so you’re dumb.”

Rick and Morty was conceived by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland.

Harmon is famous for his subversive humour and air tight narrative structure, whole Roiland is a powerhouse in the cartoon industry for his creativity and adaptability.

Season 3 of Rick and Morty just wrapped up.

Through the weeks of the season airing I noticed a sentiment creeping further and further into discussions: that rick n morty is so smart and complex that people who dislike the show “just don’t get it.”

This has been said since the show found its cult, and now main stream, following, but it’s a lazy way to defend against lazy criticism.

I’ve spent way too many hours reading into where this opinion comes from, and spoilers, it’s by people who have no idea what makes a good story arguing with people who hate the show for poorly considered reasons.

Rick n Morty spends a lot of time discussing the big questions and philosophies of life — what does it all mean, do we even matter in an unending, uncaring cosmos — and brushes these questions aside, knowing too well they have little value beyond that they should be asked.

People who praise the show for its intellectual prowess are probably missing the point.

Context time.

Rick and Morty follows Rick Sanchez, a genius scientist ala doctor who mixed with doc brown and harmon himself.

Rick drags his grand kids, daughter and estranged son-in-law across time and space on self-driven adventures.

Most journeys are harrowing, dark, pointless or end terribly. In the most extreme cases, Rick and Morty will escape to a parallel earth or, in some of the grimmer endings, problems are resolved by Rick in an instant and could’ve been fixed at any time.

One of the shows prevailing themes is the dichotomy of Rick’s philosophy.

Rick is the smartest man in the universe. He can do or be anywhere in time and space, but he chooses to spend time with his family.

This is because, in the scale of the universe, nothing matters, so Rick is free to choose what to care about, while also acknowledging there is no point in caring about anything.

This mora is threaded throughout, culminating in the final episode of season 3 where Rick and Morty are tasked to help the US eradicate aliens in a top-secret basement. Predictably, rick and morty get bored with the task and bail to sit on the couch and play mine craft.

Rather than save America from a grave threat, they decide to play a meaningless video game together — ha-ha, good joke, everybody laugh.

This is about the time where a bad viewer would interject, letting you know that if you didn’t laugh it’s because you didn’t get it. It’s funny because being an asshole makes you smart.

Except that’s really the opposite of the point.

Harmon and his writers are acknowledging that while world events are massive and dictate the course of history, they’re ultimately ineffectual in the grand scale of the universe.

Spending time with people you love doing something you enjoy, however, is really the only thing we can do that matters.

For the smartest man in the universe, it’s the moment you have that truly matters.

This isn’t revolutionary philosophy by any stretch.

The reason rick and morty is so enjoyable is that these complex ideas are reduced, sometimes actively by the characters, and wrapped in tight narratives that say something about what it means to be alive, even if it’s not a profound conclusion about the meaning of life — more often than not they say something simple about every day morality or, mostly, how everyone is just as stupid as each other.

Harmon spends so much time letting us know that truly smart people are unempathetic monsters who we should recognise for what they are.

The problem is people who think they’re smart think that being an asshole makes you seem smart, so they model their behaviour after Rick.

This is how the cycle of “you’re not smart enough to enjoy the show” perpetuates.

If there’s any lesson to take away from Rick and Morty it’s that you shouldn’t be Rick or want to be Rick, you should try and spend time doing things that help you feel meaning.

Because ultimately none of this matters, so why not do something with the people you love?


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David McNeill

David McNeill is the author of Maynard Trigg and editor-in-chief of ZeroIndent. He's a dedicated storyteller with a background in literary analysis and comms.

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