Rick & Morty’s Hidden Nod To A Classic Stephen King Miniseries
Rick and Morty constantly references genre classics both famous and obscure, but did you catch the show’s nod to a classic Stephen King miniseries?
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Rick & Morty constantly references genre classics both famous and obscure, including a nod to the classic ’90s Stephen King miniseries The Langoliers in season 2. Debuting in 2013, Adult Swim’s raucous cartoon comedy Rick & Morty is the brainchild of Community creator Dan Harmon and voice actor/writer Justin Roiland, a madcap mashup of buddy comedy and sci-fi satire with a massive fanbase.
Beginning life as a filthy spoof of Back to the Future, Rick & Morty has since transformed into a smart, if still bawdy, sci-fi spoof whose family sitcom side has a surprising amount of depth and clever commentary. Despite growing more thoughtful, though, Rick & Morty has never abandoned its formative love of spoofing classic genre fare as evidenced by a subtle nod to Stephen King in one early episode.
Often Rick & Morty will reference classics from the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genre and remix elements of these stories for the show’s comedic purposes. On occasion, the show uses a recognizable classic sci-fi premise as the basis for entire episodes, like the dark “MCU meets Saw” superhero parody The Vindicators, or the Jurassic Park parody “Anatomy Park.” But sometimes Rick & Morty’s references are obscure and subtle enough to go over the head of many viewers, as was the case with season 2’s parody of a villain plucked from one of many ’90s miniseries based on the writing of IT creator Stephen King.
Released during a particularly prolific period for the famously unstoppable master of horror fiction King, The Langoliers was a trippy fusion of sci-fi and horror tropes which was adapted to the small screen in the ’90s. Following a group of airline passengers who become stranded in the fabric of the space-time continuum, the series sees this mismatched group pursued by the titular toothy monsters, faceless fanged pink things which eat up anything abandoned by time and left lingering in space. So, what does this have to do with Rick & Morty? Well, a closer look at the design of the bizarre, testicle-headed Time Cop in season 2’s “A Rickle In Time” illustrates that this character is pretty blatantly a Langolier from the infamously low-budgeted miniseries of the same name.
The Langoliers realized King’s monsters as reddish toothy things that oddly resembled fanged scrotums, an unintentionally hilarious appearance that Rick & Morty recreated for intentional laughs in this episode and the subsequent appearances of the Time Cop. Not only is the Time Cop similar in appearance to a Langolier, but the characters also both have the same purpose. Both control the forward flow of time through force, stopping anyone from screwing up reality by ensuring no one can slip between the cracks of time. Of course, this is the anarchic Rick & Morty, so the show’s version of a Langolier isn’t an insatiable unthinking force of destruction, but rather a beleaguered bureaucrat who is annoyed by Rick’s meddling with the space-time continuum and demands that he stop goofing around to no avail. It’s a clever twist on King’s original idea, with the novel’s depiction of time as a relentless force that can’t be bent or reasoned with being turned by Rick & Morty into just another order-enforcing enemy for Rick to torment and subvert with his chaotic scheming.