Despite what many of us wanted, Adult Swim didn't reveal any kind of release date for the second half of Rick and Morty Season 4 during the Super Bowl last month. Now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems increasingly more likely that Episode 6 might be delayed.
But what's the reality of the situation? When will Rick and Morty Season 4 Episode 6 finally release?
"Rattlestar Ricklactica" was ostensibly the Rick and Morty Season 4 mid-season finale, and it aired December 15, 2019. The following day, the show's official Twitter account shared confirmation that "Season 4 would return in 2020." To be clear, this remains the only official word from Adult Swim about when Episode 6 might air, and there's no reason to believe that anything has changed.
Just because there's no official word as to when Episode 6 might air doesn't mean that Rick and Morty is delayed. If anything, Season 4 is in the final stages and Season 5 production could be interrupted somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the show's directors, Erica Hayes, previously told Inverse that most of the show's art department has access to the same technological resources at home, so remote work seems feasible.
Adult Swim infrequently shares random Rick and Morty-themed animated commercials over social media, like one released on March 18 or a 20-second clip on March 21 (included above) using an iconic scene from the show to illustrate how long people should be washing their hands for.
Each time something like this happens, the comments and replies are littered with fans demanding more episodes. Rest assured, the team behind Rick and Morty is fast at work on more episodes, but producing complex animated television is a time-consuming process.
Adult Swim won't announce anything until it's official, so what do we really know? Here's a speculative deep dive.
By all accounts, it seems like the production on most of Season 4 was entering the final stages by early 2020, but that doesn't mean we should expect the final episodes to begin anytime soon. Adult Swim will in all likelihood air each of the remaining five episodes in Season 4 weekly, so for that schedule to begin, all 10 episodes need to be totally finished.
Series co-creator Dan Harmon confirmed in a July 2019 interview that the team had begun "writing Season 5 while finishing Season 4," so the writing for the back half of Season 4 definitely done. Summer Smith voice actress Spencer Grammer confirmed in November that she'd recently finished recording her lines for all of Season 4, so excluding any rewriting and re-recording later in the process, most voice recordings should also be complete.
The final stage in production is animation, which is done by Bardel Entertainment. We know that stage in the process began for Episode 1 in January 2019, based on an image shared by Bardel's Eric Bofa Nfon.
Consider this: That first episode then aired on November 10, 2019, which essentially means that it takes about nine months from the start of animating to when it airs on TV.
Realistically, animation probably didn't begin on Episode 10 until November (After Grammer finishing recording her lines.) Assuming the timeline remains consistent, the final episode won't air until sometime in August 2020. If we unpack what all of this means, then the absolute best-case scenario would be that Episode 6 would air in late July and the remaining five episodes would finish airing by the end of August. And that was probably always the plan. Most of Season 3 aired from late July to early October in 2017, so it makes a lot of sense that Season 4 might follow a similar airing schedule.
“I think it’s safe to say without fear of being wrong that the gap between Seasons 3 and 4 will be the longest and last time that it’s ever so long that it’s ridiculous,” Dan Harmon said in a July interview about the gaps between future seasons. “I don’t know how fast we can do it, but I know it will never be this long again.”
Most of Rick and Morty's production team probably moved seamlessly into Season 5 some time ago, but from what we've heard from director Erica Hayes, a single episode takes anywhere between 9 and 12 months to create from ideation to completion. As always, patience is vital. It's not easy to make an Emmy-award-winning animated series, and it's better to take the time to do it right rather than rush out something that's sub-par.
Rick and Morty Season 4 should resume some time later in 2020.