Rick and Morty season 5 episode 8 spoilers follow.
For some time now, Rick and Morty fans have been longing to see this show’s biggest mysteries addressed, and perhaps even solved to some degree. Which Beth is “our” Beth? What happened to Rick’s ex-wife, Diane? And could Rick actually be an older version of Morty?
However, season five has avoided tackling these kinds of questions for the most part, choosing instead to focus on standalone chapters (Giant Incest Space Baby aside). But now, eight episodes in, ‘Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort’ suddenly packs in more backstory than perhaps the rest of the show combined. Like, a squanch amount of canon. And there’s one scene in particular which, no exaggeration, changes everything we thought we knew about Rick and Morty.
Things kick off when Rick dives into Birdperson’s mind to help bring him back to life. Sure, there is an infinite number of Birdmen across infinite realities that Sanchez could hang out with instead. But for once, Rick chooses to hold onto the original version of someone he loves. And that soon turns out to be far more important than you might think.
Amidst all the “Charlie Kaufman bullshit”, Rick quickly encounters a younger version of himself in Birdperson’s mind. Hippie Rick, as he will be known from here on out, is comprised of the memories our Rick and Birdperson once shared. And it turns out that some of those memories are quite painful because it’s not long before they encounter two Ricks with “sci-fi haircuts” who shout: “Killing us won’t bring her back!”
Without more context, it feels like these Ricks (who likely hail from the now-deceased Council of Ricks) might be talking about Diane Sanchez, Rick’s ex-wife. Her absence from the show continues to be a question mark five seasons in, and the only thing we have to go on is a (possibly fake) memory from season three that suggests the Council killed Diane by throwing a bomb through a portal.
Whether that happened or not, a brief scene that takes place later on in this same episode hints that these “sci-fi Ricks” might be referring to a different, and perhaps even more painful casualty.
During a discussion about Shrek, Rick mentions Morty, much to Hippie Rick’s surprise. When Rick clarifies that Morty is a “hypothetical grandson we go on adventures with”, the Younger Rick’s tone immediately changes. “You’re one of those creeps who moves in with abandoned adult Beths.” Our Rick says, “It’s more complicated than that,” but Hippie Rick doesn’t agree. “You live with a version of our dead daughter,” he says, matter-of-factly.
The episode quickly moves on from this, but Rick clearly hasn’t. So Rick’s original Beth, his actual daughter, isn’t the one we met at the very start of this show before her world was Cronenberg-ised (for want of a better word). And that means the two Beths we’ve known since then, including Space Beth, aren’t his original Beths either.
Rick’s actual daughter is dead, and she has been all along. In a desperate attempt to cling onto what he’s lost, our Rick decided at some point to move in with other versions of Beth from across the multiverse. And according to Hippie Rick, he’s not the only one who’s done this either.
Rick and Morty has toyed with these ideas before. Just recently, the second episode of season five hinted that our Sanchez family might not be the one we’ve known all along. But even then, this was more of a playful take on the concept, whereas here, the reality of Rick’s situation is far more devastating.
It’s rather fitting that Rick says “canon-y bullshit is trying to kill us” in this episode, because our souls were pretty much destroyed by this revelation. And although the Beth we’ve lost is one we’ve never met, just knowing this loss happened reframes everything we thought we knew about the show.
Rick’s bitterness, the nihilism that seems to define him, does come from a place of hurt, like fans have long suspected. But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped caring completely. Although Rick loves to make out that he no longer gives a squanch about anything, that’s just not true. Even before he fought to bring back his Birdperson, the only version that really matters, he also clung to other Beths to cope with the loss of his own daughter.
This could also help explain why Rick thought it was ok to clone Beth in the first place, and also why he didn’t keep track of which one is the real one. Because to him, neither Beth is his Beth, not really. That Beth is gone, and he’s never going to be able to bring her back.
That means Rick’s reckless behaviour and seeming disregard for life doesn’t actually come from a place of apathy. If anything, he cares too much, which means that he’ll do anything to stay close to his dead daughter, no matter how “creepy” that might be. Does this excuse any of Rick’s selfish cruelty? No, not really, but it does provide us with way more insight than we’ve ever been privy to before.
And the fact that Birdperson even knows any of this proves just how important he is to Rick as well. Unless he also hails from Rick’s original dimension, wherever that might be, this Birdperson would only know about Beth’s death if Rick actually revealed it to him. This makes Birdperson’s rejection of Rick at the end even more painful to bear — and that’s true for both him and us watching back home too.
By venturing back into Rick’s past like this, the tragic events of this episode actually bode well for Rick and Morty’s future, if not for Rick himself. Because more often than not, the interchangeable nature of the Sanchez family has been singled out as a weakness of this show. Why should we care about these characters if they can be switched in or out at a moment’s notice?
But now that we know the real reason why Rick moves around so much, his so-called aversion to human connection actually makes the show more human than ever. Let’s just hope that Rick and Morty doesn’t ignore the ramifications of this completely. In a show where Giant Incest Space Baby gets more screen time than Space Beth, that’s a real possibility.
Rick and Morty airs on Adult Swim in the US.
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