There’s a lot to love about Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty.” Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, the series follows the exploits of Morty Smith, who is constantly dragged into inter-dimensional adventures by his mad scientist grandfather, Rick (both voiced by Roiland). The show’s raunchy, dark comedy and loose improvised feel makes it unlike anything else on TV. It also has a surprising amount of heart, with complex characters and well-executed family drama. The series even frequently veers into deep, contemplative science fiction. “Rick and Morty” really is something special.
With all that said, the series also contains some of the most messed up moments ever seen on TV. Most of those are caused by the insane, brilliant, often impractical inventions Rick creates. With the third season on its way (eventually), catch up with this list of the 15 most disturbing gadgets “Rick and Morty” has given us so far.
This is a device that sounds wonderful on paper. The box creates a cheery, helpful being that assists the user with one task, then disappears. This gadget appears in episode five of season one, “Meeseeks and Destroy,” written by Ryan Ridley and directed by Bryan Newton. When Morty’s family won’t stop asking Rick to fix their minor problems, he presents them with the Mr. Meeseeks box to help them out while he and Morty are away. Morty’s mom, Beth (voiced by Sarah Chalke) wants to be a more complete woman. His older sister, Summer (Spencer Grammer) wants to be more popular at school. Surprisingly, the Mr. Meeseeks are able to accomplish both tasks easily.
The trouble starts when Morty’s dad, Jerry (Chris Parnell) asks his Mr. Meeseeks to take two strokes off his golf game. Unfortunately, Jerry is a terrible student. Nothing his Mr. Meeseeks does improves Jerry’s game one bit. That’s when we learn the most disturbing thing about the Mr. Meeseeks box. It’s bad enough that the creatures are born to serve and promptly die, but as more and more Mr. Meeseeks appear to help Jerry, they reveal the alternative is even worse. Existence is painful for Meeseeks. They desperately want to complete their task and die. Eventually, they go insane and try to kill Jerry, thinking that would technically complete their mission. The Meeseek’s box is just one of those things that gets worse the more you think about it.
Not much is shown of this invention, but what we do see is sufficiently disturbing. Rick creates this gadget right at the end of episode three of season two, “Auto Erotic Assimilation” (written by Ridley, directed by Newton). The majority of the episode centers on Rick as he, Summer and Morty end up on a planet that’s been taken over by a hive mind. It quickly becomes apparent that Rick and the hive mind, named Unity, used to date. Given what we know about Rick, it’s safe to assume it was not a very healthy relationship. As Unity and Rick’s interactions become more unsafe, Unity slowly realizes that Rick is a bad influence on her. After Rick returns Morty and Summer home, he returns to Unity’s planet to find it deserted, with a breakup note left behind.
Once Rick returns home, he is too depressed to argue with his family. He closes himself in the garage and constructs the standing death ray, testing it out on a screaming creature he unfreezes and promptly puts out of his misery. He then puts his own head underneath the death ray, but drunkenly passes out before he can go through with it. For an episode filled with drug and sex jokes, this one hit hard by ending on such a downer. The way Rick comforts the distressed, grotesque creature before killing it especially made audiences ask aloud, “WTF?”
These two inventions work together to disguise what they actually do. In “Get Schwifty” (Season Two, Episode Five, written by Tom Kauffman and directed by Wes Archer), a giant alien head appears over Earth demanding to hear a new, catchy hit song. Unfortunately, the natural disasters caused by the giant head end up killing all the Earth’s best music artists. This leads The Pentagon to request that Rick and Morty compose the hit song “Get Schwifty.”
The invention in question appears early on, when Rick takes Morty to The Pentagon to share what he knows about the giant head. After they come out of a portal in the situation room, they are attacked by two soldiers who aren’t thrilled about the unexplained security breach. Rick fires his watch at the soldiers and appears to turn them into snakes. It’s not until the end of the episode that we learn that’s not actually what happened. The watch actually fires a particle beam that dissolves its target, while a hidden snake holster releases a snake that crawls to where the target used to be. Rick is just straight up murdering people. At least he covers it up with a mystical facade?
Rick’s spaceship is at the center of most of Rick and Morty’s adventures. With a new feature introduced almost every time we see it, it’s probably one of the most capable spaceships in all of science fiction. Not all of those new features are something you would want, though. For example, its security system redefines the word “overkill.” In “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” (Season Two, Episode Six, written by Dan Guterman and directed by Dominic Polcino), the ship runs low on power while on an alternate Earth. While Rick and Morty find a solution, they leave Summer inside the vehicle, and Rick instructs the security system to protect Summer.
The security system turns out to be a little overzealous. When a man starts banging on the window, the system cuts him into cubes with a laser. When Summer demands the ship not kill the man’s friend, the ship uses a targeted laser to paralyze its target from the waste down. It only gets worse from there. When the cops show up and Summer demands it doesn’t hurt anyone, the security system resorts to psychological torture. It creates a facsimile of one officer’s dead son that melts right in front of him. It works, all the cops back off, but Summer has some fresh new trauma to work out.
While Summer is waiting in the ship during “The Ricks Must Be Crazy,” Rick and Morty solve his car problems by going inside the battery. Rick’s ship, it turns out, is powered by a miniature universe. Rick created the microverse, as he calls it, and waited for its inhabitants to develop into intelligent, human-like creatures. Then, he appeared to them as a god and brought them the gift of electricity. They work to create the electricity, power their world with it and 80 percent of it goes to power Rick’s ship.
If that sounds a little like slavery to you, you’re not wrong. Morty points that out almost immediately, but Rick insists that they work for and pay each other. He only benefits from that afterwards. Morty says that sounds like slavery with extra steps, but his concerns are dismissed as the kind of platitude a college kid would use to get laid. Eventually, a scientist inside the microverse comes up with the same idea and the people stop producing electricity for Rick. By threatening to destroy the microverse, Rick convinces the scientist to go back to the old way and keep his race alive. The Microverse Battery is proof that Rick will casually enslave an entire people and threaten to kill them if they stop working.
Even when “Rick and Morty” deals with a common mad scientist cliche, the show takes it to an extreme nobody ever thought of before. In “Rick Potion #9” (Season One, Episode Six, written by Justin Roiland and directed by Stephen Sandoval), Morty asks Rick to make him a love potion to use on his crush, Jessica. The potion Rick creates is much smarter than you’d expect. Rick uses a piece of Morty’s DNA (from his hair) to ensure that it doesn’t work on anyone related to him.
Unfortunately, it has a pretty nasty side effect. Rick tries to tell Morty that it won’t have quite the desired effect if Jessica has the flu, but Morty’s already left the garage. Wouldn’t you know it, Jessica has the flu. The potion binds to the flu virus, causing it to rapidly reproduce and infect everyone in the school. Now, everyone is in love with Morty to the point where they nearly tear him apart. Then, Rick tries to undo the damage with another airborne virus, but ends up turning the entire town into Mantis-people. They still all want to mate with Morty, but now they also want to decapitate him afterwards.
If you thought the love potion was bad, the antidote Rick cooks up is even worse. Trying to set the world right, Rick cooks up a third virus using DNA from every available resource. That includes a cactus, a golden retriever a shark and a dinosaur. Why he thought that would work, no one will ever know. To Rick’s credit, the virus makes it so the Mantis-people no longer want to mate with Morty. It also turns them into disfigured blob-like abominations. Rick names the Cronenbergs, after David Cronenberg, a filmmaker famous for his grotesque and horrifying imagery.
As you’d expect, the virus spreads and infects all of humanity except for the Smith family. As disturbing as the whole situation is, Morty’s family actually comes out better for it. Once the Cronenberg apocalypse happens, Jerry and Beth become action heroes, which turns both of them on immensely and brings the family closer together. Much to the dismay of Summer, who has to watch her parents make out after blowing Cronenbergs away with a shotgun. Meanwhile, Rick and Morty argue over who’s at fault for the world’s demise. Was it Morty for requesting the potion, or Rick for infecting everyone with a mixture of DNA as an antidote? In either case, the fact that both the potion and the antidote contributed to the apocalypse makes them one of Rick’s most messed up inventions.
“Rick Potion #9” is a gadget-packed episode that features not two, but three of the most messed up inventions ever featured on the show. We don’t even get to see what this last one is supposed to do. After turning the entire human population into Cronenbergs, Rick realizes that arguing about who started the apocalypse isn’t getting them anywhere. Instead, he takes Morty to a parallel universe where everything is the way it used to be, aside from one major difference.
In that parallel universe, other versions of Rick and Morty are putting the finishing touches on Rick’s new invention, the Ionic Defibulizer. Before we can see what it does, the gadget violently explodes, killing that universe’s Rick and Morty. The explosion tears apart their bodies and knocks out one of Morty’s eyes. That’s not a pleasant sight for Morty to unexpectedly teleport into. Worse yet, he and Rick have to bury themselves and assume the lives of their dead counterparts. Rick warns that they have to be more careful, as they’ve only got two or three more universes like that tops. Morty just walks into the house to deal with his brand new case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks, Ionic Defibulizer.
This is one of those inventions that sounds like a dream, but quickly turns into a nightmare. We all love our dogs, and it sounds like such a great idea to make them smart enough to understand us. In “Lawnmower Dog” (season one, episode two, written by Ryan Ridley and directed by John Rice), Rick gives the family a device that will enhance the intelligence of their “stupid” dog, Snuffles. The invention allows Snuffles to build himself a mechanical suit and translator. Now that he can talk, he uses his powerful robot body to punish his owners for how they’ve treated him.
Using his newfound mechanical knowledge, Snuffles raises a robot dog army to take over the world. They enslave the human race, treating them exactly the way humans have treated them for centuries. When Jerry tries to show dominance by peeing on some objects, Snuffles shoves his nose in the carpet. In the end, it takes Morty almost dying for Snuffles to realize that intelligent dogs need to be better than humans. Instead of colonizing Earth, they leave to find a friendlier planet. It’s scary how many of Rick’s inventions lead to the death or enslavement of all humanity.
With what appears to be an infinite number of universes, there is logically an infinite number of Ricks and Mortys. In “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind” (season one, episode 10, written by Ryan Ridley and directed by Stephen Sandoval), Rick learns that someone out there is killing off the other Ricks and kidnapping their Mortys. The show’s Rick, accused of murdering the other Ricks, sets off to find out who the real culprit is. What they find is probably the most disturbing thing Morty has ever seen.
Morty, it turns out, is more than just a companion for Rick. Morty’s dumb brainwaves camouflage Rick’s uniquely smart ones, making him harder to find. Rick and Morty come across a giant dome with all the kidnapped Mortys chained to the outside. Little robot arms pierce their stomachs, keeping the Mortys in a constant state of agony. One version of Rick, Evil Rick, has built the ultimate camouflage dome, capable of concealing himself from even other Ricks. Morty already wasn’t happy about being a human cloaking device, but he’s even more disturbed by the fact that his Rick admitted to considering a similar concept on paper. That’s how many times Morty’s been irrevocably traumatized now?
This is one of the first gadgets we see in “Rick and Morty,” appearing in the very first moments of the show’s pilot episode (directed by Justin Roiland, written by Roiland and Dan Harmon). Rick stumbles into Morty’s room, drunk. He says he has a surprise for Morty and the pair fly above the town in Rick’s new spaceship that he built in the garage. That’s not the surprise though. The surprise is that Rick has built a neutrino bomb that will wipe out all of humanity. How? Neutrinos can pass through matter with ease. The intensity of the neutrinos in the bomb is sufficient to pass through the earth and kill all humans on it.
Before setting off the bomb, Rick plans to go pick up Morty’s crush, Jessica. That way, Morty will have someone to repopulate the planet with. While it’s maybe kind of heartwarming that Rick is willing to go to such lengths to get his grandson some action, it’s a little messed up that he’s thinking about it at all; even more so that he would wipe out all of humanity for it. In the end, Morty wrestles control of the ship away from Rick, who claims the entire thing was a test to get Morty to act more assertive. Whether it’s actually a test or not, the bomb arms itself. It’s never revealed what happens next.
Another gadget whose purpose is never actually revealed, the Plumbus appears in “Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate,” where the family once again flips through the surreal, improvisational channels of multiverse cable. Two such channels feature The Plumbus, an odd flesh-colored device that’s apparently a fixture in every home and business. One of the shows details how the thing is made, which involves stretching and squishing fleshy objects into strange shapes. It all looks too human and organic, making for the most uncomfortable sequence of the episode.
The DVD of season two came with a Plumbus owner’s manual that did nothing to shed any light on what it actually did. All it reveals is that the Plumbus “will aid many things in life, making life easier… Plumbus will provide you with a lifetime of better living and happiness.” So that clears things up. The manual often states that if Plumbus is not properly cleaned, it will attract the Dark Plumbus. That’s O.K. though, because Plumbus will protect you from Dark Plumbus. Even with all that information, the Plumbus is almost as confusing as it is disgusting.
A classic sci-fi weapon, nearly every comic and sci-fi fan has seen some form of freeze gun. Mr. Freeze has one in “Batman,” Dr. Horrible has one in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” it’s a classic mad scientist weapon. It’s only natural that Rick has one of his own. The Freeze gun appears a couple times over the course of the series, but its most significant appearance is in the pilot episode. Morty’s having trouble in school as a result of Rick’s adventures. His troubles include being picked on by a bully. Fortunately, Rick appears and shoots the bully with a freeze gun. Rick takes Morty off on an adventure, promising to unfreeze him later. He never gets to do that.
Unlike other freeze guns in fiction, this one doesn’t just wear off. It leaves the victim incredibly fragile. As Summer walks by the frozen bully, she accidentally tips him over, shattering him into a pile of jagged, frozen gore. The freeze gun also appeared in a crossover couch gag on “The Simpsons” episode “Mathlete’s Feat” (Season 26, episode 22, written by Michael Price and directed by Michael Polcino). After Morty accidentally kills the family with Rick’s spaceship, Ned walks into the scene only to be frozen by Rick’s freeze gun. As they make their exit, the ship knocks over and shatters Flanders.
Sometimes, even the simplest-sounding inventions turn out to be as messed up as they come. The Butter-Passing Robot appears in “Something Ricked This Way Comes” (season one, episode nine, written by Mike McMahan and directed by John Rice). It seems like a handy little device. The Smith family sits around the dinner table, Jerry asks it to pass the butter and it does. That should be the end of it, but the scene won’t end without taking even that simple concept to a concerning extreme.
When you build an advanced artificial intelligence and use it to pass butter, it starts to wonder if that’s all their is. The robot asks Rick what its purpose is. Rick asks it to pass butter, which it happily does the first time. When it asks the question again and gets the same answer, its response is surprisingly heartbreaking for a tiny robot with so little screen time. It looks at its hands, contemplates existence and says, “oh my god.” To make matters worse, Rick isn’t at all sympathetic to the robot’s existential crisis. All he says is “Welcome to the club, pal” before moving on to the next thing. The show’s simplest invention has its saddest existence.
The standout gadget featured in “Rixty Minutes” (season one, episode eight, written by Tom Kauffman and Justin Roiland, and directed by Bryan Newton) was the inter-dimensional cable box. While that led to some of the episode’s funniest, strangest segments, the B-plot focused on another invention. While Rick and Morty are content to watch TV from across the multiverse, the rest of the family fights over the Inter-Dimensional Goggles. The device shows people what their lives could have been like had they made different choices.
Jerry and Beth find themselves leading successful lives as a filmmaker and doctor, respectively. They are also both single, having never been married. That’s how Beth learns that she was an unwanted pregnancy and her parents considered having an abortion. In most universes, they do. Summer decides to leave home, while Jerry and Beth almost split up after seeing how much better their lives apparently are without each other. The marriage is saved when the other universe reveals that alternate Jerry and Beth aren’t really happy without each other, despite their success. The turmoil the goggles cause just proves that there are some things you’re better off not knowing.
Which gadget do you think was the most messed up? Let us know in the comments!
- Nicholas Mangione
- rick and morty