The sixth season of “Rick and Morty” began last weekend, and based on the first episode it looks like the theme of consequences will feature heavily. If last season’s theme was Rick’s struggle with his need for family, this season — if episode one is any indication — looks to dwell more on the results of all of the choices Rick has made in avoiding that need.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The first episode (“Solaricks”) picks up just minutes after the end of last year’s season finale, with Rick and Morty drifting in space in the shattered remains of the Citadel of Ricks.
Rick contemplates his inevitable death with some topical references to Marvel movies he pretends not to be familiar with when a knock on the glass dome above them reveals their rescuer — the character known as Space Beth. (One problem with this whole fictional universe is that the multiple dimensions thing means there are near-infinite copies of every character and they all have the same names; this woman is either the Beth from the dimension most of the last few seasons have taken place in, or else a clone of her — no one is actually sure.)
After some witty repartee, followed by meta-repartee about the repartee, she does indeed rescue them. Once home, Rick tries to fix his portal gun — the technology and convenient plot device that makes the whole show possible was damaged by last season’s antagonist, Evil Morty — but in doing so accidentally resets all interdimensional travelers themselves, sending them back to their original universes.
This mishap sends Rick, Morty, and Jerry back to the dimensions in which they were born. For Morty, that means what has become known as the “Cronenberg dimension,” a place Rick and Morty inadvertently ruined in the first season and abandoned, traveling to a dimension where versions of themselves had just died, and taking their places.
Now Morty returns to the Earth they left behind, a post-apocalyptic hellscape filled with ravening half-human monsters. He finds the only normal human left alive: his father, Jerry. Since we last saw him in season three, he has become a hyper-competent hunter-gatherer, as one would have to in order to survive the monster-infested planet.
This world’s Jerry exchanges some words with his son, mostly the sort of therapy talk we see sprinkled throughout the more serious parts of the show, perhaps a reflection of creator Dan Harmon’s real-life emotional journey through psychology. But having self-actualized as a lone hunter, this world’s Jerry quickly abandons Morty, reducing the boy to tears. It’s a clever reflection on the callous way Rick and Morty abandoned the family when things went bad five seasons ago and never looked back.
Rick, meanwhile, reverted to his original dimension, the one the show calls “C-137”. Here we are reminded of the tragic event that set Rick to dimension-hopping in the first place: the murder of his wife and daughter by a Rick from another dimension. Our Rick hunted this Rick, known as “Rick Prime,” for years to avenge the crime, but never caught up with him (these details were revealed in last season’s finale, “Rickmurai Jack.”)
The shattered home Rick left behind to hunt for the killer remains intact — disturbingly so. Before leaving, Rick programmed the house’s AI to speak in the voice of his dead wife, Diane, haunting him to ensure he stayed focused on his task. It’s seriously grim and tells us a lot about Rick’s state of mind in those dark days.
More on the theme of consequences: we see that before leaving, Rick froze this world in time, but failed to stop the aging of its inhabitants, who now repeated the same events day after day while growing older. They don’t realize the time loop they’re trapped in, which is another disturbing set of events caused by Rick’s inattention to the place he was fleeing.
The robot Diane voice suggests that Rick Prime, if he is still alive, would also be returned to his own dimension by the great reset. Rick takes his ship and travels to that dimension, which turns out to be the Cronenberg dimension. This leads to perhaps the biggest revelation of the episode: if Rick Prime is from that dimension, that means that he is our Morty’s real grandfather.
Rick and Morty go after Rick Prime, naturally finding a class sci-fi villain’s lair where he taunts them on pre-recorded videos. They catch sight of him briefly (or perhaps another clone, as the recorded messages suggest?) but lose the trail once more.
As this is going on, Summer is working with both Beths to fix the portal system. The three find themselves in the ruined citadel fighting aliens when Rick and Morty join them. They escape, picking up Jerry on the way (his cross-dimensional deportation was more mundane).
Back at home, they find the Jerry native to that world accidentally unleashing “Mr. Frundles,” an adorable alien creature that bites and infects everything there, turning each victim into itself. Soon the whole world is engulfed and transformed into the parasitic creature, leaving them all to flee once more to a replacement dimension, devastation trailing in their wake.
This episode packed a great deal of emotional comeuppance for our protagonist, driven home by the characters’ latest destruction of an entire planet. Mixed in, as usual, were the jokes that intersperse laugh-out-loud humor with some seriously dark ideas. Everything, in short, that fans of the show have come to expect.
“Solaricks” also sets up the season’s main villain brilliantly. In a connected series of dimensions where Rick Sanchez is the world’s smartest man, who better to square off against than another version of himself — one unburdened by the love of family or, indeed, of anyone but himself.
The post-credit sequence reveals that the person Rick and Morty saw in the lair was indeed Rick Prime — they almost had him! — and that he escaped, finding that strangely competent Jerry on the Cronenberg world and murdering him, seemingly for no reason but simple malice. Rick Prime may be the worst of all possible Ricks, brilliant, evil, and cruel, always one step ahead of justice. What becomes of him and our heroes will make for an interesting and entertaining season.