Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s animated adventure evolved from cult classic to mainstream favourite almost overnight, but just how many secrets are Rick & Morty hiding? For a show with a universe as detailed and vibrant as this one, it won’t surprise you that the answer is ‘lots’…
Rick Sanchez: Breaking Bad
In the first episode of season 3, ‘The Rickshank Redemption‘, we see a more tender side of Rick in a flashback to a more innocent time, when he loses his wife and daughter to an explosion, prompting the creation of his portal gun and the beginning of his zany adventures. That memory turned out to be staged, but what you may not have noticed was that Rick’s old house looked identical to Walter White’s Alberqueue residence in Breaking Bad – the roof, the garage, the bushes: everything is almost exactly the same. Is there a shared universe between Rick & Morty and Heisenberg? Or had Rick just been watching a lot of Netflix? Either way it’s a cool connection to make.
The season 3 anthology episode ‘Morty’s Mind-Blowers’ features an appearance from a ghostly character who looks a lot like the Morpheus, the character from Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel, The Sandman. There’s no mistaking that funeral pall and that emo get-up, and even if the actual character didn’t have a Truth Tortoise as he does here (“Don’t look into his eyes,” warns Rick, “because then you’ll know everything!”), the Morpheus’ inclusion is likely meant as a loving homage. When made aware of the nod, Gaiman responded on Twitter, simply tweeting: “Oh good.”
The Gravity Falls crossovers
Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland is good friends with Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch, and there are actually a fair few connections between the two shows, even though they span different networks and audiences of different ages. In ‘Close Rick-counters of the Rick Mind’, Rick opens up a bunch of portals, and out of one pop a mug with a question mark on it, a pen and a book – the same objects that Gravity Falls character Stan loses in a universe portal in the episode ‘Society of the Blind Eye’. Later, in ‘The Rickshank Redemption’, one version of a Morty is carrying Gravity Falls’ infamous tome ‘Journal 3’, and in the background, two Mortys are dressed exactly like Mabel and Dipper, the main characters from Hirsch’s show.
The Morty-Rick hybrid
The Citadel of Ricks is a treasure trove of Easter eggs and as yet unexplored characters who’ll surely come into play as the show matures beyond its third season. As well as the aforementioned Mabel and Dipper Mortys and the numerous Rick & Morty combos, there’s one very special specimen among them: a Morty-Rick hybrid, with the height, build and hair of a Rick, but with the face of a Morty. Are they genetically spliced together? Is this Morty in 60 years? We can but guess as to the purpose of the Morty-Rick.
The parasites made an earlier appearance
Remember the episode ‘Total Rickall’, where parasites take over the Smith household in the form of long-lost fictional acquaintances like Hamurai and Pencilvester? Rick is responsible for bringing those parasites into the house, because in the previous episode ‘Mortynight Run’, Rick steals a bunch of green rocks and loads them into his ship, and some of them have pink larvae stuck to them. At the beginning of ‘Total Rickall’, you can see Rick dump these rocks and eggs in the bin, which is where the memory-creating parasites fester and come alive.
In the episode ‘Auto Erotic Assimilation’, Rick and his all-powerful alien girlfriend Unity are watching TV, the content of which is unseen. Rick tells Unity to make the characters on the show do stupid things, then suggests she cancel it only to bring it back again. Only at the end of the scene do we get a glimpse of the show, and it turns out to be a version of Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon’s first sitcom hit Community – the whole scene is a meta commentary on that show’s brief hiatus from the airwaves and its subsequent resurrection. Since cancelled permanently, it’s good to know Community still lives on somewhere in the universe.
Two Brothers got a sequel
The first season’s ‘interdimensional cable’ episode ‘Rixty Minutes’ featured a fake action movie trailer called ‘Two Brothers’, also known as ‘Alien Invasion Tomato Monster Mexican Armada Brothers Who Are Just Regular Brothers Running In A Van From An Asteroid And All Sorts Of Things: The Movie’. Clearly just invented on the fly in an episode that Roiland and Harmon have admitted was almost completely improvised, the ‘Two Brothers’ franchise did have legs; in a later episode, ‘The Ricks Must Be Crazy’, a poster outside a cinema can be seen to be advertising a movie called ‘Three Brothers‘, and what’s more, the third brother looks very much like he’s being played by Ice-T (who, in the show, is actually an ageless inter-dimensional alien warrior from the planet Alphabetrium).
Built like a brick Smith house
One way of charting the show’s chaotic adventures and the various misfortunes which befall the Smith family is to witness the state of the family home, which deteriorates with each accident – and the damage accumulates throughout the course of the show. So, for example, when Summer launches a probe through the roof in ‘Look Who’s Purging Now’, subsequent episodes have the hole covered by planks. Even better, in season 1 episode ‘Ricksy Business’, Rick transports the entire Smith house, plus a large chunk of the ground beneath it, to another dimension – he brings it back, but the crack around the house where it was pulled from the earth remains. In fact, Jerry can later be seen trimming the weeds growing from the crack on the Smith family forecourt.
The Futurama crossovers
Harmon and Roiland are well connected in animation circles: a few years ago, off the back of Rick & Morty’s first season, they created a Rick & Morty couch gag for The Simpsons, which also featured a handful of Futurama characters and references, including aliens drinking Slurm, and brain bugs.
Later, in season 3’s ‘The Rickshank Redemption’, a shot over Jerry’s shoulder shows several spacecraft in the air, including a ship that looks more than a little like the Planet Express delivery vessel from Matt Groening’s sci-fi comedy.
Zigerions are never-nudes
Rick and Morty are scammed by an alien race known as the Zigerions in episode ‘M. Night Shaym-Aliens!’ and their leader, Prince Nebulon, is voiced by David Cross. Later in the episode, we discover that Zigerions have a dangerous aversion to nudity, which means that Prince Nebulon has something in common with another David Cross character, namely Arrested Development’s resident analrapist Tobias Fünke. Tobias was famously a “never-nude”, which meant he couldn’t bear to see himself naked, so he wore denim cut-offs underneath his clothes at all times. We never see Nebulon wearing the cut-offs, but it’s a good bet he suffers from the same, very serious, very real affliction.
Rick & Morty is available to stream on Netflix now.