In just three short seasons, Rick and Morty has established itself as one of the great animated adult shows, even taking home an Emmy this year, and causing the world to look more closely at its short catalogue.
Rick and Morty won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated program, in a field populated with such heavy-hitters as The Simpsons, South Park and other illustrious nominees. Unlike those shows, Rick and Morty does not have the weight of 20 or even 10 seasons behind it. The series has a total of 31 episodes out, yet those stories have been impactful enough to get it on the map.
Rick and Morty follows a self-described "mega-genius" scientist named Rick Sanchez (voiced by series co-creator Justin Roiland), who is an unrepentant alcoholic. The series opens shortly after Rick moves in with his estranged daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke) after many years, and begins taking his grandson Morty (also Roiland) on a series of outlandish sci-fi-themed adventures.
The show offers a surreal, absurdist look at the different layers of reality, all undercut by Rick's apathetic worldview. Roiland co-created the series with Community creator Dan Harmon, ensuring that it is also full of meta jokes and self-references. In their travels, Rick and Morty visit parallel realities, microscopic universes and far flung planets, all with a hilariously understated tone.
Even with just 31 episodes in total to choose from, creating a list of the top ten Rick and Morty episodes is a challenge. Each one offers its own conceptual interest and emotional depth, and not a single one can be discounted. Still, with 70 more episodes reportedly on the way, it is not going to get any easier, so here are the 10 best episodes of Rick and Morty available now.
Rick and Morty had an incredibly concise pilot episode — no small feat for an animated science fiction comedy. The premise of the entire series is perfectly encapsulated in the first two minutes, and the rest of the plot continues setting the tone. Along the way, some of the obvious plot holes or questions are side-stepped or brushed away, showing how the series will continually defy conventions.
Perhaps most importantly, the episode features the show's thesis statement, where Rick explains the scant central motivation driving the entire show.
"I'm sorry Morty, it's a bummer. In reality you're as dumb as they come," Rick says. And I needed those seeds real bad, and I had to give them up just to get your parents off my back. So now we're going to have to go get more. And then we're going to go on even more adventures after that, Morty. And you're going to keep your mouth shut about it, Morty. Because the world is full of idiots that don't understand what's important, and they'll tear us apart, Morty."
He continues, "But if you stick with me, I'm going to accomplish great things, Morty, and you're going to be part of them. and together, we're going to run around, Morty, we're going to do all kinds of wonderful things, Morty. Just you and me, Morty. The outside world is our enemy, Morty. We're the only (belch) friends we've got, Morty."
"It's just Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty and their adventures, Morty. Rick and Morty forever and ever..."prevnext
9. "The Rickchurian Mortydate"
The season 3 finale of Rick and Morty, "The Rickchurian Mortydate," gathers and solidifies some of the series' key themes, and gives the show an opportunity to move on from them. The episode follows Rick on a petty contest of bravado against the fictional President of the United States. At first, Morty is along for the ride, but he ultimately feels that Rick has taken it too far and leaves him alone.
The episode ends with an all-out battle between Rick and the president, while Morty and the rest of the family run and hide where they think Rick will never find them. He, of course, does, but at that point he is forced to submit to their terms to rejoin the family.
The episode shows that even a seemingly invincible character like Rick has a weakness somewhere. It also reveals that, no matter what Rick may say, he would rather compromise with his family than live without them. In an appropriately meta scene, the episode comments on its own sudden shift in power dynamic at the end.
"We're a real family now," Beth says. "In many ways, things will be like season 1, but more streamlined. Now, Jerry and I are happily motivated parents, and the idea that I was motivated by a fear of you leaving can be eschewed."prevnext
8. "The Ricklantis Mixup"
Of course, season 3's "Ricklantis Mixup" has to make the list. The writers of Rick and Morty are extremely hesitant to rely too much on continuity-driven plots, as Harmon has explained in numerous appearances. However, knowing that they had to check in on conspiratorial plots dating back to season 1, this was a genius way to go about it.
"The Ricklantis Mixup" features the central Rick and Morty team only in the beginning and end, as they leave for and then return from a self-contained adventure in Atlantis. Meanwhile, the episode follows various Ricks and Mortys on the fractured remains of the Citadel of Ricks, where a massive election and jockeying for power is taking place. The episode ends with a certain formerly eye-patched villain in command, suggesting that more intrigue is on the way. That suggestion is called into question, however, when we return to Earth and hear Rick's declaration about the Citadel.
"Still not curious about what might have happened at that crazy citadel place?" Morty asks.
"Not at all, Morty," Rick says. "That place will never have any bearing over our lives ever again."prevnext
7. "Morty's Mind Blowers"
Rick and Morty turned its clip show concept on its head in season 3 with "Morty's Mind Blowers." The episode featured Rick and Morty exploring memories that had been removed from Morty's mind, either by request or at Rick's hands. This left just as much room for outlandish hijinx and silly clips as the interdimensional cable episodes, but with more lasting weight behind them.
As Morty points out halfway through the episode, removing his memories could be keeping him from learning long-term lessons or dealing with his trauma. At the same time, it represents a hostile level of control from Rick himself.
The most amazing part about "Morty's Mind Blowers," however, is the level of brilliance behind some of its skits. The episode throws away brilliant ideas so casually, while they could have been used to fuel entire episodes, or more. It shows a level of inexhaustibility to the premise of Rick and Morty that reminds fans why this show is so powerful.prevnext
6. "Meeseeks and Destroy"
"Meeseeks and Destroy" yielded one of the series most enduring icons — Mr. Meeseeks.
The strange blue men can be summoned into existence with a Meeseeks box, but cannot go away until their assigned task is completed. The episode captured the imaginations of fans, tested the marriage of Jerry and Beth, and produced some of the best merchandise in the series' run.prevnext
5. "The Wedding Squanchers"
Season 2 ended with one of the series' most continuity-driven episodes to date. "The Wedding Squanchers" delved into Rick's past as a rebel fighting against the galactic government, alongside his friend, Birdperson. Birdperson's wedding to Summer's friend, Tammy, turned out to be a Galactic Federation operative, and it was infiltrated by the government.
The family escaped, but Earth was taken over, and they were forced to go on the run, since Rick remained the most-wanted person in the galaxy. It was on the tiny planet where they hid that Rick overheard his family arguing about how much they had sacrificed for him. Without saying goodbye, he turned himself in.
The episode is one of the show's most impactful stories — not least of all because the cliffhanger lasted for two years. On top of that, however, it showed just what it would take to break Rick's stubborn self-centeredness. A government sting, the subjugation of Earth and interstellar homelessness could not make him change, but feeling like he was a burden on Beth and his grandkids could.prevnext
4. "The Ricks Must Be Crazy"
"The Ricks Must Be Crazy" found Rick, Morty and Summer trapped in another reality when the "microverse battery" in Rick's spaceship died. In order to fix it, Rick shrunk himself and Morty down into the self-contained universe, where he revealed that he had an entire civilization producing power for his vehicle without knowing it.
The journey got far more complicated as a scientist within Rick's "microverse," Zeep Xanflorp (Stephen Colbert) showed them his own "miniverse," built on the same principle. The three of them then shrunk down further into that, where yet another scientist was working on a "teenyverse."
The episode featured a dark struggle of biblical proportions, and had no clear resolution. In the end, Xanflorp and Rick achieved an understanding that life would have to go on as it always had, or Rick would simply shut down the microverse battery.prevnext
3. "The Rickshank Rickdemption"
One of the things that has made Rick and Morty so beloved so fast is the extreme wait between seasons 2 and 3. The series was on hiatus for two years, which Harmon self-effacingly blamed himself for on his podcast, Harmontown.
When it did finally return, however, it was all worth it. The season 3 premiere, "The Rickshank Rickdemption," delivered everything a die-hard fan could have wanted from the series. It started by playfully brushing off the massive cliffhanger that ended season 2, before going on to explain it in an action-packed but rushed plot line. The episode followed Rick as a rogue agent, taking down both the galactic government and the interdimensional Citadel of Ricks in one fell swoop.
Meanwhile, the episode also laid the groundwork for one of the seasons prevailing themes — other family members reckoning with their relationships with Rick. While Beth and Jerry adjusted easily to their lives after Rick's imprisonment, Summer was not as pleased, and she was surprised when Morty planted his feet, refusing to help her save their grandfather.
"He bails on everybody," Morty said. "He bailed on mom when she was a kid, he bailed on tiny planet, and in case I didn't make this clear to you Summer, he bailed on you. He left you to rot in a world that he ruined. Because he doesn't care. Because nobody's special to him, not even himself."
Later, when asked if he had "renounced Rick," Morty was forced to clarify these remarks.
"I was just trying to protect my sister. I wanted you to have a normal life. That's something you can't have when Rick shows up," Morty says. "Everything real turns fake, everything right is wrong. All you know is that you know nothing and he knows everything. He's not a villain, Summer, but he shouldn't be your hero. He's more like a demon, or a super f-ed up god."
This analysis of his companion represented a major development for Morty, and it permeated their interactions for the rest of the season.prevnext
2. "Rixty Minutes"
Some of Rick and Morty's most viral moments have come from its seasonal clip shows, the first of which was season 1's "Rixty Minutes." The episode shows Rick becoming frustrated with boring terrestrial TV and adding a host of transdimensional channels to the family's cable box. The episode features a number of ridiculous gags and skits, most of which were improvised by Roiland in the sound booth.
Season 2 featured its own clip show called "Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate," which deserves an honorable mention.prevnext
1. Rick Potion #9
Rick and Morty works hard to toe the line between outrageous standalone stories and a conspiratorial ongoing plot. That contrast is best exemplified in "Rick Potion #9," an episode that seems to stand on its own until it comes back around in later seasons.
The episode details a global catastrophe, starting when Rick tries to make a love potion for Morty. The potion latches onto a flu virus and takes over the planet, causing everyone to fall in love with Morty. Rick's two attempts to solve the crisis only make it worse, mutating the entire population into what he dismissively refers to as "Cronenbergs," after horror filmmaker David Cronenberg.
If you're wondering based on that description where the comedy comes in, it's Rick. The scientist's main concern throughout the episode is avoiding blame for the debacle, trying with pointed disinterest to pin the whole thing on his grandson. Finally, what makes this episode stand out at the series' best, is its brutal ending.0comments
Rick finds the last solution the audience expects to the epidemic: he leaves. Scanning the multiverse for similar realities, he and Morty simply travel to one where they did find a cure for the Cronenberg virus, but they died immediately afterward. He and Morty arrive in that reality, bury their counterparts' bodies and slip into their lives. The end was a brutal piece of sci-fi imagination, but also a cheap narrative trick, as the writers pointed out in Rick's explanation.
"It's not like we can do this every week, anyway," Rick says. "We get like three or four more of these, tops."prev