Five seasons into Rick and Morty and Dan Harmon is a changed creator. While heading Community, Harmon was notorious for his intense involvement as well as long work hours. Nowadays the Rick and Morty head, who created the series with Justin Roiland, has a more relaxed view on the daily challenges that come with making a TV show, such as dealing with the hurdles of Standards and Practices.
“You could just write a line of dialogue that’s riddled with whatever language you want and other people can deal with what needs to be bleeped and all that stuff,” Harmon told Decider. “I was lucky enough to find out, ‘Oh if I do nothing, if I don’t look at this email, someone else does.'”
That shift paired with the support Adult Swim has given its most popular show has led to Rick and Morty becoming one of the most creatively interesting, experimental, and wildly popular shows around. Decider spoke to co-creator Dan Harmon about the importance of finding Rick and Morty‘s tricky balance between humor and heart, his favorite episode of this new season, and what secrets are ahead in the seasons to come.
Emotionally, Rick and Morty Season 5 starts from a place we haven’t seen before. Throughout “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” Rick orders Morty around to his grandson’s progressive irritation and eventual anger. It’s a pointed departure from the meeker Morty of Season 1. According to Harmon, this intensity is all part of a theme of Morty becoming more like his grandfather.
“It’s a weird balance. Even in regular live action TV it’s weird because… you don’t want your characters to grow and change to the point where they stop being the characters that they were, especially in animation where literally characters are, for instance, 14 years old forever. You also don’t want to create the feeling that they are beyond change,” Harmon explained. “It’s kind of a weird, fun philosophical thing where Morty is not changing because he’s aging. But Morty is changing because he’s been in the show for so long. We do talk about it when we pitch story ideas that have to do with Morty being a little more jaded or his relationship with Rick changing. Only time will tell if that’s just an awful idea, if Morty should just simply be frozen in amber.”
But the way Morty’s currently written is all about balance. “It’s always finding a zone where he’s a 14-year-old boy who’s been on a thousand life-changing adventures,” Harmon explained. “It doesn’t make him any less 14, but it does make him a different type of 14 year old.”
Another noticeable moment in Season 5’s premiere has to do with the show’s myriad of unanswered questions. At one point Mr. Nimbus briefly makes a comment about the mysterious Diane, Beth’s mother and Rick’s former wife. When asked if this new season will dive more into Rick’s backstory, Harmon revealed, “I can’t remember if there will be this season because we are sometimes working on three seasons at once. But it’s coming. I know that.”
It’s unsurprising that this narrative examination is in our collective future, considering Harmon’s dedication to story above all else. According to Harmon, that’s the secret to creating a show that’s at once very funny and a gut-wrenching examination of the human condition.“I grew up watching TV. My perception of TV was always that that was part of the job. There’s a format to the medium the way there is to a sonnet or a limerick, which provides you with challenges but also a comfort. But actually your job is to fill that sonnet with your feelings on stuff,” Harmon said. “For me, remembering that it’s comedy and adding a bunch of jokes tends to come last. I’m first and foremost asking myself, ‘Why is this a story? And why is it an important one to one of these characters? What’s going on here?’ A lot of conversations that would sound absolutely nothing like maybe what you’d expect in a comedy room because you’re finding a story and you’re trying to make it personal.”
This emotional ethos ties into the creator’s favorite episode of Season 5. “This season there’s an episode where Morty stumbles into a relationship with a young lady who is sort of a Captain Planet archetype. She’s a superhero from the ‘90s who’s very eco-conscious. It’s a story about Morty having a relationship, which we’ve seen before in throwaway jokes and things. But it’s done with a particular amount of indie movie heart,” Harmon said.
The episode was written by Harmon’s best friend and longtime collaborator, Rob Schrab. This will mark the first time Schrab has written for Rick and Morty. “The early cuts that I’ve seen of it, I know it’s definitely my favorite,” Harmon said. “Maybe it’ll be the one that we submit for whatever things actually make TV important.”
Season 5 of Rick and Morty premieres on Adult Swim Sunday, June 20 at 11/10c p.m.
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