Spoilers below for the latest episode of Rick and Morty, titled "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort," so be warned!
While Rick and Morty Season 5 has unapologetically taken fans over the edge with such elements as the giant incest monster Naruto Smith and Rick's aquatic nemesis Mr. Nimbus (voiced by co-creator Dan Harmon), the show hit an authentic creative peak with the Inception-esque Episode 8, which shined an emotionally poignant spotlight on Rick's history with Birdperson (also voiced by Harmon). And while we could certainly dig deep into several aspects of "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort," it's the big Beth bombshell that we're truly here to discuss.
With its penultimate Season 5 installment that leads into the double-length finale airing in September, Rick and Morty followed up on Birdperson's fate shown in the Season 4 episode "Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri," which is otherwise known as the Space Beth ep. Rick was required - using that term loosely - to go into Birdperson's unconscious mind in order to save his conscious mind, which put the titular character in contact with a 35-year-old Han Solo-esque version of himself, as remembered by Birdperson. Which is where we learned the episode's big reveal, which either confirms a highly contested Season 3 moment or possibly indicates a dark truth about Rick Sanchez.
Memory Rick Referenced Their Dead Daughter Beth
During the early stages of Rick's adventure with his past self, hereby known as Memory Rick, the elder character references Morty, and after Memory Rick confusedly asked for clarification, this exchange happened:
I'm going to veer wildly into conjecture here, this reference to Dead Beth could mean several different things regarding Rick and Morty's canon. For one, it could prove that the on-screen appearance and subsequent deaths of Rick's wife Diane and the adolescent Beth in the Season 3 premiere "The Rickshank Rickdemption" were based on real events, and not a fabricated origin story for his portal gun, as he alleged in the episode. Which, if that were true, would mean that he's been living with the hypothetical (his word) version of a family that never existed, and that there could be untold numbers of Ricks in the multiverse that also dealt with the life-changing dilemma choosing between abandoning Diane and Beth in order to keep them safe from the Citadel of Ricks, or sticking around and witnessing their deaths.
There would be plenty of potential ramifications to expound upon if Memory Rick's "Dead Beth" claim is confirmed to be 100% reality, as it would also provide further texture for Rick having cloned Beth. But again, that's only if Memory Rick is speaking the truth, and I'm suspicious that it might be a little too sympathetic to the titular character for this show's ethos.
Memory Rick's Reveal Might Not Be The Truth At All
If there's anything that Rick and Morty has proven to fans by this point, it's that anything that looks straightforward is actually anything but straightforward. So while Episode 8 appeared to reverse Rick's claims in the Season 3 premiere, there's a pretty good chance it didn't. Because, after all, the information came from Memory Rick, whose existence is wholly based on Birdperson's memories, which means his "knowledge" of Diane and Beth's deaths could actually just be a lie that Rick himself told Birdperson earlier on in their friendship.
Even beyond the simple fact that Rick lies as easily as other people blink, this episode pushes forth the idea that Rick may truly view the concept of "friendship" to be more important and pleasurable than the idea of marriage and biological family. So it's feasibly possible that Rick abandoned Diane and Beth specifically so that he could have more adventures with Birdperson in the way that he'd later share lots of galaxy-spanning hijinks with a Morty that probably skews closer to being a "friend" than his true grandson. Which would mean that, above all things, Rick's big reveal will be that he's basically just a big asshole, which has been the case all along.
If that idea sounds too ridiculous, think back to how Rick and Birdperson part ways at the end of "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort." Namely, with Birdperson correctly accusing Rick hiding the information about the former's daughter with Tammy until a time when it was most convenient, specifically so Rick could continue hanging out with Birdperson. Sure, there's a big line between "lying to a previously incapacitated friend within a complex web of memories-in-memories" and "intentionally abandoning one's family and then lying about their deaths," but do any Rick and Morty fans truly believe there's a line that Rick won't cross? Especially when it leads to him being miserable in every given scenario?
There could, of course, be some kind of third option to look into here, but I'd rather keep things binary on a one-to-one basis, before we're all up to our necks in Rick's digressions and half-memories. Let us know in the poll below where you stand on this issue!
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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