I’ve been watching Rick and Morty via the Adult Swim marathon stream almost daily for the past few months. The stream is amazing because they simply play every episode from the first three seasons back to back on an endless loop. I’ll check in and see where the loop is and possibly watch one or more of my favorite episodes.
What I have learned is that I enjoy the darker parts of the show. The return of Evil Morty, Cop Morty and the whole election business in season 3 is an awesome thread to follow. But one of the first dark moments that demonstrates the core storytelling device of infinite universes takes place in season 1, episode Rick Potion #9.
The episode content seems fairly light — Morty wants Rick’s help to get Jessica to love him. Rick makes a love potion which eventually leads to Rick accidentally and irrevocably mangling the dna of humanity into “cronenbergs.” (My sense of this reference is that it is most related to Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, which has the fleshy game pod and gristle gun.)
The conclusion of the episode has Rick and Morty travelling to a universe in which the dna mangling was fixed, rather than worsened, by Ricks attempt to reverse the effects of the potion. In this universe, Rick and Morty are also grotesquely killed by accident in the garage shortly afterwards. So Rick and Morty who just ruined their own world, slide into a different version in which everything is fine, except that they are dead and have to bury themselves. Grim.
Two episodes later, Morty tells Summer about it:
Morty : That, out there, that's my grave.
Summer : Wait, what?
Morty : On one of our adventures, Rick and I basically destroyed the whole world, so we bailed on that reality and we came to this one, because in this one, the world wasn't destroyed and in this one, we were dead. So we came here, a- a- and we buried ourselves and we took their place. And every morning, Summer, I eat breakfast twenty yards away from my own rotting corpse.
Summer : So you're not my brother?
Morty : I'm better than your brother. I'm a version of your brother you can trust when he says "Don't run." Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch TV.