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‘Rick and Morty’ Fan Theories Are the Worst Thing Ever

Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty is one of the best adult animated series to hit the air since way back when The Simpsons was still good. Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have created something that’s funny and clever and that appeals to an audience with equal parts of highbrow conceptual humor and dick jokes. The fifth season is just around the corner and that means we’re about to be inundated with fan theories about what’s “really” going on.

Now, I love MatPat as much as the next guy, and if you remember my pieces on WandaVision I love to engage in guessing what means what and what is going to happen next, even if I should have known what happens next is people shooting CGI at each other.

One of the problems Rick and Morty has run into is that its fandom thinks it’s a really smart show. There’s a belief that everything is building to something and there’s some spectacular backstory waiting to be revealed. There really isn’t, though; Rick and Morty is barely serialized and each episode pretty much stands on its own. There are some story threads from earlier episodes that they have picked up in later episodes but Dan Harmon has even said he doesn’t want to do that much, he’d rather keep moving forward and do new things.

But Rick and Morty fans will absolutely tear an episode apart looking for clues about what it really means. This is not always to the benefit of the show or the fans. For example, fans have over-analyzed one of the show’s best episodes, Total Rickall, to the point that they missed maybe the funniest joke in the episode.

Total Rickall finds the Smith family inundated with alien parasites that have implanted themselves in their memories as increasingly wacky cartoon characters. It goes from Jerry’s brother and a Mr. Belvedere-type butler in the beginning to characters like Ghost in a Jar and Reverse Giraffe by the end.

Morty eventually figures out that the parasites can only create good memories in people which lets the Smiths kill all the parasites and live happily ever after.

That’s in broad strokes. On a more granular level, this is one of a small number of episodes of TV shows that use an entire episode to set up a single joke. In Total Rickall, that joke is Mr. Poopybutthole.

Mr. Poopybutthole is a weird alien creature who shows up at the beginning of the episode when Rick is naming all the real people in the house so they don’t get tricked by the parasites. We’ve never seen this character before and obviously, he’s a parasite himself.

But unlike every other parasite, Mr. Poopybutthole makes it to the end of the episode. Watching the episode for the first time, you’re going “what are you doing, you need to get him or the parasites are just going to come back!” And then Beth picks up a gun and shoots him; he’s not a parasite, and the episode ends on this incredibly dark, hilarious joke.

It’s a really funny concept to make the audience believe this character is a parasite, want to see one of the main characters kill him and then reveal that he isn’t a parasite and you wanted to kill an innocent people. But some fans need that joke to work with the lore of the show, and they have gone way overboard trying to make it fit.

Let me introduce you to what fans call the ticket theory. The ticket theory says that this episode doesn’t even follow our Ricky and Morty and that for no reason whatsoever we were shown the exploits of an alternate-universe Smith family.

See, at the end of a previous episode, Mortynight Run, the producers added an Easter egg showing Rick picking up some rocks with the parasite’s eggs on them. That episode also had a throwaway joke about Rick and Morty leaving Jerry in a multiversal daycare for Jerry and not really caring if they get the right Jerry back.

The whole theory is essentially based on a misunderstanding of the Jerry joke. Rick and Morty are about to leave with Jerry when another Rick says “Wait, do you have 5126?” This is the number they got when they checked Jerry into daycare at the beginning of the episode, and Morty has lost his ticket. Of course, the other Rick meant ticket 5126 and not Jerry 5126, which the theory relies on.

And this is why people make fun of Rick and Morty fans. Even Rick and Morty itself made fun of this theory when they had the “tickets please” guy be the center of a crazy theory in the episode Never Ricking Morty.

Of course, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have encouraged this somewhat themselves by telling fans that there’s a “big secret” they haven’t revealed yet. That one is pretty easy to put together; in the pilot, we learn that Rick recently came back into his daughter Beth’s life after a 20-year estrangement. But Rick’s friend Birdperson has a picture of Rick with a baby Morty, something Roiland, Harmon and writer Ryan Ridley drew attention to in a DVD commentary. Since we’ve seen Rick and Morty leave their reality and family behind more than once, it’s not a stretch to assume that Rick isn’t originally from the same reality as Morty, either.

Now there has been some speculation that Rick’s original Morty is the Evil Morty from Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind but he was intended to be a one-shot character who was only in that episode. Of course, Evil Morty did show up again and took over the Citadel of Ricks, so they’ve obviously rethought his importance since then.

The problem is that the episode Evil Morty comes back in, The Ricklantis Mix-up, isn’t very good. It’s more concerned with setting up the reveal that Evil Morty was elected president of the Citadel of Ricks than it is with being funny. When the description for the season finale promised a confrontation between Rick and Morty and the president, fans assumed this meant Evil Morty and there was plenty of disappointment when it turned out it was actually the US president played by Keith David we met in Get Schwifty.

Rick and Morty’s strength is in stand-alone episodes that don’t advance any overall narrative. Seeing Rick fight The Devil in Something Ricked This Way Comes or Rick going to high school with Summer and Morty to fight vampires off-screen and then becoming the most popular kid in school and not wanting to go back to his old body in Big Trouble in Little Sanchez were much more entertaining than Tammy being evil at her wedding to Birdperson. Pickle Rick and The Vat of Acid Episode were likewise some of the best episodes of the series and they didn’t advance any kind of narrative at all.

More meta-narrative episode-heavy episodes like The Rickshank Rickdemption and Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri aren’t as good. Seriously, what was a memorable joke from Star Mort, the season four finale? Morty and Summer just kept talking about their arc.

We’re only a few days away from Rick and Morty season 5, and we’re already seeing takes about how people are hoping it focuses more on the continuity and plot. I personally hope that the show goes the other way and focuses on more funny, stand-alone episodes. That’s the real strength of Rick and Morty; hilarious, self-contained, memorable episodes. The world-building isn’t all that good, it’s basically just “Rick is actually a dick.” And that’s a great hook for comedy, but not something that makes me need to see his backstory.

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