The long wait for confirmation of Rick and Morty season 4 was somewhat baffling, since it came in the wake of the show’s season 3 finale delivering the highest ratings in Adult Swim’s history. Earlier this year co-creator Dan Harmon cited “contract negotiations” as the reason for the delay, and now that the show’s been officially renewed, we have a clearer picture of why the announcement took so long. Rick and Morty hasn’t just been given the green light for another season - it’s been given the green light for 70 more episodes!
Rick and Morty usually has 10 episodes per season, and if things stay that way then this deal means another seven seasons just got the go-ahead in one swoop - something that’s virtually unheard-of in television. In light of this revelation, Harmon’s comments about the contract negotiations being "unprecedented" make a lot of sense, since a deal this massive is a lot more complex than a simple season 4 renewal would have been.
In an Instagram video celebrating the news, series co-creator and voice actor Justin Roiland pops up in Harmon’s shower and says that they need to get back to work - music to the ears of impatient Rick and Morty fans. However, while it would be nice to think that the 70-episode order means that the season 4 delay is over, we may not be able to take that for granted. Rick and Morty episodes take a long time to make, with a sixteen month gap between the first and second seasons, and a full two years between the second and third. It’s been a mere seven months since the season 3 finale, so we could well be looking at a wait of a year or more for more episodes.
One possibility worth considering is that the new deal has been designed in such a way as to minimize the wait between seasons - for example, having just six or seven episodes per season, with a new season every year. But Rick and Morty’s seasons are already quite short for an American TV show, so things could also go the other way; those 70 episodes could actually be spread over just three or four seasons.
The massive number of episodes ordered also raises questions about the time frame within which Adult Swim expects the episodes to be delivered. Assuming a schedule and season length in line with season 3, another 70 episodes could take 14 years to air - and who even knows if the Rick and Morty hype will still be alive in 2032? By that point someone may have invented a portal gun for real, which might take the shine off the show. So, impatient Rick and Morty fans may be praying that Harmon and Roiland’s new contract includes stricter deadlines for episodes.
However, that would not necessarily be a good thing. After constant haranguing over the season 3 delay, Harmon explained that the reason for the delay was as simple as he and Roiland wanting to ensure the new episodes were as good as they could possibly be - an approach that clearly paid off. With that in mind, fans might be better off relaxing and taking in other entertainment until the boys return.