How to Unravel the ‘Rick and Morty’ Story Train Episode

Rick and Morty made it’s glorious mid-season 4 return last night with “Never Ricking Morty,” an episode all aboard the “story train,” a never-ending space locomotive that’s one part Snowpiercer and three hundred parts the most postmodern piece of postmodern television ever. Which just means it’s confusing and self-referential and overflowing with irony, kind of like a Corona beer containing COVID-19. Or, as Rick Sanchez, explains: “It’s not a real train, Morty. It’s a story device. Literally. A literal literary device quite literally metaphorically containing us.”

During the episode’s post-credits scene (the episode itself ends with a diatribe about the importance of consumerism) viewers are invited to visit where they can purchase the Rick and Morty story train.

The link, much like the various stories spat out from the episode, goes exactly nowhere, redirecting viewers to an error page. Whether the page-not-found page results from a delay in Adult Swim creating the page, or whether the error is itself a narrative non sequitur designed to imitate the themes of the episode—which include the many challenges to writing original stories—this debate will have viewers pulling out their hair, or levitating from the floor and spouting blood.

The story train is likely a response to the inordinate amount of pressure Rick and Morty creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland seem to always be under. Since Rick and Morty began to air in 2013, the creators have taken such radioactive heat from their toxic fanbase that it’s actually caused the writers real-world stress. The often-lengthy gaps between each season tend to insight outrage, the likes of: when is Dan Harmon going to give us another fucking episode? Sure, the pressure means the fans really like the show, and that’s normally a good thing. But perhaps worse than fans hating your show are fans who really, really, really like your show. Such is the tragedy of Dan Harmon.

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Episode 6, therefore, has that extra meta-textual element of not only riffing on storytelling and the pressure therein involved, but also being about Harmon and Roiland themselves, the creators of this very show, and their very specific writerly pressures.

In one scene, Rick and Morty are strapped down and enslaved by the “Story Lord” (clearly a stand-in for toxic fans), and forced to power an anthology machine that will endlessly generate Rick and Morty episodes. This is basically every Rick and Morty fan’s wet dream. And Harmon’s recurring nightmare. Rick: “You idiot, our potential isn’t limitless; you’ll never break the fifth wall before you burn us out.”

Rick and Morty is back tonight. I wrote the first 3 episodes & worked with such incredible writers & artists.

I hope you like them. They’re about being trapped in the narrative choke of Capitalism, the broken worlds we escape through Love, and Paul Giamatti with Cum-Gutters.

Adult Swim announced in 2018 that it had picked up the series for another 70 episodes (or, now, 70 minus the 6 so far this season).

Hopefully the burnout is more of a joke than a cry for help from writers who still have 60 more episodes to go (at least) after season 4 wraps.

Stay healthy, Dan and Justin. Also: when the fuck is season 5 coming out?

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