The recently completed fourth season of Rick and Morty has left fans with mixed feelings because of what was revealed and what was left unsaid in terms of the show's larger narrative, regarding Evil Morty's story, who the true clone of Beth is, and more. In a season full of wildly ambitious and at times muddled narratives, the Vat of Acid episode is seen as a standout, where Rick invents a device for Morty to go back in time repeatedly to correct past mistakes.
In a recent interview, creators of the show Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon talk about the episode, which they have submitted for an Emmy consideration. According to Roiland, video games were the main inspiration behind the episode's central premise.
"We loved the idea of getting caught in a loop of death. If you've ever played a video game before and you're fighting a really difficult boss and your health is super low and you're gonna die, you pause the game, you really quickly go to load your previous save and start over - but you accidentally hit save instead of load and now you're in this death loop where you've got one little health heart and you're in the middle of a boss fight, so you just keep dying. And that was what we always thought was going to happen with the place-saving device."
"But it was also the thing that prevented us from really cracking that story because we would get to that part and go, "OK, well then what happens?" There wasn't any bigger, deeper sort of narrative going on, it was more conceptual. But we'd been talking about it since Season 1 and we would always come back to it in the writers' room and try to figure it out."
As it turned out, the other major part of the equation that had been missing in earlier attempts by the writers to include the 'reset button' premise, was introduced by what became the episode's major narrative arc: the struggle between Rick and Morty in getting the other to respect their creative ideas. For Dan Harmon, this struggle between the characters is a reflection of the struggle that goes on between writers working together on a story idea, symbolized by the 'Vat of acid' premise.
"At the beginning of the year, we were talking about how '80s movies had this obsession with vats of toxic waste and acid and whether that was a cultural thing because of people's awareness of nuclear waste and why that became such a handy story tool. And our writer Brandon Johnson said, "I think it's a budget thing, because all you gotta do is drop a bad guy into a bucket of water and float some bones up to the surface and you're done."And that became, what if Rick was really proud of that idea and is defensive because Morty is absolutely confused by the genius of the vat of acid plan from a guy who can accomplish so much more."
"And that came into a conversation that creatives are familiar with, where two collaborators are venting their fears and anxieties about working with each other and who is respecting whose ideas more. If Morty's point is his ideas are never respected when clearly there are no wrong answers around here, then it was, well what should Morty's big idea be that he's always been mad Rick hasn't respect? And we pulled out one that we've always had that we've never been able to really tackle and that was the place-saving device."
These fresh quotes were first served hot on The Wrap.