WARNING: The article contains spoilers for the Rick and Morty Season 4 premiere.
Rick and Morty is back, and just as good as ever when it comes to combining classic science fiction homages with unpredictable creative twists. One of the major tributes in the Rick and Morty Season 4 premiere is immediately apparent from the episode's title, "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat." That's, of course, clear reference to Edge of Tomorrow: Live Die Repeat, the 2014 Tom Cruise movie based on the Japanese sci-fi novel All You Need is Kill.
"Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat" has two main story threads, one focused on Rick and the other on Morty. The Rick storyline holds the greater resemblance to Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need is Kill, utilizing a similar premise of Rick dying and being resurrected over and over again. Unlike in Edge of Tomorrow, where the hero always comes back to the same point in time, Rick's deaths and resurrections send him between wildly different parallel universes, most of which happen to be fascist dystopias in what can be read as a satirical commentary on the more toxic side of the Rick and Morty fandom.
Morty's storyline starts off as sort of an anti-Edge of Tomorrow, all about him controlling the circumstances of his death using a Death Crystal, but it evolves into a parody of another famous Japanese sci-fi story: Akira, the manga and anime from writer/director Katsuhiro Otomo. After Morty turns against Rick in pursuit of achieving his perfect death of old age with his crush Jessica, he utilizes Rick's technology to go on a psychic rampage, reminiscent of Tetsuo going mad with power after turning against Kaneda. Eventually he finds himself transforming into a giant disgusting monster in a scene practically identical to Tetsuo's transformation at the climax of the Akira anime.
Similar to the use of "Cronenberg" as an adjective in Season 1's "Rick Potion #9," part of the joke is how everyone is in on using Akira as a universal point of reference. The cops describe Morty's rampage as an "Akira-type situation," and the TV news ticker describes Morty as an "Akira boy." Even Jerry, the character you'd expect to be the least savvy to cult movie references, is talking about his son going Akira. Towards the end of the episode, after Rick's returned to life in this dimension and Morty's back to his normal self, Jerry angrily threatens Rick "I don't want to see any more anime stuff happening to my son." Rick, of course, brushes the warning off, freaking out Jerry with a lie about his finger having AIDS.
Judging from the announced episode titles, we can potentially expect homages to The Old Man and the Sea, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Battlestar Galactica in future episodes this season.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sundays at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.