Rick & Morty: A Season 4 South Park Reference Compares Morty To Kenny
Rick & Morty is famous for featuring countless meta-references, but did you notice the show’s subtle nod to South Park in season 4?
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Rick & Morty is famous for featuring countless meta-references, but did you notice the show’s subtle nod to the fellow adult animated comedy hit South Park in season 4? Community creator Dan Harmon’s Adult Swim series Rick & Morty has evolved a lot since its humble beginnings as a Back to the Future riff. Now finished its fourth season, the show, which is beloved by its massive fanbase, has aired over forty episodes. It’s a combination of quick wit and zany sci-fi action that brings viewers back to the show, but Rick & Morty is also capable of some smart and subtle moments amongst the chaos. It’s not as peerlessly intelligent as some over-zealous fans have infamously claimed, but this season four Easter egg proves that Rick & Morty can be slyly smart in its humor.
Rick & Morty’s dark humor and fast pace may be what drew viewers in at first, but in recent seasons, the show’s complex overarching plots have led to no end of fan theories and speculation online, with Rick & Morty’s season 4 finale leaving a lot of questions open to speculation. Not every element of the show is so dense and complicated, though, as Rick & Morty still finds time for plenty of in-jokes than canny viewers can pick up, as seen in season four’s sneaky South Park reference. So when did the joke occur, and how was it subtle enough to fly over the heads of many viewers?
In season four’s aptly-titled “Vat of Acid Episode”, the dim-witted eponymous hero Morty must contend with the realization that he’s been killing off other alternate timelines’ Mortys to replace them, unbeknownst to himself. Now, the show’s multiple versions of its titular protagonists aren’t new to viewers, with some fans even theorizing that Evil Morty is Rick’s original Morty, but the gruesome reality of multiverse-hopping is news to Morty himself and causes no end of existential angst for the poor kid. As Morty realizes he has been dying and immediately being revived/replaced, his outfit starts to look a lot like that of another icon of adult animated comedy.
To underline Morty’s similarity to South Park’s Kenny McCormick, Rick & Morty dresses the character in Kenny’s trademark orange parka for one sequence of this episode. It’s a subtle, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to South Park’s often-killed character, but this sort of hard-to-spot in-joke is classic Rick & Morty. The show has been filled with all manner of obscure references since its inception, with this episode, in particular, being full of Easter Eggs. So it should come as no surprise to fans that Harmon’s hit series managed to slip this subtle joke in without many viewers noticing.
But the outfit gag is nonetheless a cute, clever reference, as ignoring continuity in favor of comedy value is one of many traits that Rick & Morty picked up from Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s beloved series (along with a tendency to troll its own fandom, too). It’s not new for Rick & Morty’s writers to disregard canon for the sake of a gag, with the writer’s room pulling this trick so often that some fans claim that nothing is canon in the show. But it’s always good to see the series credit its infamous inspiration.