This article contains spoilers for Rick and Morty season 5 episode 8.
It’s no secret that many Rick and Morty fans crave serialization. The saga of Rick Sanchez, the one man intelligent enough to navigate infinite multiverses and therefore encounter infinite drama, is a compelling one. And yet, Rick and Morty’s main decision-makers often resist returning to the well of Rick’s intergalactic struggle against “The Federation.”
That’s because, at the end of the day, this show is about a mad scientist and his anxious grandson going on a whole host of sci-fi adventures. With five seasons almost in the books and many more to come, centering solely on Rick’s action hero potential is probably too narrow a focus. Thankfully, the show still does throw the serialization seekers a bone every now and again.
The latest example comes in the excellent season 5 episode 8 “Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort.” As the Kaufman-esque title indicates, this installment takes place mostly in one individual’s mind. While Rick is trying to resurrect his best friend Birdperson (Dan Harmon), he discovers that Birdperson’s conscience is trapped deep within his brain and he must enter said brain to fish it out.
What follows is an oft-exhilarating mind journey that reveals many crucial bits of Rick and Morty “lore.” We see how Rick and Birdperson meet, how they fight a war against the Federation, and how they eventually fall out due to Rick’s knowledge of the pointlessness of the universe. Amid all of that, however, comes the most powerful bit of Rick Sanchez back story yet.
As Rick meets a younger version of himself in Birdperson’s mind, the younger Rick is disgusted to see just how cliche and lame he will one day become. When older Rick mentions his grandson Morty, younger Rick responds in terror:
“You’re one of those creeps who moves in with abandoned adult Beths? You live with a version of our dead daughter.”
Older Rick doesn’t offer up a defense and basically confirms younger Rick’s suspicions. This means that the Beth (Sarah Chalke) we know and have spent five seasons with, is not Rick’s original Beth.
At first glance, this isn’t multiverse-shattering news. We’ve seen literally hundreds of Ricks, Beths, and Mortys at this point. In fact, since season 1 episode 6 “Rick Potion #9”, both Rick and Morty have been living with a “new” Beth anyway. After Rick’s love potion for Morty creates a planet full of Cronenbergs, Rick and Morty run off to another universe where they died and take over their departed selves’ lives.
Still, the fact that Rick’s original Beth died does confirm a theory that the show has previously raised. In the season 3 premiere “The Rickshank Redemption”, a Federation agent delves into Rick’s mind and witnesses a moment in which Beth and Rick’s wife Diane are killed by a bomb dropped through a portal in Rick’s garage. Rick later calls the origin story “completely fabricated” but it’s clear now that there’s at least a grain of truth to it. He lost his wife and daughter and accessed the multiverse of infinite possibilities to be with them again.
What’s even more interesting here is that “our” Rick clearly isn’t the only Rick to seek out his dead daughter. The younger Rick is familiar with this kind of Rick behavior to the point where he recognizes it as a kind of creepy Rick archetype. The multiverse has Doofus Ricks, Farmer Ricks, and Cowboy Ricks, but apparently the most frequently occurring Rick is the “Sad About His Dead Daughter Rick.”
While the reveal that the original Beth died isn’t too surprising in the grand scheme of Rick and Morty (we just had two consecutive episodes featuring an enormous intergalactic incest baby), it does help characterize Rick Sanchez quite a bit. Rick talks a big game about nothing mattering because the universe is infinite. But for a guy who claims that nothing matters, he sure does spend a lot of time with his family.
The C-137 Rick losing his Beth is something of a cornerstone memory. It’s what sent him down the path that he’s on and what ensures that he’ll never leave Beth, Summer, Morty, or Jerry regardless of what exciting possibilities the multiverse throws his way. That’s a touching commentary on the power of love and family above…well, literally everything else. It’s also a convenient way to continue to tell standalone stories for years to come.
The two-part Rick and Morty season 5 finale premieres Sunday, September 5 on Adult Swim.