If there's one thing the Peak TV era has taught fans of shows like Westworld, Game of Thrones, Atlanta, and Stranger Things, it's that high-quality television takes time. All of these series have had lengthy breaks between seasons that tested the patience of their biggest fans.
But none of those shows, not even Thrones, made fans wait as long as Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim animated series that has been gone for more than two years. The show's fourth season begins Sunday night, the first of only five episodes that will air this year. The second half of the season is expected to air sometime in 2020.
Co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have apologized for the long delay in a variety of ways, saying it won't happen again now that the show's landmark 70 episode renewal is firmly in place.
Despite the delay, there's very little danger that fans will have forgotten the show or treat its return with indifference. The show's creative team has been consistently keeping the rabid fan base engaged with social-media sneak peaks, games, commercials and other content that's kept Rick and Morty in the spotlight since the last of its only 31 episodes aired in October 2017.
Here are some of the things that Roiland, Harmon, and their crew have been doing to help keep the flame alive:
Social media. Rick and Morty had already dabbled with creating websites such as Galactic Federation before the hiatus. In between new episodes, the team kept a steady stream of teasers and news coming, particularly on its Instagram account for Rick and Morty and on Roiland's Twitter account.
There hasn't been anything quite as ambitious as the Instagram “Rickstaverse" project from 2015, but it wouldn't be surprising if Sunday's premiere became available early, which has happened before, on one of the show's social-media channels.
One of the show's promotions this year was to insert a fan as a character into Season 4.
🚨@RickandMorty is introducing a new character this season🚨— Prizeo (@Prizeo) July 10, 2019
Enter to win an opportunity to be drawn into a future Rick and Morty episode and hang out with creators #DanHarmon and @JustinRoiland in LA!
Enter here: https://t.co/cDaZ2K7tcO pic.twitter.com/ayqAdSMwUS
Bonus episodes. Before Season Three was even over, Rick and Morty concurrently released 16 so-called Claymation “Non-Canonical Adventures," mostly parodying 1980s movies. They're still a great way to pass the time if you haven't seen them.
Rick and Morty also starred in a music video from Run the Jewels, released in March 2018:
On April Fool's Day 2018, Adult Swim released an 11-minute episode called Bushworld Adventures created by Australian animator Michael Cusack. It's… uh…. very Australian.
There's also a whole collection of extra animation, including deleted scenes, fan-made clips, music videos, and promos over on YouTube.
Most recently, Rick and Morty appeared in a commercial for the new videogame Death Stranding:
Games. One of Roiland's side gigs is a company he launched called Squanch Games. During the hiatus, Squanch has shown off three games, including Trover Saves the Universe, Dr. Splorchy Presents: Space Heroes and Smith & Smitherson Accounting, which could not sound more like Rick and Morty-adjacent games if they tried.
Perhaps the biggest way Rick and Morty has stayed in everyone's face for the last two years has been the mountains of merchandise the show has inspired, from Loot Crate's box of show merch to Pickle Rick t-shirts to lots and lots of comic books.
But to fully appreciate the reach of Rick and Morty beyond television, you probably have to behold the Rickmobile, which for the last two years has been crisscrossing the country, drawing lines of fans who want to buy spaceship models and Morty pins. The Rickmobile has its own Instagram account, where you can see photos of what's for sale at these stops.
The Rickmobile appears to be winding down its appearances for 2019, but you can bet it'll be back on the road once the new run of episodes have come and gone.
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Omar L. Gallaga is a longtime technology and culture writer with bylines in The Wall Street Journal, NPR's All Tech Considered blog, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, CNN and the beloved TV websites Television Without Pity and Previously.tv. He's a former newspaper journalist who now lives in New Braunfels, Texas. You can find him on Twitter @OmarG.