After this week’s “JuRicksic Mort,” Rick and Morty‘s sixth season won’t return until November 20. This unexpected hiatus marks the first time ever we’re glad Adult Swim is making us wait for new episodes. It gives us an opportunity to talk about something not many viewers seemed to have noticed: Rick and Morty is following up its worst season with one of the show’s best ever.
I’m not alone in thinking Rick and Morty‘s fifth season—while far from horrible—was disappointing. Its overall viewer score at some cumulative ratings sites has the season ranked as the series’ lowest. By some measures season five also features the four worst episodes ever. Season five also ended with a lore-dump finale that doubled as a narrative temper tantrum about viewers obsessed with Rick’s past and Evil Morty. The writers took years of great potential stories and jammed everything into a single episode meant to silence a vocal minority at the expense of the entire fanbase.
Regardless of how you felt about season five’s quality and how it ended, one thing is clear: something changed before season six. I’ve covered Rick and Morty professionally for years and loved it as a fan just as long. And while ratings are still good, I have never seen less shared interest in the series than I have this year. Season six trailers generated only a fraction of the excitement of past promos. And while premiere dates always felt like special events rife with anticipation, season six’s felt like a formality. Just another debut in an overcrowded TV landscape.
Some of that undoubtedly falls on Adult Swim. We only got season six’s first trailer in August, a month before the show debuted on a night House of the Dragon and Sunday Night Football also call home. And Rick and Morty‘s big Wormageddon event wasn’t interesting enough to warrant the effort needed to follow it.
But the show hasn’t really needed any sort of promotion to generate excitement in a long time, either. This is a series that had followers losing their minds for a fast food dipping sauce. All anyone ever really needed to get excited for the show was the date it came back. Announce that and a deluge of viewers, coverage, and fan interest would naturally follow until well after the season ended. Rick and Morty has been like a proverbial perpetual motion machine. Once Adult Swim turned it on, the show generated an unlimited supply of energy to keep running on its own.
That clearly hasn’t been the case during season six. The conversation around the show is a fraction of what it typically is. A new Rick and Morty episode aired used to result in a million Rick and Morty-related tweets, posts, memes, and praise. All of which has been noticeably muted through season six’s first six episodes so far.
And that’s a shame because season six has been phenomenal. This year opened with a fantastic lore-heavy story that rewarded longtime viewers, then followed that up with a spot-on self-contained Die Hard parody that was also incredibly smart, hilarious, and unexpectedly emotional. Since then the show has also delivered the kind of totally absurd installments only Rick and Morty can get away with. And those have led to some of the funniest moments in show history.
The wonderfully awkward incestuous relationship of “Bethic Twinstinct” led to the incredible, never-ending scene of Jerry taunting them in their bedroom. (Which was then followed by Morty and Summer bawling their eyes out.) Then somehow the sci-fi comedy gave us a legitimate horror episode so good it reminded us of Jordan Peele’s movies. Next came an absolutely bonkers story of fate-creating fortune cookies revolving around Jerry possibly having sex with his mother. And this week we got the funniest dinosaur story since Jurassic Park III. (Only Rick and Morty‘s flip-flopped tale of supremely enlightened dinos was intentionally hilarious.)
Season six has been smart, funny, clever, original, touching, and totally absurd. That’s the full range of the Rick and Morty experience and everything we’ve always loved about the show. In years past we’d all be talking about why this season is one of our favorites and why the show might be TV’s best. So why aren’t we?
This season has been too good and too well-written to think it’s a quality issue. So maybe it’s simply been a perfect storm of bad timing and bad luck. Adult Swim’s big promotional push was both late and a dud. The show has also had the misfortune of going up against both an HBO juggernaut and the NFL. And it’s dealing with the fallout of a disappointing fifth season. Maybe it’s only natural that excitement is muted, no matter how good season six has been. But that’s why this brief hiatus is strangely a welcome one.
Rick and Morty, as we’ve always know it, is back. After a small bump it’s delivering the type of stories and comedy we’ve come to expect from it. We just hope by the time season six returns everyone else will want to talk about why it’s still one of television’s best.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.