Justin Roiland’s swift dismissal from Rick and Morty (as well as the rest of his multimedia empire) earlier this year immediately raised questions about whether the series might be in jeopardy. Fans / aspiring voice actors were all too ready to burp out their best “oh, geez,” and Adult Swim assured everyone that it had a plan. But it was hard to imagine the show continuing without the voice behind its titular duo and so many other of its messed-up weirdos.
In the months since Warner Bros. Discovery / Adult Swim announced Rick and Morty would absolutely be returning, details about Roiland’s replacements — plural — were kept quiet, which made it impossible to know what to expect. But as concerned as longtime loyalists of Rick and Morty might have been about the show falling off post-Roiland, the show’s season 7 premiere should put those fears to rest.
Rick and Morty’s last season ended with a grotesque snap as an uncharacteristically jacked Mr. Poopybutthole broke both of his legs attempting to squat enough weight to distract him from the pain of being left by his ex-wife. At the time, Mr. Poopybutthole’s post-credits accident seemed like a depressing throwaway gag bolted onto a season of plots involving Rick begrudgingly accepting the truth about loving his family. But rather than leaving Mr. Poopybutthole to languish off-camera, Rick and Morty’s season 7 premiere puts him front and center as part of an addiction-focused story that, at times, feels a bit like the show acknowledging the problems from its past that it’s trying to leave behind.
Though Mr. Poopybutthole’s straight-to-camera catch-up in the opening scene of “How Poopy Got His Poop Back” provides some insight into what the Smith family’s been up to since we last saw them, it’s also the show’s way of establishing how little Rick and Morty’s changed now that new actors have joined the cast. As always, it falls to Summer (Spencer Grammer) and the two Beths (Sarah Chalke) to clean up everyone’s messes while Jerry (Chris Parnell) does everything he can to help, which only makes matters worse.
Even with the emotional maturing Rick’s gone through, he still has a hard time dealing with people he sees as his intellectual lessers, and Morty knows that a lot of his grandfather’s act is just a front. Almost everything about the cold open of “How Poopy Got His Poop Back” — especially the voices of Rick, Morty, and Mr. PB — screams classic Rick and Morty, and what’s kind of wild about the premiere is how people used to having the show on in the background might initially be unsure whether they’re watching a new episode or a rerun.
Much of that is due to the skills of the new voice actors (whose names were removed from press screeners, and Adult Swim declined to share for review purposes) as more than capable voiceover artists who step into their roles seamlessly with performances that make it sound as if Rick and Morty have cleared their throats and taken to enunciating a bit more clearly. But it’s also a testament to Rick and Morty’s writing staff being in rare form as they open the season with a story that feels like it’s simultaneously trying to address the elephant in the room and show viewers that very little about how the show plays has really changed.
“How Poopy Got His Poop Back” doesn’t explicitly address the fact that Mr. Poopybutthole, like all of the Rick and Morty characters Roiland used to voice, sounds ever so slightly different than he used to. In its focus on addiction and people dealing with the consequences of their own (and their friends’) habitual poor impulse control, though, it feels like the episode’s trying to make a point about the dangers of enabling people to be their worst selves.
That concept carries quite a bit of weight, especially on a show with Rick and Morty’s past. But as self-aware as this season feels, there’s very little in the two episodes we’ve seen to suggest that the show’s lost any of its nihilistic edge or its ability to temper that same edge with absurdist, gross-out humor.