'Rick and Morty' Story Circle: "Anatomy Park," Explained

Dan Harmon gives a lesson about story beats.

by Inverse Video

Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon uses what he calls the “story circle” to help him write compelling episodes of the hit sci-fi series. In an in-depth breakdown, he details each story beat the protagonist is supposed to hit in a story structure that follows the format of “The Hero’s Journey.” In Season 1, Episode 3 of Rick and Morty, the protagonist’s journey is categorized into eight parts.

Similarly to most episodes of Rick and Morty, more than one character is the hero of this episode. In “Anatomy Park,” the story circle not only follows the adventures of Morty, but also Jerry Smith’s Christmas arc.

What’s unique about Jerry’s story circle is that it’s further divided by the “quadrant method.” In other words, the normal circle is cut into four equal parts, adding overarching themes to the halves so that you end up with four unique sections of the story.

In this particular episode, the themes are “Good Christmas,” “Bad Christmas,” “Disconnected,” and “Connected.” As Jerry moves through the quadrants, they become “Disconnected Good Christmas, “Disconnected Bad Christmas,” “Connected Bad Christmas,” and “Connected Good Christmas.” (Don’t worry, we’ve included a diagram for you to follow below.)

Jerry's four-quadrant story circle. 

Jerry starts in the “Disconnected Good Christmas” quadrant. He’s having a good time in his comfort zone, but his family is failing to engage in his Yuletide merriment like he wants them too. Things become complicated when his parents come over and bring their new lover with them. At this point, Jerry doesn’t know why this strange man is with his parents, but he still enters an unfamiliar situation, therefore moving into the next quadrant: “Disconnected Bad Christmas.”

He tries to adapt to the new situation — knowing his parents are in a thruple” — but has a difficult time adjusting to the news, especially on Christmas. Still, Jerry ends up getting what he wants when his family puts away their devices and start connecting with each other. Unfortunately, this further alienates him from the rest of the group, meaning he pays a heavy price in “Connected Bad Christmas,” the third quadrant.

Adult Swim

It’s at this point that the main story of the episode, Morty’s adventures at a failing amusement park inside of a dying or dead vagabond, overlaps with Jerry’s story, forcing a return to the familiar. It starts raining blood, and when it does, the whole family is pushed back together, allowing Jerry to quickly put aside his earlier hangups and just enjoy the family he has. Jerry has changed in his final, ideal quadrant of a “Connected Good Christmas.”

We’ll chalk this episode up as yet another win for Harmon and his team.

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