“Season 5 was a weird one. We lost Mendel,” Roiland says, referring to line producer J. Michael Mendel, who died unexpectedly in 2019.
The show’s fifth season, which continued the adventures of the chaotic Rick and his perpetually traumatized grandson, Morty, put the spotlight on Evil Morty and his plan. As always, it featured a mixture of high-concept sci-fi, smart writing, and seriously dark humor.
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But even if the season largely lived up to the standards set by earlier seasons, Roiland still has mixed feelings about it owing to the circumstances of the show’s production.
“It was tough. We were thrown for a loop. That was…yeah. If I talk anymore, I’ll start crying,” Roiland says.
Now in its sixth season, which was confirmed to be releasing in September earlier this week, Rick and Morty has become known for its chaotic energy, quotable lines, and occasionally wild cultural moments. Originally a parody of sorts of Back to the Future, Rick and Morty has steadily grown into its own vast multiverse with a serialized storyline.
But for as much as it’s grown, Roiland continues to prefer Rick and Morty’s first and second seasons, which he owes to the “silliness and fun that was happening in the creative process.”
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Asked his five favorite episodes, Roiland ticks them off in no particular order: Total Rickall, the one where the family deals with memory parasites; Rixty Minutes, the first cable episode; Big Trouble in Little Sanchez, or the one with Tiny Rick; The Ricks Must Be Crazy, guest starring Stephen Colbert, and M. Night Shaym-Aliens, in which Rick, Morty, and Jerry get trapped in an alien simulation.
Roiland recalls these episodes as being akin to “Rubiks Cubes” that the team had to solve. He describes a scene where he, co-creator Dan Harmon, and the rest of the team would be gathered around a white board, exhausted, arguing over every possibility — “little things” like whether Jerry would lose his suit when the simulation went away .
Later seasons were a little more formalized, Roiland says, less likely to stray wildly. “We weren’t just going to rip it all up and throw it away and start over.”
The passing of Mike Mendel, who had previously worked on The Simpsons, The Critic, as well as Roiland’s Solar Opposites, was difficult and tragic for the Rick and Morty staff. Roiland wrote at the time“My friend, partner, and line producer Mike Mendel passed away. I am devastated. My heart breaks for his family. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you by my side Mike. I’m destroyed. “
Looking ahead to Rick and Morty’s sixth season, though, Roiland seems more optimistic.
“I will say that it’s a bit more canonical,” he explains, though he says there will also be good “point of entry” episode as well. “It really rewards fans of the show that have been watching up to this point…So it’s like, I think we’re kind of finally back into the rhythm of Rick and Morty, and I think Season 6 is… I didn’t particularly think Season 5 was bad, but Season 6 is f*cking amazing. It really is af*cking quality season.”
As for his relationship with co-creator Dan Harmon, whom he compared to Rick at one point, Roiland says, “It’s good.”
“I mean, look, we work very differently and I don’t like to work. His philosophy is perfection,” Roiland says.
Roiland himself is busy as ever, working on Hulu’s Solar Opposites and continuing to run his own game studio, which is current developing High On Life — an ambitious first-person shooter. Meanwhile, Rick and Morty Season 6 is slated for release September 4 on Adult Swim.
There’s lots more coverage from San Diego Comic-Con, which wrapped up last Sunday, including our list of SDCC’s winners and everything announced during the show.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a type? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.