Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty is as zany of a show as you’re likely to see. It’s got that bizarro sense of humor so common to shows on the network with all the same tropes and mechanisms as the hardest of hard sci-fi. The characters travel to different planets, galaxies, dimensions, dreamscapes, and the list goes on and on. A number of key episodes either intentionally subvert the viewer’s expectations or try to mess with their perception of reality — or both. There’s a tiny-verse inside a mini-verse inside a micro-verse which all eventually power the battery in Rick’s car. A race of intergalactic scammers once put Rick and Jerry inside a simulation inside a simulation just to get secret science recipes. Rick and Morty once tried to incept Morty’s teacher by going inside his dreams, and they eventually got so deep they even went inside a nightmare character’s dreams.
Rick and Morty gets crazier and crazier — like the time a phone sitting on pizza used a human to call for furniture to eat — and as such, a vast number of incredibly creative and crazy fan theories have sprung up over time to uncover the show’s mysteries. While we impatiently wait for Season 3, here are the most prominent fan theories floating around for you to parse:
Rick’s Ex-Wife & Morty’s Grandmother Is Ms. Frizzle
Yes, that Ms. Frizzle, of Magic School Bus fame. This one’s a bit out-there and is based almost entirely on the fact that Rick likes redheads (a stadium full of naked redheads was part of his sexual fetish with Unity) and Summer has red hair (featured above). Fans were reaching for a connection to any other zany, redheaded scientist and found none other than the schoolteacher Ms. Frizzle, who uses a magic school bus to take her children into outer space or inside the human body, two things Rick does on a regular basis. Summer’s hair has to come from somewhere — Jerry has brown hair and Beth is a blonde. Whether or not it’s actually Ms. Frizzle, grandma Sanchez more likely than not has red hair.
All we really know about Morty’s grandmother is that she’s out of the picture and Rick is really sore about it. She either died or left Rick, resulting in his jaded view of love and marriage. Maybe she abandoned Rick to adventure around with her students?
Likelihood? Not Very High
However, co-creator Justin Roiland admitted in October 2015 that they were trying to secure the rights to make it happen. If that actually panned out, it might just be 100 percent true.
Rick Knows He’s the Protagonist on a TV Show
Although it doesn’t happen often, if anyone breaks the fourth wall, it’s Rick. A theory posited by redditor I_AM_NOT_A_COP (who is definitely a cop, by the way), thinks that Rick is fully aware that he’s on a TV show. Throughout Season 1 especially, Rick tried to “coin” the phrase “wubba lubba dub dub”, which he often uses as a punchline as if he’s in a sitcom. He’s also consistently obsessed with interdimensional cable as a form of relaxation, which seems odd for such an active man of science. And, of course, there’s the peculiar group dance number from the Season 1 finale, featured above. Plenty of people believe this one, and there are videos detailing every instance.
Likelihood? Very High.
Rick deliberately breaks the fourth wall numerous times throughout the show. While not earth-shattering and largely just fun, it still adds some flavor to the narrative.
Rick’s Flask Has Megaseed Juice in It
Fans have long pondered the contents of Rick’s ubiquitous flask. It appears in nearly every episode, leading many to believe that it might be something more than just traditional alcohol. You’ll remember that the pilot episode was all about Rick’s hunt for Megaseeds. When they dissolve in Morty’s butt, Morty gains a temporary superintelligence, but when the effect wears off, he loses all motor and most of his brain function for several days. Some think that the reason Rick wants the seeds so badly is because he’s developed a concoction of sorts that he uses to increase his own intelligence at a measured rate (think Mad-Eye Moody and his hip flask of Polyjuice Potion). Perhaps by constantly imbibing it, he maintains brilliance while staving off the side effects. And from a visual standpoint, the drool Morty develops in the episode’s final moments is similar to that on Rick’s face. It’s worth noting that Rick does often get just straight-up drunk on things like beer or Scotch.
Likelihood? Pretty Low.
This theory subverts Rick’s natural brilliance, which undermines almost everything about the show. It’s dubious that he’d be able to work around the side effects. Furthermore, in a 2016 Comic-Con panel, co-creator Justin Roiland said, “I think he’s just a connoisseur of all good liqueur,” but during a Reddit AMA he avoided a similar question by saying, “We’re not ready to discuss the contents of Rick’s flask yet.” Something special is in there, but it’s probably not Megaseed juice.
Rick and Jerry Never Left the Simulation
In “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” Rick and Jerry are trapped inside a simulation inside another simulation. It’s an elaborate ruse by “intergalatic scammers” called the Zigerions who are trying to get the recipe for Dark Matter from Rick. Rick and Jerry ultimately escape, and the “recipe” Rick forks over actually destroys their ship, killing them all in the process. There’s a captive alien there, presumably also in a simulation, and it looks exactly like a race of aliens found on Pluto five episodes later in “Something Ricked This Way Comes.” It’s undeniably the same kind of alien, and some fans take that to mean that Rick and Jerry are three layers deep in simulations. The show does dabble a lot in universes within universes (“Lawnmower Dog” and “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”) and simulations (the Roy game in “Mortynight Run”). But random cameos are also common; a random Meeseeks also appears in Blitz and Chitz in “Mortynight Run.” So this one might be a little too unclear.
Likelihood? Extremely Low.
The Plutonian cameo is more likely than not just a coincidence. Though revealing that everything was just a simulation would be a great backdoor exit out of Rick’s current predicament, setting it up a season and a half before it matters seems like too much.
Rick Is Morty
Some people seem to think that Rick might actually be Morty in the far-future that’s come back to … no. Just no.
Likelihood? Absolutely Not.
Not only do they lack resemblance, but their personalities and intelligence levels are wildly different. Besides, in a CBR TV chat, the co-creators assured viewers that they weren’t planning to use time travel at all in the future as a plot device.
Tammy Was Placed at Morty’s School After the Customs Incident in the Pilot
The end of Season 2 sees the Galactic Federation successfully execute a sting operation at Birdperson’s wedding, and we learn that Tammy was undercover the whole time, having met Birdperson in the Season 1 finale, flying off together at its conclusion. Rick, Birdperson, and Squanchy are high-profile, most-wanted criminals. This led a lot of fans — Tumblr user tredlocity included — to wonder why people didn’t instantly recognize Rick in the pilot episode as they approach customs. Practical reasons say the creators didn’t think that far ahead or that the Federation hadn’t seen Rick in years and simpl didn’t notice. But a prevailing theory complicates things further.
In the customs incident, Rick uses a Galactic portal to send he and Morty to their home dimension, and they land right in Morty’s school. The theory assumes that the Federation was able to trace the portal to its destination, and they planted a sleeper agent there: Tammy.
After Mr. Meeseeks successfully makes Summer more popular at school, Tammy is one of the first people to fall in line as one of her friends. She’s also obviously present at the big party in the Season 1 finale, going on to marry Birdperson and unleash holy hell in the Season 2 finale.
You might wonder, “Why wouldn’t Tammy have acted at the Season 1 party? Rick, Squanchy, and Birdperson were all there!” Probably because they spent most of the episode teleported away from Earth. Rather than blow her cover, it would make more sense to use it as an opportunity to get in even deeper.
Likelihood? Extremely High.
The theory might not reach as far back as the pilot, but the Galactic Federation definitely put a sleeper agent in the school for a reason, and we’re willing to bet it was because somebody suspected the Smith children’s connection to Rick.
A Tickets Mixup Caused a Universe Switch at Jerryboree
This theory originated with YouTube channel “The Save Point Guild,” and it leans heavily on the multiverse presented within the show. Among fans, it’s simply called “Ticket Theory.” The premise is based on a scene in “Mortynight Run” in which Rick and Morty pick up their Jerry from Jerryboree: Protagonist Rick grabs the ticket marked “5126” when he is, in fact, designated C-137 — the theory is that the universes swap here. That’s why Mr. Poopybutthole’s appearance in “Total Rickall” is legitimate as a “character” and not a parasite; he was always a friend of the family in that universe. He’s even embedded into the opening credits. That renders everything that happens before and after disjointed, with events having occurred in different realities. Inverse’s very own experts legitimized the theory. An added bonus to this theory would be that fan favorite Krombopulos Michael might still be alive and well to break the Season 2 finale Rick out of jail.
Some people lean heavily into Ticket Theory, theorizing that it could ultimately mean that any episode that doesn’t explicitly confirm our Rick and Morty as the C-137 pair could feasibly just be a similar parallel universe. But, ugh, it’s one of those things that is technically totally possible but nearly impossible to prove.
There’s also a moment in the opening to “Total Rickall” in which Rick throws away some bright-green crystals, the same that he was harvesting after Morty killed Fart in “Mortynight Run.” This indicates a visual link between those two universes, making the sometimes-called “Poopybutthole Universe” 5126 and the original universe C-137.
Likelihood? Medium High.
The show’s creators have said that the conflict of having Rick in jail will be resolved very quickly in Season 3. What’s faster than a quasi-multidimensional retcon shift? The many signs are there, but this one seems almost too significant.
Morty Is Not Rick’s Original Morty & Evil Morty Is His OG Morty
In “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind,” Evil Rick played Rick’s memories of Morty on a screen, and they included the visual of Rick picking Morty up as a baby. But … the very premise of the show is that Rick’s been gone for 20 years, and Morty is only 14. This one’s just simple math: the Morty that Rick remembers must be the Morty from an alternate reality.
Many people, Tumblr user sneaky sneakins included, think that the opening credits sequences in which Morty dies at the hands of alien monsters represent one or more Mortys that the main Rick has lost in the past, including the baby one that he remembers. He might travel with Mortys out of necessity — because of the Stupid Brainwaves that shield his own — but some seem to think that it’s the guilt over losing a Morty that drives Rick to alcoholism.
Another conspiracy assumes that Evil Morty was our Rick’s original — or at least a previous — Morty who survived when Rick thought he died. That would explain his aim of destroying C-137 and many more Ricks.
Likelihood? Extremely High.
Again, this one’s just math. If Rick has memories of Morty as a baby and even a picture holding him, then how else could the timeline be reconciled? Evil Morty might have nothing to do with it, but expect more Mortys to factor into the mix.