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The most controversial Rick and Morty episode

A lot has happened on Rick and Morty. The unhinged genius Rick Sanchez has taken his paranoid grandson Morty Smith on dozens of galaxy-faring, alternate-dimension-hopping adventures — which have had varying degrees of success and all sorts of snafus spark up along the way — and the pair have engaged in more than their fair share of questionable antics. As a whole, the Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland-created animated series hasn't been contentious or divisive so much as it has been zany, unpredictable, and subversive. (It's no South Park or Family Guy when it comes to controversy, that's for certain.) However, that doesn't mean Rick and Morty hasn't caused any sort of controversy since debuting on Adult Swim in 2013. 

There's one episode of Rick and Morty that stands out as quite controversial — not because the episode as a whole commits a huge sin, but because it features a scene that left viewers shaken. The episode? "Meeseeks and Destroy," the fifth installment of Rick and Morty's very first season. Here's why it stands as the most controversial episode in Rick and Morty history. 

It's hard to unsee what happens on 'Meeseeks and Destroy'

Directed by Bryan Newton and written by Ryan Ridley, "Meeseeks and Destroy" is split into two plots, like the majority of Rick and Morty episodes are. The Smith-family-centric plot follows Morty's father Jerry (Chris Parnell), mother Beth (Sarah Chalke), and sister Summer (Spencer Grammer) as they utilize a device known as a Meeseeks Box, which Rick gives to them after much inquiry. When one pushes the button on the Meeseeks Box, a creature called Mr. Meeseeks will appear to complete the first order it's given, then will die when the task is done. Another identical Meeseeks will materialize for each subsequent order. Beth and Summer understand the rules — don't give an overly complex order to a Meeseeks, as it can't die without executing its order completely — but Jerry, as he's apt to do, complicates things. This resulted in a whole lot of chaos, and a plotline that many viewers found incredibly enjoyable. (Plus, it gave fans another Rick and Morty character to look forward to seeing in the future.)

Now, the Mr. Meeseeks aspect of "Meeseeks and Destroy" isn't what makes the episode controversial. It's what happens in the Rick-and-Morty-focused plot that does. 

That plot sees the duo embarking on an adventure of Morty's choosing, a deal they struck after suffering a harrowing experience killing villains in an alternate dimension. Morty thinks Rick's missions are far too dangerous, and ventures to prove that they can have a fun, straight-forward adventure that doesn't end in trauma. If Morty's mission goes off without a hitch, Rick is prepared to let him choose every 10th adventure they go on. If not, Morty has to sit down, shut up, and deal with Rick's choices without a single complaint. 

This leads Morty to take Rick on a Jack and the Beanstalk-style quest in a fantasy world, where Morty offers his and Rick's services as heroes. The citizens of the "terribly poor" village ask Rick and Morty to climb a beanstalk and confront a cloud-dwelling giant who has "untold treasures." Unfortunately for Morty (and for the giant), things don't go to plan. Rick and Morty end up killing the giant and are placed on trial for murder, but are thankfully released on a technicality (they weren't "read their giant rights"). The pair then stop into a tavern to celebrate, where the controversial moment happens: the thought-to-be-benevolent King Jellybean sexually assaults Morty in a bathroom stall. Morty fights him off, pleads Rick to take him home, and owns up to losing the bet. When Rick uses his gun to reopen the portal on their way out of the fantasy world, he shoots a laser through the portal to kill King Jellybean. 

Though Rick and Morty fans appreciated that King Jellybean got his just desserts in the end, they were shocked by what happened to Morty, calling the scene "surprisingly disturbing" and downright "horrifying."

Junkie Monkeys' William Manzo wrote in his review of the episode, "This episode's shock value is on a whole new level [...] There's one scene in particular in this episode that might be the darkest scene in the show to date (you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it). From watching the scene, and by reading comments on the episode, it seems everyone was shocked that it went that far." Manzo added, "I never liked Jellybeans, even as a kid, and I don't think this episode helped me like them."

Justin Roiland's statement about 'Meeseeks and Destroy'

The conversation about "Meeseeks and Destroy" grew so prominent that Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland eventually came forward to address the stomach-turning scene in question. 

In a lengthy Reddit post (via Junkie Monkeys), Roiland explained that viewers were "supposed to be shocked and absolutely hate this jellybean," and that he, Harmon, and Ridley "wrote it to be a serious scene." He also noted that he took extra care to "make sure this scene was not animated in a way that would play for laughs."

"It had to feel real and be horrific, weighty, and not cartoony [...] I really do have a lot of empathy for anyone who has had to or is dealing with anything seriously traumatizing. I'm a bleeding heart. But I also can sometimes have this strange disassociation from the reality of horrible things and that often comes out in my art. Sometime I get off on shocking/making people uncomfortable (see 'unbelievable tales' linked here somewhere) but I never intend to actually hurt or anger anyone," Roiland wrote in part. "But this scene was handled carefully and it was very important for the episode and the characters."

He added that he understands not everyone will have the same reaction to the shocking scene in "Meeseeks and Destroy," writing, "It's absolutely okay if someone found that scene uncomfortable and shocking. It was supposed to be. I'm not saying I think anybody who found it funny is a bad person, but that they maybe just have a much different perspective on the subject matter and probably (I assume) A LOT more distance from it."

Roiland then offered an apology to those who were reminded of trauma in their own lives while watching the episode, and noted that the Morty-King Jellybean scene was intended to be realistic: "For anyone that got 'triggered' by the scene, I am deeply sorry that you have had to live through whatever horrors would cause you to be triggered and if I could make this world a perfect place and undo any trauma you've experienced I would, but that scene was meant to be realistic and gritty and horrible. That was the point. This show is dark and may not be suitable for everyone. You are all entitled to your feelings and reactions."

To this day, the feelings most Rick and Morty fans have about the assault scene in "Meeseeks and Destroy" aren't good ones. Many messed-up things have happened on the series, but none quite as terrible or controversial as this.