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‘Rick and Morty' Season 7 Premiere Review: A Mixed Bag

3.5 Stars

Rick in "Rick and Morty."
Rick in "Rick and Morty." By Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery
By Eunice S. Chae, Contributing Writer

Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” has been facing controversy since the start of this year. Just months after Season 6 aired, the show’s co-creator, Justin Roiland – who voiced both titular characters — was removed from the show in January 2023 due to charges of alleged domestic battery which were made public. While these charges were dismissed later in March, more allegations, including those of sexual assault, were soon leveled against him. Several other shows and companies also severed ties with Roiland, including “Solar Opposites,” another show in which he was both a co-creator and voice actor for protagonist Korvo.

With Roiland’s removal, these shows faced the challenge of hiring new actors for their temporarily voiceless characters. While “Solar Opposites” attributed Korvo’s new, more British voice to a mishap involving a dart and a voice-changing ray, “Rick and Morty” producers made it clear they would be hiring “sound-alikes” for the show’s beloved grandfather-grandson duo.

On Oct. 15th, with the Season 7 premiere “How Poopy Got His Poop Back,” Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden made their debuts as Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith, respectively. Almost immediately, though, the premiere moved to focus on another character Roiland voiced — Mr. Poopybutthole (newly voiced by Jon Allen).

Mr. Poopybutthole has become a self-destructive alcoholic after being left by his wife Amy (Lauren Tom), and Rick and some of his old friends stage an intervention. From there the episode devolves into chaos as they embark on a wild rager, meet Hugh Jackman (a character voiced by Hugh Jackman, in a bizarre, uninspired cameo that comes out of nowhere), and try to win Amy back. In the end, one can’t really be sure who the audience should be rooting for at all. It’s definitely not Hugh Jackman.

It’s an unexpected choice for a first episode, one that also broke away from previous season premieres in terms of character focus. Not only were the Smiths absent for most of the episode, so was Morty. What little viewers did get of Morty, though, demonstrated how much he’s evolved — from a browbeaten 14-year-old boy to a character that can be just as sardonic as Rick.

Instead of the typical cast, characters that have been missing for entire seasons are reintroduced rapid-fire: Squanchy (Tom Kenny), Gearhead (Scott Chernoff), and Birdperson (Dan Harmon). And while their appearances are welcome, something feels off. Birdperson and Squanchy were bland and forgettable, with the former being uncharacteristically reckless and both of them just being… really bad friends. Pacing was also an issue. Not only are viewers abruptly presented with Birdperson for the first time since mid-Season 5, but his mysterious daughter, “Birddaughter,” is shown for a scarce few moments before the episode swiftly moves on. While this was a rare opportunity to flesh out Rick’s relationships beyond his immediate family, it wasn’t fully taken advantage of.

The jokes are frequent, although some are punchier than others and some miss completely. When the jokes land — and many do — they land in trademark “Rick and Morty” fashion, with quick punchlines and charming premises. When they don’t, they feel forced, shoehorning in pop culture references for the sake of pop culture references. The noticeably stronger first half of the episode is filled with wacky gags, like Rick manufacturing a sentient ghost by programming it with “unfinished business.” The second half is when it derails, with the lazy Hugh Jackman cameo toting drugs in a nonsensical plot that involves the Predator — yes, from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. All the same, the episode is peppered with entertaining bits and an after-credits scene that makes up for its lesser moments.

The show benefited from how it addressed the voice changes — which is to say that it didn’t address them at all, instead just jumping straight in. Notwithstanding, there was a clear difference in all of the new voices — most significantly Rick’s — to the point that it became distracting. Rick, a character known for his drunkenness, sounds remarkably calm and sober in an episode about him and his pals going on a bender. Several scenes come across as flat and stiff, almost as if Cardoni was performing as an impressionist, not an actor. As the new voice actors grow more comfortable in their roles, though, it’s possible the changes will become barely perceptible.

Overall, the premiere set an uncertain tone as to what kind of stories the season has in store. Still, it was a decent episode with fun visuals that laid flexible groundwork for future character development and episodes to come. Although it fell short in comparison to previous season starters, the premiere remained a relatively harmless and enjoyable debut stage for its new voice actors.

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