(Photo Manipulation by Ari Segal)

Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.

Season seven of “Rick and Morty” premiered on Oct. 15, featuring new voice actors for the show’s two main characters. Justin Roiland, the show’s creator, voiced both Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith but was forced to step away from the show after facing allegations of sexual assault. Nonetheless, the writers did not skip a beat, packing the first episode with typical “Rick and Morty” absurdity.

The premier is a part of the ten-episode season set to be released weekly on Adult Swim every Sunday at 11 p.m., with the finale airing on Dec. 17. The first episode earned a mediocre 57% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Possibly the most anticipated aspects of the new season are the new voices for the show’s titular characters. Ian Cardoni and Harry Belden brought renewed gusto to the characters of Rick and Morty, respectively. However, interactions between the two are hardly the focal point of the opening episode that brings back trademark roles such as Birdperson (Dan Harmon), Squanchy (Tom Kenny) and Gearhead (Scott Chernoff) and takes the viewer through a number of surreal dimensions. Morty does not have more than one or two lines in the entire episode, as it is largely focused on Rick and his familiar rogue gallery of friends.

The biggest wild card of the episode is the fact that it centers around Mr. Poopybutthole (John Allen), a goofy side character. Nonetheless, the writers crafted a vivid, although somewhat disorganized, night of debauchery in which Rick and his old crew fail at staging an intervention for the character. Following a post-credits scene at the end of season six in which weights crush a ripped Mr. Poopybutthole after revealing that his wife and child have left him, the opening scene of season seven reveals that his downward trajectory has continued, pushing him to alcoholism. The episode also features a cameo of Hugh Jackman, characterized as an egomaniacal party animal who fits in nicely with Rick and his crew.

The inclusion of what could be considered the “core” cast of side characters feels like a deliberate attempt by the writers to ensure that even with a new voice actor, viewers feel at home with the new Rick. To be honest, I hardly noticed the new voice after the first few minutes. If anything, it felt a bit more energetic than Roiland’s.

The Smith family, including Morty, is barely featured, possibly setting up a corresponding episode focusing on Morty and his new voice actor. I am curious to see how the Smith family dynamic will evolve, following the close of a tumultuous chapter in season six involving “Space Beth,” the clone Rick created of Beth Smith (Sarah Chalke).

The focus on Rick in the pilot raised questions about the status of the rest of the cast. Will the show continue to focus on Beth and Jerry Smith (Chris Parnell) and their awkward yet fitting relationship? Maybe to fill the void in the Smith family drama, we will finally see Summer Smith (Spencer Grammer) have some semblance of character growth. Perhaps the most intriguing question is whether Morty will continue to take issue with Rick’s domineering narcissism, a theme which has revealed Morty’s growing agency within the pair’s dynamic in later seasons.

The premiere also references the most dramatic plotline left unfinished by the last season: the search for the killer of Rick’s wife, Diane Sanchez (Kari Wahlgren). Though only vaguely referenced in sarcastic comments directed at Morty, the writers let us know that Rick is still embroiled in the search for the interdimensional Rick who took the original Rick’s only chance at a normal life away from him — confusing, isn’t it? For those who aren’t familiar, Rick has been searching for the man who murdered his wife over the course of the entire show, though this plotline became the focus at the end of season six; the man who Rick is searching for just so happens to be a Rick from another dimension.

In short, the opening episode of season seven provides us with nothing less than a messy, colorful adventure between Rick and a cluttered cast of characters. While toeing the line between zany and outright bizarre, there is enough of a plot to keep the viewer engaged. Besides, it is always entertaining to catch up with some of the show’s best side characters. I look forward to finding out what the writers have in store for Morty and the rest of the cast.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, you can access Emory’s Title IX resources at 404-727-0541 or https://equityandcompliance.emory.edu/title-ix/index.html and the Office of Respect at https://respect.emory.edu/ or their hotline 24/7 at (470) 270-5360. You can reach the RAINN National Sexual Assault hotline 24/7 at (800) 656-4673 or https://hotline.rainn.org/online. You can reach the Atlanta Grady Rape Crisis Center crisis hotline 24/7  at (404) 616-4861 or gradyrapecrisiscenter@gmh.edu and the Decatur Day League Sexual Assault Care and Prevention crisis hotline 24/7 at (404) 377-1428.

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