The fact that Rick and Morty live in just one of many universes opens up countless possibilities for exploration. From what we've seen, there are scores of different Ricks and Mortys out there (though many are Cronenberg'd monsters by now). And for every new reality, there are tons of tantalizing fan theories.
One of the most compelling of these explains an uncharacteristic plot hole in the series. Namely, that when we first meet Rick, he's been gone from his daughter's life for the last 20 years. We also know that Morty is 14 -- but later we see that Rick has memories of seeing Morty as a baby.
So either Rick snuck into see his grandkid in the night in an ill-advised nod to Superman Returns, or the Rick we know is from another reality. But why would Rick be hanging out with his family from another universe? Maybe most importantly, what happened to the Morty that Rick left behind? One theory suggests that we've already seen what happened to Rick's old Morty -- in fact, we see it every single time we watch the show.
Mixed in the montage of the opening credits there is a quick scene of Rick abandoning Morty to be devoured by large froglike monsters. Granted, we don't see Morty being eviscerated, but it would seem like that's a pretty rough spot. It might seem like just another goofy bit in the intro, but then again, lots of other scenes in the montage are ripped straight from the show. If this really happened and Rick's original Morty really did die, that would explain a lot about Rick's depression; part of the reason he keeps Morty safe (despite acting aloof the whole time) is to make up for losing the old Morty. Or maybe Rick is callous enough to know that he needs a new Morty to use the camoflauging ability of his grandson's Stupid Brainwaves.
It's a solid idea that makes sense with the world and its characters, but there's another explanation that's a little more complicated but a lot more tantalizing. Imagine that same scenario playing out as we see above, but instead of Morty dying, he survives and grows to resent Rick. Not only Rick, but all Ricks. What if Rick's former Morty is in fact Evil Morty?
Remember, in the episode "Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind," our Rick is brought into the interdimensional Council of Ricks to stand trial for murdering tons and tons of Ricks across the multiverse. I know, this show is weird, but stay with me. Whereas we originally think that the Most Evil Rick is responsible, the end of the episode reveals that Evil Morty was behind the scheme the entire time, controlling that Rick behind the scenes.
It's possible that, after being abandoned by "our" Rick, the original Morty held a grudge so vicious and unending that he decided that the only course of action was the wipe all Ricks from existence. It's also in line with the surpise we hear in "Evil Rick's" voice when our Rick tears up at the sight of Baby Morty.
Remember, this is actually Evil Morty talking through his puppet, Evil Rick. Though at first it sounds like condescencion coming from a fellow Rick, it's actually shock and disbelief coming from a Morty who thinks that all Ricks are incapable of feelings towards all Mortys. This is why we hear Evil Rick say "We both know that if there's one truth in the universe, it's that Ricks don't care about Mortys." It also explains why Evil Rick is so excited for a horde of Mortys to tear him apart. This is coming from a place of pure hatred. Some Rick out there has to have done something bad to Evil Morty to make him think that way.
It might have well been our Rick leaving him to die on a savage planet in the middle of nowhere. After all, it sounds like he's had run-ins with renegade Mortys before.
Could it be that Evil Morty is the instance that Rick is talking about? If Rick does indeed keep his promise to tell our Morty about it later on, hopefully it's in one of the handful of episodes left in season three.
M. Night Shyam-Aliens! is one of the trippiest episodes of the series, which makes it pretty ripe for interpretation. This is the one where Rick finds himself inside of a Matrix-like simulation on an extraterrestrial spacecraft. The idea being that the aliens want to trick Rick into giving up the formula for concentrated dark matter. Jerry is there too for basically no reason other than to Jerry it up in a simulation that really only had the capacity for Rick.
Eventually the gang "escapes" the simulation... only to realize that they were in a simulation INSIDE of a simulation -- which included a fabricated Morty.
One of the early hints that is never directly called out is Jerry's tuxedo. Note that, in the initial fake "escape" out of the first dimension, Jerry is still wearing his simulated suit. It's not like he wore a tux to the spaceship, so he shouldn't be wearing it if he had really made it out of the simulation. This turns out to be the case during the "real" escape, as Jerry is left in his tightie-whities when the simulation ends and fake-Morty disappears.
So that's the real world, right? Well, maybe -- and maybe they're still in yet ANOTHER simulation. See, when Rick and the fake-Morty are running around, they come across this big Matrixy room full of aliens hooked into what looks like a simulation (though at this point, they are still in a simulation). The various shapes of the aliens are a little hard to make out, but we get a good look at one creature in particular.
The same alien appears later in the episode (in yet another simulation), but they actually show up in episode nine. They turn out to be Plutonians, citizens of the totally-not-a-planet Pluto.
As the theory goes, the fact that we're seeing these made-up aliens in the first place -- and the fact that we zoomed in on these aliens in particular -- is a clue that Rick and Jerry are both still in a high-tier simulation. There was no big wedding crash, there was no time stoppage, and Mr. Poopy Butthole is indeed not real. It's not a world any of us want to live in, but there it is.
Most episodes of the show are pretty compartmentalized, but there are some pretty sneaky details for those willing to look hard enough. The YouTube channel The Save Point Guild put together a pretty convincing case using those kinds of particulars -- and if it's true, it has vast implications for the rest of the series.
We've already been over Rick and Morty's copious usage of alternate realities in its storytelling, but the episode "Mortynight Run" is a special case that may or may not prove that we don't follow the same Rick and Morty for every episode of the series. In fact, we might have switched dimensions within an episode without even realizing it.
The Rick and Morty that we would consider "ours" belongs to the universe designated C-137. Whenever we see the characters refer to that specific code, we know that we're dealing with the same grandfather/grandson pair that we're used to. But there are several episodes where we don't get this specific universe name callout. Yet, what makes Mortynight Run so important is that when checking Jerry into the interuniversal daycare "Jerryboree," we do see that the characters come from C-137. It's right on the sign-in form.
Also crucially important here is the ticket they get for their Jerry, which appears to read "5126." Without that stub, Rick and Morty wouldn't be able to tell which of their sad bags of crap to pick up when they're done with their adventure.
After this moment we get the bulk of the episode. Morty foils an assassination attempt on a gaseous being, accidentally murdering hired killer Krombopulos Michael in the process. This inadvertantly leads to tons of people being killed in the collateral damage of Morty's escape -- and he ends up killing the gaseous being on a faraway planet anyway. These events aren't really integral to the theory, except for the part where Rick grabs up some unique green crystals.
Remember those green crystals, we'll get back to them later. We wouldn't dare take a large screencap and paste it on the page just to pad out the article. Well, we aren't doing that right now, promise.
After Rick and Morty return to pick up their Jerry, they stop and chat with a couple of their other selves. Turns out, not all Ricks and Mortys had such a harrowing day -- some of them just hung out at the arcade. Then, just as they're picking up their Jerry, another Rick and Morty arrive.
The Rick holding the ticket only just came onto the screen, but he's asking if they have Jerry-5126 -- which could only mean this "other" Rick is the one from the C-137 universe. At some point, we switched universes, meaning that for most of the episode, we were not following the same Ricks and Mortys that we've seen for the rest of the series. Or have we?
With this revelation, we now have to believe it's possible that any given episode of Rick and Morty that doesn't specify that it takes place in C-137 could take place in any number of universes. Using this information provided, we can actually point to one episode that takes place in the same "alternate" universe as the one from Mortynight Run. Remember the Mr. Poopy Butthole episode?
In "Total Rickall," which takes place two episodes after Mortynight, Rick and Company are besieged by imagination parasites that make everyone believe they've been family friends the whole time. The intro to Total Rickall is striking, because it retroactively adds in a character called "Mr. Poopybutthole" to scenes in which he was not otherwise present. Given the context of the episode, it seems obvious that Poopybutthole would be an imagination parasite, but he turns out to be real. Which means that everything that we saw in the intro actually happened , which means that Total Rickall takes place in an entirely different universe.
Which universe? Well, early in the episode Rick is seen doing this:
Those rocks Rick just threw away appear to be the very same unique green crystals that Rick stashed in his ship back in Mortynight Run. Which means that we may be looking at the same universe in which Morty killed Krombopulos Michael, a bunch of random civilians and a sentient gas cloud. It's definitely not Universe C-137, but there's not a firm name for it. I propose "The Mr. Poopybutthole Universe." If only to get more chances to say "Mr. Poopybutthole."
It's worth noting that Mr. Poopybutthole has since shown up in the third season of the show in one of Morty's discarded memories.
That might throw a wrench in this theory, but it's important to remember the GIF above with MPB suddenly inserted into scenes he was previously never present for. This may mean that the Mr. Poopybutthole who proposed to Morty might not be from the same universe as the Mr. Poopybutthole who got shot by Beth. This becomes even more likely when we consider another one of Morty's lost memories from the same episode, which suggests that Rick dragged him to another universe after he uncovered a massive squirrel conspiracy.
I know that's a lot to take in, so let's try something a little more grounded.
There's a lot of speculation surrounding Rick's wife. She's only mentioned a couple times in the series, but never by name. We don't know what Rick's ex looks like, much less why Rick ended up leaving her. The first episode makes it sound like she's dead, when Rick says "These are really great eggs Beth, I wish your mother was here to eat them." Then again, later in the series both Rick and Beth reference the split in a distinctly present-tense manner. Is it possible that Rick divorced his wife and then she died? Yes. But there's a much more obvious solution: Rick married Ms. Frizzle, the teacher from the Magic School Bus.
This seems like one of those harebrained multiverse-threading plots that has no basis in reality, and it kind of is, but so much of it adds up. Ms. Frizzle, formerly(?) Mrs. Sanchez, is the exact kind of person Rick would both hook up with. She's got a passion for science and a definite knack for advanced technology. Plus, Miss Frizz is a redhead. We know how much Rick is into redheads.
On top of that, Summer is a redhead, a recessive trait that is known to skip generations.
Okay, so it makes sense that they'd get together -- it also makes sense that they could never last. If we know anything about Ms. Frizzle, it's that she loves teaching children, and she's enamored with her own education system. Rick, on the other hand, despises school.
It could be that Rick divorced Frizzle after she wouldn't see it his way, that the education system was broken. That, or she just couldn't get behind his grand idea of Anatomy Park.
But of course, there's one other weird part: The Magic School Bus itself. As you might remember, it's actually alive.
It seems like an incredibly strange invention, even for Rick. Why would Ms. Frizzle roll around in something that is so clearly tied to her ex-husband and his way of life? Well, it's simple: They had a son, and Ms. Frizzle got custody. That son happens to be the Magic School Bus.
In any other context that wouldn't make any god damned sense, but this is Rick and Morty. We know for a fact that Rick can and has turned children into vehicles.
As we saw in the Colbert-resplendant episode The Ricks Must Be Crazy, Rick once implanted Morty with nanobots that would transform Morty into a car in the case of an emergency. It could be that Rick started developing this technology years beforehand, experimenting on the son he had with Ms. Frizzle, and something went horribly wrong. It probably goes without saying that if you permanently change your son into a school bus without any way to change them back, your spouse will get custody.
Besides being super arrogant, super burpy and super down to party, it's also apparent that Rick is an extremely troubled man. His self-loathing seems overwhelming, as evidenced by the dark scene in which Rick attempts suicide. What would make such a brilliant mind feel as though there was no other way out? There doesn't seem to be any problem Rick can't solve, unless he's figured out he's on a TV show.
Throughout the series, Rick has constantly broken the fourth wall to address the audience. We saw it when he announced the end of season one, and maybe most famously when shouting his brand-new catchphrase: Wubba lubba dub dub!
As we learn later, in Bird Person's language, "Wubba lubba dub dub" means "I am in great pain, please help me." What we initially thought was a silly parody of sitcoms pandering to their audience was actually Rick announcing that he's dying inside. The fact that Rick chose to cry for help in the form of a common television trope is telling.
As though Rick wasn't breaking the fourth wall enough already, Rick seems to be obssessed with one of the show's creators.
Next to the pictures of various creatures and people throughout the series, you can see a picture of what looks like Dan Harmon, co-creator of the series in real life. Perhaps that web of interconnected data is an attempt to understand our world, a place where his world is but a mere cartoon.
That would explain why Rick empathizes with his butter robot -- they both share a profound sadness about the frivolity of their existence.
The third season of the show has raised more questions than answers, and until the show finally comes to a close for good, we may never be sure of the truth.. Maybe it's best we keep Rick's words in mind: