Rick and Morty just shocked fans with a dramatic twist halfway through the show’s seventh season, finally concluding Rick’s big character arc with “Rick Prime.”
Rick and Morty has undergone several big changes over the years. The last few seasons has seen more focus on character development and serialization.
Series co-creator Dan Harmon, who leads the writers room, has described himself as “allergic to serialized, canonical stuff,” and in the past, often pushed back against the fandom’s requests for backstory and lore.
Harmon has since embraced serialized narratives, and episode 5 of season 7, “Unmortricken,” brought back a fan-favorite, Evil Morty. More importantly, the episode saw Rick finally wreak the bloody revenge he’s been seeking all of his life (or at least, since he was given a backstory).
What is Rick’s backstory?
In the first few seasons of Rick and Morty, Rick was something of a mystery. Fans knew he used to have a wife, Diane, but Rick rarely mentioned her. All fans knew was that Rick had abandoned his family after inventing portal travel, choosing to spend his life roaming the multiverse and having sci-fi adventures.
In his old age, Rick returned to be a father to Beth, and a grandfather to Morty (and a wildly unstable, abusive mentor), which is when the show begins.
In those early seasons, Rick’s love for Morty only emerged in the most trying of circumstances, and much of the humor of the show came from Rick’s endless capacity to feign empathy and emotionally manipulate those around him.
This came to a head in the season 3 finale when it was revealed that Rick’s wife and daughter were brutally murdered by a variant of Rick from another universe. This tragic backstory was originally played as one of Rick’s sick jokes, as Rick soon admits to fabricating the traumatic memory in order to fool an adversary.
The episode concludes with Rick revealing the depth of his depravity to Morty, delivering an unhinged speech about how his true motive is not to avenge his dead wife, but simply to get his hands on some McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce.
Later, the show softened in tone and Rick began to be portrayed as emotionally damaged, and slightly less nihilistic. The writers officially incorporated the “fabricated” story into Rick and Morty canon. Now, Rick was fueled by revenge, obsessively searching the multiverse for the Rick who murdered his family, “Rick Prime.”
Eventually, it was revealed that Rick settled into Prime’s universe and adopted his family, who Prime abandoned. Hence, Morty and the rest of the Smiths are not Rick’s original family, even if Morty has proved irreplaceable to him (the rest, however, are somewhat interchangeable).
“Unmortricken” sees Rick finally take his revenge against Rick Prime.
What happened in “Unmortricken”?
“Evil Morty,” the genius Morty variant and the show’s recurring villain, enters Rick’s dimension and reluctantly helps him track down Prime. Rick has been inching closer to his goal of tracking Prime down, but only manages to come face-to-face with Prime with Evil Morty’s help.
Prime reveals that he has designed a superweapon known as the Omega Device, which can kill every single variant of a person through the multiverse in an instant; Prime used it to erase Diana from existence (which explains why Rick never tried to replace her with a variant).
Rick and Prime then face off in a clever, visually compelling battle that sees the two use every single Inspector Gadget-esque weapon that they’ve installed in their bodies over the years. Rick, however, is defeated, and Evil Morty manages to subdue Prime, tying him to a chair to allow Rick to take his revenge.
Rick murders Prime without the help of his tech, pummeling the variant with his fists until he emerges, soaked in the blood of his nemesis. Evil Morty bids Rick and Morty farewell, taking the Omega Device blueprint with him as a safety precaution. Despite his hatred of all Rick variants, Evil Morty reveals that he has no interest in murdering Rick, noting that the murder would likely spark another cycle of vengeance.
Hence, Rick has finally achieved his life’s goal, completing his character arc. In a brilliant twist, the show depicts Rick’s victory as completely hollow. Rick has lost his purpose and finds himself in a similar state to how he was depicted in those first few seasons, with nothing meaningful to live for; he might as well start searching for some Szechuan Sauce.
In a throwback to an early, iconic Rick and Morty scene, the song “Look on Down From the Bridge” by Mazzy Star plays over a montage of Rick’s disillusionment. The song also plays during episode 6 of season 1, “Rick Potion No. 9,” which sees Rick and Morty burying variants of their own corpses and seamlessly moving in with a new family, identical to the original Smiths.
That scene remains one of the most powerful moments from the series, as it shows Morty understanding the horror of the multiverse for the very first time; if there are infinite variants of every individual, than no one is unique, and nothing really matters.
Rick might have already understood that (maybe a little too well), but in “Unmortricken,” he learns that revenge is pointless, multiverse or not; nothing was going to bring back what was taken from him.
What’s next for Rick and Morty?
It’s quite an unusual move to deliver such a dramatic twist mid-season; it seems certain that the writers of Rick and Morty have something big planned for the season 7 finale, but whatever it is, it might not be connected to a larger storyline. The show was (arguably) at its best when Rick and Morty’s adventures were standalone.
Evil Morty escaping with the Omega Device is certainly going to be an issue later on, but it might not come into play until next season. For the time being, leaving Rick unfulfilled and unmotivated, adrift in the infinite multiverse, feels like a fresh start.
From the very beginning of the show, Rick’s character was defined by his refusal to commit to any kind of value system, only motivated by the random whims that entered his mind, whether it was McDonald’s sauce or the adrenaline rush that came from staring down the barrel of a laser pistol.
After completing Rick’s character arc, Rick and Morty has gone full circle.