Why This Rick And Morty Episode Nearly Broke The Writers

Creatives tend to be very critical towards their own work. A viewer might look at a movie or TV episode and think it's a work of brilliance, but the writer/producer/director might only see the flaws present or the intent that never made it to the screen. Hence, one of the absolute fan-favorite episodes of Adult Swim's phenomenally popular animated sci-fi comedy "Rick and Morty" was considered to be a dog by the time it aired.

What would drive the creators of the show so crazy that they couldn't see why people would like the episode? Let's dive in and find out!

"It broke us to a certain extent."

The premiere episode of "Rick and Morty" season 2 titled "A Rickle in Time" (a takeoff on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 YA novel "A Wrinkle in Time," later turned into an unsuccessful Disney movie) could not have had a rougher ride from conception to completion. Right from the jump, co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon were as unaligned as Rick, Summer, and Morty's timelines in the episode that picks up where season 1 left off, namely Rick having stopped time for six months so the three of them could clean up the family house after a party. Roiland thought playing with the repercussions of freezing time was a natural way to begin the new season, but the other writers wanted to only make it the cold open and move on. Harmon, meanwhile, thought about tripling down on the idea and making the entire season take place in frozen time. Ultimately the idea played out over the entire single episode.

Roiland stated to Rolling Stone in 2015 before the premiere aired that the episode "was just brutal and it broke us to a certain extent. We were so close to something amazing and we never really got there from a structural standpoint."

Harmon agreed, stating: "It went off the deep end conceptually and got really over-complicated. We're pretty convinced the first episode might be the worst for that reason." 

Part of honing the story involved changing the underlying drama between the characters from pure chaos to the concept of uncertainty, not to mention the emotional damage Rick's verbal abuse has on the kids. Summer's role was also significantly reduced or ported over to Morty. The B-story also underwent changes in the writing process, with the original Jerry/Beth plot involving them being dropped off by Rick on a remote island ala "Lost" and making fun of event television tropes. Another idea had the married couple experiencing repetitions in time due to Rick's machinations, but this was ultimately scrapped in favor of an unrelated B-story about Jerry and Beth trying to save a deer's life. The lack of integration proved disappointing to Roiland, as funny as it wound up being. 

A Pyrrhic Victory?

In the episode, Rick and the kids are not supposed to touch anyone for fear of knocking the whole fabric of time out of alignment, but a squabble between the two siblings causes the space they occupy in the universe to split into two concurrent limbo realms, represented by a squiggly line splitting up two horizontal split-screens. Director Wes Archer of "The Simpsons" fame went through many different iterations of storyboards for the episode just trying to figure out the best way to represent the time rifts onscreen, which in some cases involve the same actions performed with subtle variations by the characters in each alternate split-screen. 

Roiland explained the problems to Animation World Network

"It was brutal to board and animate just because of the multiple screens. They kept having Toon Boom crash on them constantly just because it had so many elements going on at once. Every season we've had an episode where we had to go and pop the hood on it in animatic. In season one, it was the Meeseeks episode. In season two, to a much greater degree we popped the hood open on 2.01 and this was after Wes had already boarded it with his team. They were able to reuse a lot, but they had to go in and re-board a bunch of stuff and they were troopers the whole way through. Never once did they complain."

All of these production issues resulted in the entirety of season 2 being delayed, which was not helped by the fact that Harmon was preoccupied with "Community" season 6 at the same time. Even the finished season 2 premiere wound up getting leaked online prior to airing, but the piracy didn't hurt ratings with 2.12 million viewers, making it the highest-rated show the night it aired on July 26, 2015. The episode, which featured comedy partners Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as testicle monsters modeled after time eaters from "Stephen King's The Langoliers," was critically acclaimed as well and has earned its place as one fo the great "Rick and Morty" episodes, despite the hardship the creators had to endure.