This isn’t a review, but if you’re wondering I’d give this a 5/5. Instead I want to talk about how much this show owes to HP Lovecraft, the creator of Cthulhu and one of the most influential horror fiction writers of the last 100 years.
I’m honestly surprised how few people know who he is considering that not many have ever had such an effect on a genre. Stephen King has repeatedly named Lovecraft as one of his main influences in how he writes, and references to Lovecraft’s work are often present in his novels. Furthermore, many of the traits of the Zombie genre originated in Lovecraft’s story Herbert West – Re-Animator (ironically Lovecraft himself hated the original story).
One of the main points of Lovecraft’s work is that humanity is a small, almost insignificant part of a much larger universe that we do not and can not understand. In his works the few humans who do see beyond what they can comprehend often either go mad, are horribly injured, killed, or some combination of these (also not always in that order). There is no moral code, no right or wrong, and those who do the right thing are rarely, if ever, rewarded for it. The universe just is, and it’s a place where humans are often victims of more powerful beings.
Likewise, Rick and Morty takes place in a universe where most humans (with the exception of Rick, who is a monster himself) are insignificant and overwhelmed by anything outside of Earth. In particular there’s one episode where Jerry Smith, the poster-boy for mediocre humanity, tries to go back to Earth himself after being left at a daycare on another planet and is horrified by an incomprehensible alien world.
More prominently, Morty is constantly placed in horrifying situations where the enormity of their consequences has caused irreversible psychological damage. This is best shown in his horrified expressions, gradual rejection of Rick for putting him in these situations, and cries for help which have been denied (as in the end of “Pickle Rick”). True, he does start to acclimate to several situations, but all of this is clearly taking a toll. Maybe Rick is only able to deal with it because he’s drunk all the time…
More significantly, however, is the complete lack of any moral code or higher purpose in the universe of Rick and Morty. As Morty himself points out in one episode, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s going to die.” That’s pretty grim, but perfectly matches the tone for a Lovecraftian story. Things just happen, and in both universes the survivors are the ones with fewer limitations in power or intellect (usually Rick in the show, usually an alien race or god in Lovecraft’s stories).
The few times that someone does try to take a moral high ground in Rick and Morty it usually backfires spectacularly, making things much worse than if they had been left alone. The best example is in “Mortynight Run” when Morty tries to stop an assassination, which results in hundreds more people dying and him killing the being he was trying to save anyways. Bottom line, in both universes, don’t get involved in things you don’t understand.
Lovecraft’s work can be dry and a bit of a chore to read, especially since there is very little dialogue in any of his works (he wasn’t very good at that aspect of writing), but the ideas, world building, and tone are all fascinating and worth the time of anyone willing to overlook his shortcomings. Rick and Morty, however, is vastly more accessible and entertaining and the best representation of the best parts of Lovecraft’s ideas. Definitely check it out if you want to know more about that side of Lovecraft…
…Or maybe I’m reading into it too much. Maybe it’s just about existentialism or some other viewpoint that’s not seen often in media. It’s not like they put a giant Cthulhu-like monster at the beginning of every episode in homage to Lovecraft, right?