Rick and Morty fans have discovered an obscure pop culture nugget that may have inspired one of the show’s most bizarre and memorable scenes. The show is riddled with pop culture references, some of which are practically encrypted or based on co-creator Justin Roiland's own experiences, so identifying an unsung nod is a blood sport among its most religious viewers.
After the credits roll on “Pickle Rick,” the episode written by Jessica Gao that recently picked up an Emmy nomination, Rick and Morty find themselves at the mercy of Concierto, a baroque Joker-esque villain who straps them to an oversized piano. He begins tapping the ivories, sending large hammers onto the splattered heads of Ricks from other dimensions.
“This is how we're gonna die! Make peace with your god!” Rick shouts to his sidekick before a long-haired assassin swoops in and cuts Concierto’s vocal chords. It’s Jaguar, the highly-trained killer Rick spent most of the episode fighting before turning him against the bad guys.
Some fans may have instantly identified this scene’s pop culture origins, but most probably scratched their heads and thought, “Where do Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon come up with these zany shenanigans?” Luckily for those people, Redditor Capgunkid dredged up the obscure source material from whence it probably came: Batman.
Specifically, the scene is almost identical to the season four episode of Batman: The New Animated Adventures, “Legends of the Dark Knight” (1998), in which the dynamic duo must thwart the Joker’s plot to steal priceless sheet music from a museum full of giant novelty musical instruments. The situation looks bleak for Batman and Robin when they’re tied up and pushed onto the piano strings beneath the hammers. Instead of a muscular assassin saving the day, one of Batman’s gadgets comes to the rescue, but the similarity of the scenes is unmistakable.
A user on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange forum suggests that that episode was, in turn, inspired by an episode of Adam West’s live action Batman series called “The Dead Ringers” (1966), in which Liberace plays a villain who tries to kill the Bat with a hole-punching machine controlled by piano music. The resolution to this conflict is even more absurd.
Roiland is an outspoken Batman lover, so it’s not far fetched that the absurd elements of the show would permeate into Rick and Morty through cultural osmosis. With 70 more episodes ordered by Adult Swim, and Harmon’s career apparently intact after he deleted his Twitter account and apologized for a controversial video that recently resurfaced, fans can likely expect plenty more Batman references from the dynamic duo to come.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.