'Rick and Morty' Story Circle: "Lawnmower Dog," Explained
How closely does Dan Harmon stick to his eight-part story structure?
Rick and Morty has generated a cult following for its bizarro, high-concept adventures. And while its episodes are seemingly totally unpredictable, each one actually follows the same formula. It’s a brilliant execution of a story circle based on “The Hero’s Journey” by creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. The eight-party story structure played an integral role in one of Rick and Morty’s most beloved episodes from Season 1: “Lawnmower Dog.”
Unlike most episodes, wherein Rick or Morty — usually Morty — carries the burden of being the main hero, in “Lawnmower Dog,” it’s Snuffles, the Smith family’s pet pooch. He is the only character in this episode to hit all eight stops along the hero’s journey.
First, the hero starts in his comfort zone. Snuffles is first introduced at home, being a dog (as they do), which is actually much lower than the comfort zones of most humans. And in the narrative, lower expectations usually promise a higher reward.
Then, Snuffles wants something he can’t get. The humans around him can’t directly understand him at the beginning of the episode, but that ends up being exactly what he wants: to understand humans and to be understood himself. After Rick gives Snuffles increased intelligence and the ability to communicate, he enters an unfamiliar situation. He can now communicate with humans and is given the ability to focus his thoughts.
Snuffles adapts to these new abilities remarkably well and is soon able to create a hyper-intelligent robot dog army while subsequently getting what he’s later proven to want: control over the entire world. Not bad for a little pup.
However, the next step in the story circle is waiting for him, and he soon pays a heavy price when he bankrupts his empire to try to save his beloved friend Morty. That part ultimately turns out to be a dream, but still; when Snuffles wakes up (thereby returning to the familiar, or, relatively familiar), he has changed. He decides to let humanity live while the new dog nation finds a home on another planet, thus completing his journey.
Just one more reason to love this bananas series.
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