Rick and Morty is going to be around for a long time.
100 episodes have historically been the goal for a network series to reach to be considered a successful candidate for syndication.
Rick and Morty is going to reach that landmark, as it was renewed for 70 episodes in May 2018. Five episodes into Rick and Morty Season 4, we have (at least) 65 episodes left to go.
With the knowledge that Rick and Morty will be around for the better part of the next decade, there is an unavoidable tendency to view these newest episodes under a different lens, mainly in regards to how each episode contributes to the longevity of the show.
The great irony of the 100 episode landmark is that many shows lose their luster by the time they reach it. Characters lose their freshness, plot lines tend to get more convoluted or repetitive, and the original writers and creators often move on to newer projects.
So how will Rick and Morty stack up? Does the show have the ability to go the distance and retain quality?
From now on Rick and Morty doing a little of this, and a little of that.Rick
Rick and Morty is a series that, in theory, balances crazy adventures with serialized storytelling. Serialized storytelling seems to be all the rage nowadays, with many viewers dismissing sitcom or procedural style shows based on their format alone.
However, between the two formats, procedurals are built to last in a way serialized stories aren't. A serialized story demands a flow and a sense of escalation to reach a single climax, and the longer that story goes on, the dicier the plotting becomes.
The story either has to stretch out its plot to maintain suspense until its climax or reach the climax and proceed to try to build to another (often even bigger) climax, which is often why shows' plots become convoluted or over the top.
The same principle applies to characters, as the characters themselves may become more extreme so they can react more dramatically to new plot lines. Both the characters and the story of a serialized show can become diluted when they go on for too long.
Procedurals and sitcoms can fall victim to the same threats, of course, but overall they are built in a way that is much more compatible with longevity.
These formats hold the beginning, middle, and end of a storyline all within a single episode. Therefore, if you have interesting characters and a creative mind, you can tell many different stories within a series.
They allow for more creativity due to the freedom that the format allows. The more creativity a series can house, the more likely it will keep its quality high over a long period due to continued freshness and new ideas constantly entertaining the viewer.
So how does Rick and Morty balance these two formats? It doesn't.
There are very few episodes based on any ongoing series plot, and the attention those few episodes receive (such as Evil Morty episodes) is disproportional to what makes the series tick.
The show itself goes so far as to make this clear at the end of Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 1, "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat." Morty and Rick go on a rant about how they are going to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and make sure to try different things so that they never get into a rut.
Rick and Morty not sticking to one path, trying different things making sure to keep out of a rut.Morty
This rant is encouraging, as it shows the writers are well aware of the potential pitfalls of long-term storytelling, and it tells us that they also want to try out new ideas.
A 70 episode deal allows them to be bolder and try out some riskier concepts.
Not all of these concepts are going to work (I'm looking at you, Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 4, "Claw and Hoarder: Special Rictim's Morty") but the freedom to fail promotes creativity, which is a key component to longevity.
As frustrating as these random adventures may be for fans who want to see what Evil Morty is up to, it is great news for the show. Rick and Morty has no obligation to stick to any single format, and bouncing around to different styles will only help to keep the series fresh.
I've no doubt the show can continue to come up with wild plot lines that can be resolved within 22 minutes. Their ability to continue to cover new ground regarding their characters, on the other hand, is a separate beast.
There are series such as Seinfeld that last as long as they do precisely because their characters never change or grow. These series tend to have less focus on deep characterization (which doesn't mean they don't have great characters).
Rick and Morty isn't a series interested in keeping its characters the same, though, and I can't imagine they will pull focus off character now.
Both Rick and Morty have grown significantly since the series started. Rick has openly admitted that he cares about Morty (Rick and Morty Season 3 Episode 4, "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender") and has somehow become more desperate for control than he was at the start of the series.
Morty has grown more assertive and independent.
The consistent development of the leads is a large part of what has kept Rick and Morty fairly fresh throughout its first three seasons, and continuing their development will keep the show rolling for the foreseeable future.
Continued development isn't as easy as it sounds, though, especially over 70 episodes.
If the writers develop them too quickly, they may complete their arcs long before the series ends, potentially becoming caricatures of themselves if they have nowhere left to go. However, holding off character development for too long can result in staleness.
Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 2, "The Old Man and the Seat," has an A-Story that ends with a revelation on Rick's self-loathing.
The story is told uniquely, but this is information we already know thanks to previous episodes such as Rick and Morty Season 2 Episode 3, "Auto Erotic Assimilation."
Two episodes into Rick and Morty Season 4, the show is already retreading old ground with Rick. It isn't an especially egregious retread since the new season is about Rick's loss of control, and the episode does do a great job of showing how Rick is trying to maintain control over at least one thing in his life.
Beth: Dad, there’s a way we do this now.
Rick: Morty, would you PLEASE accompany me.
His hate for himself goes hand in hand with this concept, but the final image of the episode of Rick sitting alone while his holograms mock him isn't quite as powerful as it would have been two seasons ago, which could suggest diminishing returns.
Morty is faring well this year, however, as we've already seen several adventures where Morty goes unaccompanied by Rick.
Morty's increasing independence is naturally allowing him to take on a more active role in many adventures, providing us a glimpse at new facets of his personality while also providing new adventures.
That is the tricky balance Rick and Morty will have to maintain in order to be successful over the next 65 episodes.
The show can't just come up with new ways to explore known traits of its characters; it must explore new character developments and revelations that we haven't seen before.
Rick and Morty also has a secret weapon; Morty and Rick's personal relationship.
They can develop separately as characters, but their relationship can develop as well, which will change the series drastically even if the characters themselves don't develop at the same rate.
For example, if Rick eventually grows to respect Morty as an equal, the series would have a completely new dynamic to explore.
A true partnership between Morty and Rick is something we've never seen before, and that dynamic could easily pump out a couple dozen totally fresh episodes.
With that trump card in mind, and with the incredible amount of creativity the writers can play with for future plot lines, I believe stand out episodes such as the premiere of Season 4 and wild rides like Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 3, "Once Crew Over the Crewcoo's Morty," will continue to be pumped out for a long time.
The show has been given a gift in terms of the guaranteed future of the series; the gift of risks.
Not every risk will pay off, but if the writers learn from those mistakes and narrow their misfires, the show should only improve moving forward, especially if they use solid character development to expand potential plot lines instead of trying to fit the characters into particular plots.
I’ll just hang out with you and go on adventures and do whatever you want to do, ya know, forever.Morty
So in short, yes, Rick and Morty can absolutely last another 70 episodes.
Rick and Morty's central duo and its insane universe of unending potential is built for longevity.
Will it effectively use these tools to maintain quality?
Guess we'll find out
We'd love to know what you think, Rick and Morty fans!
Drop us a line in the comments so that we can get a conversation started!
Tommy Czerpak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.