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Rick and Morty finally returns for season four

Popular animated series airs its first episode after two-year hiatus

<p>Dan Harmon, co-creator of "Rick and Morty" along with Justin Roiland, speaks at San Diego Comic Con in 2014.&nbsp;</p>

Dan Harmon, co-creator of "Rick and Morty" along with Justin Roiland, speaks at San Diego Comic Con in 2014. 

With fall television in full swing and the streaming wars underway, it’s safe to say there are a lot of good binge options out there. Most notably, Apple TV+ was unveiled at the start of the month, featuring promising content like “The Morning Show.” Then, the much-anticipated Disney Plus launched November 12th with its first big show, “The Mandalorian.” However, perhaps no series has been as hotly anticipated as “Rick and Morty” on Adult Swim, returning for a fourth season after nearly two years off the grid.

“Rick and Morty” is unlike anything else on television. Its closest comparisons are shows like “South Park” on Hulu or even “Big Mouth” on Netflix, but even they don’t provide apt contrast. “Rick and Morty” is as entertaining as it is intelligent, rewarding for the casual observer as well as the die-hard fan. Starting out as animated satire of “Back to the Future,” creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have put their considerable talent into making “Rick and Morty” one of the hit shows of a generation. At the end of their third season, the duo received a seventy episode order for new Rick and Morty adventures.

For the season premiere, “Edge of Tomorty: Rick die Rickpeat,” Harmon and Roiland parody the 2014 movie “Edge of Tomorrow.” The film stars Tom Cruise as a soldier who is continually revived after dying each day in an unwinnable war. The plot that follows Rick satirizes Cruise’s predicament as he searches for a suitable universe, with a few fascist shrimp thrown in for good laughs. The Morty plot, on the other hand, parodies the 1998 animè film “Akira,” as Morty becomes corrupted by a “death crystal” which reveals potential deaths based on decisions made in real-time. Morty’s determination to die with crush Jessica by his side leads to an obsession with altering reality, although his missteps fail to do more than annoy the ever-resourceful Rick.

“Rick and Morty” is admirable because of its ability to follow the craziest nonsense with deep contemplation of a complex issue. Harmon and Roiland’s choice to juxtapose Rick and Morty’s personalities in their adventures is a means of achieving this end, usually via Morty’s folly and Rick’s quick wit. The premiere pushes this narrative in one of the first few scenes, in which Rick actually dies in response to Morty’s curiosity gone wrong. Naturally, Rick has more than a couple back-up options following his death, but this decision to kill Rick early drives the episode forward by letting Morty commit to his own choices.

In addition to its predictable wit, there were some impressive technical sequences in the season premiere. An example is the crystal’s potential death sequences, blurred and translucent, which guide Morty throughout the episode. Another moment of technical display is the immediate silencing of hectic noise after the gang is thrown out of Rick’s spaceship. This provided a much needed lull in action while maintaining tension in the scene.

The premiere also featured stand-out funny moments — like when Morty, inconsolable over his potential deaths, defies a ghost Rick and attempts to take matters into his own hands. Crystal firmly implanted in his head, Morty’s rampage can’t be contained as he melts soldiers from the National Guard and a faux-CNN reports on his capabilities. 

It’s a common misconception to think that “Rick and Morty” doesn’t have a method to its madness — Harmon and Roiland do have something worthwhile to say amidst all the chaos and callousness. In the case of the premiere, the message seems to be to stop worrying about potential realities and just do your best. 

Dedicated to a good story and often featuring some brutal advice at the end, it’s welcome that “Rick and Morty” follows media references rather than real-time controversies to make their point. Fresh off their numerous 2018 Emmy awards, Harmon and Roiland have more creative freedom than ever. Their devoted viewers should expect them to put it to good use.