‘Rick and Morty’ Season Seven Spoiler-Free Review: Rick Returns to Scale
After an eventful off-season that saw the acrimonious removal of series star and co-creator Justin Roiland from the production of Rick and Morty, this Sunday, the flagship Adult Swim series will return to TV — and to scale.
When last we left Rick and Morty, the multiverse’s most dangerous duo was hunkered down in Rick’s sub-basement, staring in despairing awe at the monumental task ahead of them in Rick C-137’s quest to finally track down and terminate Rick Prime. This series-defining struggle cast an especially large shadow over the last two seasons of Rick and Morty as our central anti-hero began to focus his previously free-wheeling attention on his overarching task at the expense of his relationships with friends and family — or, at least, the versions of them he deigns to keep around. In that time, many episodic plot lines grew grand in scope and dark in tone while Rick’s role as the depressed God-king of an amoral universe outgrew the dimensions of his character that he, himself, finds frustratingly human.
In the first two episodes of Season Seven that were made available to critics, Sunday’s “How Poopy Got His Poop Back” and the following week’s “The Jerrick Trap,” we saw a relatively grounded, relationship-focused Rick and Morty that successfully engaged with the show’s central character on that (what’s the word I’m looking for here?) human level.
The details of the plotlines explored in the first two episodes — as well as the secret identities of the voice actors chosen as Roiland’s replacements — will have to remain under wraps until the premiere dates, but, in very broad strokes, both episodes explore Rick’s neglected relationships through very different lenses.
As always, the episodes contain callbacks and continuity contributions that link plotlines from past seasons to the current canon, and a number of fan-favorite side characters make their reappearances. Dan Harmon and his writers do well to prevent any of the cameos from delving into full-on fan service as we see these characters continue to grow and change while the strong vocal performances from the undefined number of new voice actors fulfill Rick and Morty producer Steve Levy’s promise that Adult Swim will find an army of “soundalikes” to succeed Roiland and repopulate the Rick and Morty universe after losing the voice of so many dozens of crucial characters.
With the 10-season order for Rick and Morty entering its final act, the challenge for a show that is built on principles of unrestricted exploration and constant invention is to maintain a manageable scope and continue to mature its characters without risking repetition. Too many shows as ambitious as Rick and Morty fly well off the rails by the time they reach a seventh season — or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Flanderization of central characters exposes the writers’ fear of deviating from the path set in the show’s early seasons, even as it narrows toward banality.
So far, Rick and Morty Season Seven has avoided both eventualities as it builds on what came before with contained, character-driven stories that show us how, in spite (or because) of Roiland’s removal, Rick and Morty hasn’t lost a single step.