In a new behind-the-scenes video, Rick and Morty writers Dan Harmon and Jeff Loveness did their best to explain the show's midseason premiere. Season 4, Episode 6, "Never Ricking Morty" left a lot of fans confused after their first viewing, with all of its false realities and interwoven stories. The writers assured fans that that was part of the plan.
Rick and Morty returned from hiatus on Sunday, and on Monday, the show's "Inside the Episode" clips returned as well. In this one, series co-creator Harmon and writer Jeff Loveness gave fans the inside scoop on "Never Ricking Morty" — from the meta-narrative logical leaps it took to one of the grossest running gags the show has ever attempted. Even before Rick and Morty, Harmon was famed for his expertise on — and obsession with — story structure. In this episode, his thoughts on the subject were brought to life as a magical train, among other things.
"We started having fun... with meta structural stuff," Harmon said in the video. "I think it's going to be a favorite episode of mine, but I'd be the first to say, like the story train itself, it got away from us."
At first, Loveness explained, the episode was meant to be this season's clip show, along the lines of the "Interdimensional Cable" episodes in the first two seasons, or "Morty's Mindblowers" in Season 2. While those are beloved episodes, Harmon said that they were weary of re-treading that territory when they might not top their past performances — especially with the stakes set so low.
"The difficulty with it was, who wants to watch stories when you know that they don't matter? So, how do you make the stories matter?" Harmon said. At the same time, the video cut to a scene from the episode, where Rick said: "If we wanted one-offs, we'd do 'Interdimensional Cable!' Not some uptight, overwritten—" before he was cut off by a punch in the face.
The solution they found was to make the clips a trap for our heroes this time around, rather than entertainment. To give the episode some semblance of an arc, they set it on a circular train track that is a clear visual representation of Harmon's famous "story circle" — a narrative structure based on the works of folklorist Joseph Cambell. However, the cutaways took Rick and Morty to so many other realities branching from that track that some fans lost the thread on Sunday night.
This is not the first time Harmon's story circle has been used for a meta on-screen joke. In 2017, Harmon made a cameo as himself on The Simpsons, where the show poked fun at his fixation on narrative structure. This time around, his own character, Rick, came down on him even harder.
"Of course this thing is just a f—ing circle. You'd think it was so God damn complicated," Rick said, looking down on a map of the train track. "Okay, here's where the stupid vignettes were — God, imagine if that had been the whole thing? — I'll have to rig us a couple spacesuits that start failing around here so we can pay a heavy price for re-entering at this threshhold."
"I don't like how meta this is getting," Morty remarked, and some viewers felt the same. Even Loveness commented: "the train broke me" in the behind-the-scenes clip, but for Harmon and many others, this will likely go down as one of Rick and Morty's most groundbreaking episodes. Rick and Morty Season 4, Episode 7, "Promortyus," premieres on Sunday, May 10 at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.