After the phenomenal reception to Rick and Morty season 3, has the show become a victim of its own success?
The most recent season, which ended in October 2017, propelled it firmly out of the periphery of oddball comedy security into the domain of mainstream pop culture giving birth to a breed of super fandom that could inevitably cause its downfall.
Without smearing all fans as obsessive lunatics who jump on McDonald’s counters demanding ‘their’ personal supply of Szechuan sauce, over the past 12 months the more extreme factions of the fandom has sadly evolved into something, at worst unsavoury, and at the very least embarrassing.
Kicking off the rise of the crazies was the long-awaited third season debut. After it first (and totally randomly) aired on 1 April, fans had to wait several months for it to air again on Adult Swim, and on Netflix globally, when the third season officially kicked off.
With Rick declaring in his insane episode-closing ramblings that he was going to spend the next 11 seasons searching for the Szechuan sauce he ate in a fake memory, people went way too far with protests outside their local McDonalds; demanding Ronald and co. started making the limited edition nugget dipping sauce that was originally a fast food tie-in during the release of 1998’s Mulan.
Co-creator Justin Roiland didn’t exactly help, when he sent fans into meltdown after receiving his own supply – resulting in some taking matters into their own hands.
McDonalds literally sent us a bottle of the Mulan sauce with a Rick & Morty label. This is insane. https://t.co/7kee9VJ5ux
— Rick (((and Morty))) (@RickandMorty) July 30, 2017
But we can’t blame either of its inventors for creating monsters out of people.
Nor can we blame all fans for being unhinged. In fact, many aren’t. But, like a lot of popular franchises, we all must bear the burden of extreme fandoms.
Lord only knows what some fans thought when he recently tweeted about the precarious status of season 4, whereby its very existence appeared to be put in doubt.
For everyone telling me to get back to work on Rick and Morty (season four) turn your attention to Turner. I’m waiting around just like you. Making some cool video games in the meantime though! @squanchgames
— Justin Roiland (@JustinRoiland) March 22, 2018
Despite an immediate panic setting in and some corners screaming about cancellation, it turns out it’s about contract negotiations. But if grown adults can turn up outside a fast food restaurant and cause a scene over a dipping sauce then imagine how crazy things might get if the show got canned?
All fanbases have… how can we word this politely… outliers that grab a franchise by the throat and lay claim to it as their life morphs into said show or movie. Star Wars aficionados are, in 2018, now considering wholly acceptable, whereas – for years – collecting its merch and adoring its film output was considered ‘geeky’ or ‘uncool’.
While Rick and Morty has never been considered as ‘something for the nerds’, its oddball sensibility and the fact it’s an animated series gives some ammo to dismiss it as childish nonsense. And while some of its concepts may seem nonsensical, it’s also a work of genius.
Then there’s the debate whether the show has peaked already. In its first few seasons episodes like ‘Meeseeks and Destroy’ stand out as sheer brilliance. But season 3 arguably had a greater number of outstanding episodes in its run of 11. ‘Pickle Rick’ and ‘The Ricklantis Mixup’ are particularly memorable, so the question is whether season 4 can live up to what we’ve seen before and will it manage to exceed our expectations?
I’m a huge fan of the show and want nothing more than to see more of it. More bonkers adventures and crazy concepts that make us laugh out loud and step back in awe of its conception are the idea scenario. More narrative exploration on what Evil Morty’s up to and what his plans are for multiverse domination are something that needs addressing, too.
That said, it’d also be a shame if – like so many other successful shows – we look back on them and realise they jumped the shark way before it came to a sorry end.
Arrested Development is an example that springs to my mind of a show going completely off course after its first few exemplary seasons. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is another that, for an incredible seven or more seasons, was one of the smartest and funniest comedies out there… until it lost its edge and was never the same again.
We’d hate for Rick and Morty to go down the same sad path from being at the top of its game into a show that floats around the middle ground of mediocrity, and I’d like to assume it’s in good hands with Roiland and Dan Harmon.
Seasons 1-3 of Rick and Morty are available to stream on Netflix now.