The working dynamic between Rick and Morty co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland reveals itself in the episode commentaries included on the Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray (every episode has a track, and several episodes have multiple). Where Roiland works intuitively, including shining examples like his one-take, improvised song “Terryfold,” which unexpectedly landed on actual Billboard charts, Harmon obsessively fine-tunes the narrative and emotional mechanics. “Don’t let it eat you alive,” Roiland tells Harmon at one point, as they discuss a narrative flub all the way back in the Rick and Morty pilot. (101) add
“Here’s another reason not to let it eat you alive: Turner won’t pay for our fourth season,” Harmon responds. The special features for the Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray may focus on the difficult process of completing Season 3, but the open possibilities of Season 4 are as much on the creator’s minds as they are on ours.
For now, Rick and Morty Season 4 remains in the same limbo it did when Harmon lamented Turner’s stubbornness while recording the commentary track: contract negotiations are ongoing. It seems impossible Season 4 won’t come together eventually, something Harmon’s acknowledged, but it’s now looking more and more like something destined for the far-off future of 2020.
So when writers and producers bring up Season 4 in Season 3 commentary tracks, the specifics shouldn’t be interpreted as the likely course of events. In fact, by invoking certain plot ideas on the Blu-ray commentary, it might be making their inclusion in Season 4 even less likely. But caveats aside, the frequent mention of Rick and Morty Season 4 throughout the Season 3 commentary tracks points toward what the show might feel like when it finally returns.
Making Rick and Morty Season 3 wasn’t an easy process. Some episodes were rewritten over and over, well into the animation stage. Harmon often puts the blame on himself in the commentary, admitting to over-conceptualizing and breaking episodes down, or repeatedly rewriting sequences. So when Roiland describes their goal for Season 4 as to “just have fun,” it’s not a platitude, but a genuine intention to allow looser narratives and trust their instincts more.
One way to accomplish this is more episodes which allow the animators to create the narrative flow, as opposed to the writing. “I think the crown jewel of this episode is the incredible fight sequence between the president and Rick,” Harmon says of “The Rickchurian Mortydate,” the Series 3 finale. The fight, started by the President of the United States refusing a selfie with Morty, runs from the Oval Office to the White House sub-basement where the moon landing was faked, as POTUS (voiced by Keith David, of They Live) deploys space-based lasers and child assassins against Rick’s force fields and holographic duplicators. (104) add
The Secret Service doesn’t stand a chance against Rick. Adult Swim
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“I’m never going to forget that lesson. Season 4 is going to have a lot of board-driven fights,” Harmon said, before addressing the animation team directly. “To them I say thank you for this episode, We pulled a finale out of our ass, mid-tumble. I’m very proud of this family.”
In multiple commentaries, Rick and Morty writers and producers gushed about the characters they’d most like to see return. “I really love the idea of Tammy and Phoenix Person out there and I have all this stuff I want to talk to you, Harmon, about,” writer and producer Mike McMahan said during commentary for “The Rickshank Redemption,” the season’s premiere episode.
Tammy and Phoenix Person, enemies of Rick. Adult Swim
“Whether or not she comes back, who gives a shit?” McMahan said. “I just have some cool ideas about the science behind her.”
“I want to bring the therapist back, for sure, I’m all in,” Roiland said, of Dr. Wong (Susan Sarandon), who dresses down Pickle Rick.
Dr. Wong, knocking Rick down a peg in “Pickle Rick.” Adult Swim
Justin Roiland really wants more of Rick and Morty to take place in Morty’s high school. “Justin every season is like, ‘we need more school stuff, we need more school stuff,’” Harmon says on the commentary for “Rest and Ricklaxation,” in which Morty briefly becomes popular at school before transforming into what Rick calls “tiny American Psycho.”
“I’ve got a few ideas for some cool sci-fi school stuff,” Roiland says. “I have a really good pitch for, you know, the future, whenever that may be.”
Instead of the partially improvised “Interdimensional Cable” episodes from the first and second seasons, Rick and Morty Season 3 had a “clip show” installment called “Morty’s Mind Blowers,” in which the pair revisit memories so painful or embarrassing that Rick erases them from Morty’s mind, sometimes with his consent, sometimes without.
“I actually really love this concept and I want to revisit it again in the future, somehow,” Roiland says during the “Morty’s Mind Blowers” commentary. “There’s got to be a great way we can put a new twist on the connective tissue.”
Also cut from this episode is one of Roiland’s favorite gags, what episode writer James Siciliano called “Nibulongs,” which apparently involved Morty and a lot of ejaculate.
It wouldn’t be the first time Morty has unintentionally stimulated an alien. Adult Swim
Several times throughout the commentary tracks, Harmon shuts down a writer or producer bringing up something they’d like to see make it into Season 4, partially because letting an embryonic idea out into the world is likely to kill it. Siciliano bringing up the Nibulongs was the only moment Roiland voiced the same concern. “I’m still holding out hope that in a world where we’re still making this show…” he says, prompting Harmon to crack up at what Justin is desperate to preserve.
“I love that that’s the thing,” he says, of the mysterious Nibulongs.
“You’ll see,” Roiland says, addressing us, the listeners. “You’ll see, hopefully.”
While the writers of Rick and Morty try to ignore the audience’s ravenous hunger for canon, subverting expectations by, for example, giving Rick a tragic backstory, then revealing Rick has fabricated it to trick an enemy, the Season 3 commentary clarifies the writing team’s own canon obsessions.
Discussing “The Ricklantis Mixup,” a complicated episode set on The Citadel, a space-station populated entirely by Ricks and Mortys of many dimensions, Harmon brought up “our first canonical reference to the central finite curve that actually has kind of canonical significance.”
The “Ricklantis Mixup” is the highlight of “Rick and Morty” Season 3. Adult Swim
That central finite curve, first mentioned in Season 1, is the slice of the multiverse dense with Ricks and Mortys with enough commonality to interact. “That’s our reference for the area in the multiverse that Rick has at least some experience,” McMahan said.
A lot of thought went into this multiversal framework. McMahan described the central finite curve as “something we talk about a lot when we’re writing episodes that involve multiversal stuff.”
“I’m being careful not to go too deep into it,” he finished. There’s no guarantee the curve will come up again in Season 4, but for the writers it’s a foundational element of the show’s multiverse going forward.
Countless times throughout the Rick and Morty Season 3 commentary tracks, Harmon attributes specific jokes to writer and producer Ryan Ridley. Morty’s agonized line “lambs to the cosmic slaughter!” is one of Ridley’s, as is the alien snake eating Jerry in “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” letting out a sympathetic “woof” as Rick lands a particularly cutting insult.
An aside from Harmon suggests Ridley won’t be back for Rick and Morty Season 4. “If you want to worry about Ridley not being on Season 4, look at this scene and go ‘Oh, Okay, amazing.’” Harmon says, after describing Ridley moments “where you want to piss your diaper” in the Pickle Rick episode.
“That April Fools’ stunt really set a strange precedent for disappointing people in the future,” Roiland said, referring to the surprise April 1, 2017 premiere of Season 3. It’s not a feat they’re likely to pull again.
Occasional mentions of Season 4 possibilities are far from the only revelations on the Rick and Morty Season 3 Blu-ray, which will be released on May 15.
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