WARNING: The article contains spoilers for the Rick and Morty Season 4 premiere, which aired on Adult Swim on Sun, Nov. 10.
Since 2013, fans of Adult Swim's Rick and Morty have witnessed a very one-sided, frequently abusive relationship between the titular characters. Rick, a genius scientist with no moral code, often yanks his innocent and desperately-craving-approval grandson Morty all around the galaxy for a series of quests that often endanger them, as well as the cosmos.
But while their unhealthy dynamic has caused Morty a lot of mental issues, Season 4 makes a big change to the way they interact with each other, and it's one that appears to be for the better, even if it's a little disturbing.
As the premiere, "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat," commences, the Smiths are eating breakfast, attempting to be normal for once. Summer's harassing Morty for stalking his crush, Jessica, online while Beth and Jerry try to prove that their marriage is working. When they try to converse with Rick, though, he reveals he's got a microchip implanted which puts him in autopilot mode, with automated and generic responses.
But as soon as he comes to, Rick grabs Morty and pulls him away from the table for one of their signature adventures: Recovering Death Crystals from Forbodulon Prime to sell so people can see how their present choices influence the various ways they can die. However, Beth stops the duo dead in their tracks, making it clear things have changed since last season. "Dad, there's a way we do this now," she reminds Rick, which gets a sarcastic response. "Would you please accompany me to Forbodulon Prime for Death Crystals?" Rick condescendingly remarks in a singsong voice, annoyed by his daughter's request.
"Well, thank you for asking. Yes, I will do that!" an aloof Morty responds, not realizing what's going on here. They then bolt out and arrive at the planet, with Rick incensed he has to ask for permission from now on. When they start to dig the crystals out, he also asks for Morty's aid, even saying "please." This surprises Morty, who can't tell if the narcissist in Rick has come around, or if his ego's running high, and he's continuing to be rude to his grandson. Nonetheless, boundaries have been set and Morty's loving every second of it.
Another big change to their dynamic comes when Morty steals a crystal for himself and tries to fly their ship home so he could die old in the arms of Jessica. Rick admonishes him as he's becoming a slave to the crystal, losing freedom of choice and the fracas results in the vessel crashing. Rick is flung through the window and impaled on a rock. Morty doesn't follow his hologram's rules to clone him back to life, instead opting to return home and follow choices that'll lead to Jessica at his bedside death.
Morty -- now a full slave to the crystal -- eventually runs into a bully at school and with an after-school fight looming, he levels up using Rick's arsenal. Morty's found to be an expert using the tech like never before. He's always messed up wielding his grandfather's weapons, but here, it seems Morty's been training in between seasons. He uses jet packs, the Meeseeks boxes, gravity grenades, slime launchers, shrink rays and even melts cops and soldiers down to goo, coming off like the one-man army Rick always hoped he would become.
Once he's freed -- manipulating the judge just like Rick taught him -- Morty turns into a giant monster, only to be saved by a reborn Rick from another dimension. They destroy the crystal and the holographic Rick who became corrupted by it, vowing to work on bettering their relationship for real, since it's healthy for both of them. They promise to still go on classic adventures, but they'll mix it up by sometimes just chilling at home before going back on extreme missions. Rick finally respects Morty and Morty finally accepts Rick's flaws, and so, by appreciating each other, it seems we've finally seen the pair become the dynamic duo we knew they could be all along.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sundays at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.