Season 4 of Adult Swim’s Rick & Morty aired its first episodes late last year, and they held a lot of clues about where the cult favorite TV show could be headed. The gap between Rick & Morty seasons 3 and 4 lasted two years and was complicated by contract disputes between the show’s creators and its network. The future of the show was not a guaranteed thing until the announcement that Adult Swim had ordered 70 episodes of Rick & Morty to be spread out over multiple seasons. Where those episodes will take the story of the nihilistic scientist and his goofy grandson is as unpredictable as the show itself. Looking at the first five episodes of season 4 could provide some indication.

Rick & Morty came back to screens in 2019 with an episode titled, “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat,” and it suggested a return to the usual themes explored by creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. The episode centered around a crystal that shows anyone holding it how they will die; this causes Morty to manipulate his own path in order to end up with long-time crush, Jessica. Meanwhile, Rick dies and his consciousness is transferred to clones in alternate realities. As with most episodes of Rick & Morty, “Edge of Tomorty” dealt with the psychological burden of knowledge and the inevitability of social disorder.

Fans could be forgiven for assuming that Rick & Morty season 4 and beyond would stick to these heavy ideas. However, the rest of the episodes - specifically the middle three - hint at something much different. They all have a bit of the usual Rick & Morty introspection, but they introduce something the show has only toyed with previously: absurdism. Nihilism and absurdism make great bedfellows, but this new branch of humor brought a strange shift in tone. These episodes felt more goofy than clever, and that may be the point.

Rick & Morty fans take the show seriously for good reason. It explores everything from quantum mechanics to mental health, and it does so with the darkest comedy. In the first part of season 4, though, Roiland and Harmon seem to make fun of their fans’ self-importance. Rather than dealing with nihilism and mortality, these episodes see Morty gifted a sex-obsessed magic dragon and parody heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven for no discernible reason. There’s always been a silly quality to the show, but the lack of gravity in these episodes - literally in episode 5 - changes its entire dynamic.

This does feel deliberate. In Rick & Morty’s dragon episode, Jerry buddies up with a talking cat that’s obsessed with going to Florida. Why it can talk is never explained to the audience, though knowledge of its origin does drive Jerry momentarily insane. Roiland and Harmon seem to be saying that a show about nihilism shouldn’t be taken so seriously, because that goes against the reasoning of the philosophy.

Roiland and Harmon are smart writers, and it’s unlikely that this absurdist streak will last much longer. Having made their point, they will likely know when to get back to the overarching story. Audiences will probably get more social commentary, too, in the continued story of Evil Morty and the Citadel. In fact, there’s a lot of unexplored territory in Rick & Morty, especially considering the arcs of its titular characters are just getting started, and there are a lot more episodes to come from the series, meaning it can afford to be more experimental, something fans may indeed see more of. The final episodes of season 4 will give a better indication of where future seasons will go, but fans should expect Rick and Morty to continue their trajectories toward the middle ground of hopeless and naïve.

More: Rick & Morty Theory: Why So Many Nazi Worlds Are Created

Rick & Morty season 4 is expected to continue in April 2020.