And yet the show hasn't actually been announced as returning for a fourth season. This isn't completely out of the ordinary for Adult Swim, a network known for its unorthodox production methods. A few eyebrows were raised when writer Ryan Ridley suggested season 4 may not come until late 2019, and that there may be issues between the series' creators and the network. And while that long of a layover between seasons is not something fans want to hear, it again has some precedent, as there was a nearly two-year gap between seasons 2 and 3.
But alarms are likely going to sound over the latest bit of news, via a slightly unusual source. As he sometimes tends to do, Dan Harmon was taking a rude fan to task on Twitter when he seemingly let slip that the show has not received an order from Adult Swim for a fourth season.
I hear ya, tough spot. On one hand, it can be challenging, especially with crippling lazy alcoholism, to write a show that hasn’t been ordered by a network. On the other hand, the thought that fans like you pay the price...I mean...I’m gonna grab a drink https://t.co/mvn9nthxCE— Dan Harmon (@danharmon) March 17, 2018
It's entirely possible this isn't a reason for concern; Adult Swim has a reputation as a particularly creator-friendly network. The show's other high concept, critically acclaimed series The Venture Bros. has produced just 6 seasons over its 15-year run. Rick And Morty is a complicated show to make at virtually every level of production, featuring incredibly complicated writing and the most polished animation of any show on Adult Swim. It's possible the lack of an official renewal for Rick and Morty season 4 is just a formality for when Harmon and Roiland have a firmer grasp on what they want Rick and Morty season 4 to look like.
That said, Adult Swim's unusual management style has occasionally resulted in some shock cancellations. Longtime network staples like Metalocalypse and Aqua Teen Hunger Force were ended against the wishes of their creators, despite the fact they were relatively cheap productions with incredibly loyal fanbases. That said, Rick And Morty's cancellation would be several degrees more shocking than either of those, as it's the most culturally significant series the network has boasted since the early days of Aqua Teen.
Perhaps more realistic - and ominous - is that Harmon and Roiland are approaching something of a creative burnout. A notoriously mercurial showrunner, Harmon infamously self-destructed at the tail end of his last series' third season, Community, under mounting budgetary and deadline issues. A very public feud with star Chevy Chase likely did him in no favors. Harmon has spoken candidly about both his personal and professional shortcomings and how difficult a show Rick And Morty is to produce. Launching into Rick and Morty season 4 so soon might just be too intensive of a timeline for him right now.
Perhaps feeding into the theory of a creative burnout is the fact that both Harmon and Roiland were taken aback by their own fanbase. In the wake of McDonalds' admitted bungling of their original Szechuan sauce promotion, what had long been a quietly simmering aspect of Rick And Morty's narrative boiled over, as the show's fandom showed its nasty, mean-spirited underbelly. It's hard to believe that Harmon and Roiland would actually end the show because a portion of their fanbase is repulsive, but it would be understandable if they needed a moment to take a step back and reassess what created such a toxic strain of devotee.
It seems highly improbable we've seen the last of Rick And Morty. It's Adult Swim's biggest hit, and Harmon and Roiland have spoken of their healthy relationship with the network. But it's hard not to question what exactly is going on as a formal confirmation for Rick and Morty season 4 remains elusive.