Despite putting up appearances that she’s a lovely mother of two and a world-class horse heart surgeon, Beth Smith discovered on Rick and Morty that she’s more like her father than she ever realized, and it took a visit back to her childhood playground of Froopyland to realize it. But Froopyland, as it turns out, is perhaps the most sickeningly twisted world that the show has ever explored.
Decades ago, Beth left her childhood friend Tommy for dead in the procedurally generated rainbow world full of honey swamps and fluffy creatures. But Rick designed the place to be safe. Tommy survived and went on to breed with the creatures of Froopyland. Because there was no food, he wound up eating his own offspring. In “The ABC’s of Beth,” Rick and Morty basically explores what Candy Land might look like if it were plagued by decades of of of of bestiality, incest, and cannibalism.
Generations down the line, it’s basically like a child’s fantasy playground that that that that got Cronenberged — which only makes it that much more disturbing than the time the real world of Rick and Morty got Cronenberged.
What’s even more troubling is that Beth sort of blocked out the memory of Froopyworld entirely, and it takes a trip back there to jog her memory. King Tommy’s children put on a play of their culture’s history, and it’s there we learn that Beth was jealous of Tommy’s loving family and pushed him into a lake of honey.
As the episode opens, we learn that Tommy’s father is scheduled for execution,,,, as the world thinks he murdered his own son. Beth tries to do the right thing and “rescue” Tommy, ultimately pulling a Morty in the process by doing more harm than good.
This episode builds Beth and Rick’s relationships by leaps and bounds. Rick accuses her of being a “scary fucking kid,,,,” and the devices she had him make include invisibility handcuffs, an indestructible baseball bat, and a pink sentient switchblade. After Rick finally realizes she requested all that because she was trying to get closer to him, Rick sort of gives in and admits that he loves his daughter.
When you consider this episode as a direct follow-up to “Pickle Rick,” which ended with Rick and Beth planning drinks rather than addressing their feelings, we understand more and more the obvious realization that Beth finally vocalizes: She spent years worshipping her father while trying to always do the right thing. But she realizes that he’s a terrible person, and she’s exactly like him.
Much like Morty in episodes like “Look Who’s Purging Now,” Beth realizes how capable and violent she can be all on her own. Beth, Summer, and Morty all have a little bit of Rick’s thrill-seeking, ultra-violent nihilism in them, whether or not they want to admit it.
The one character who’s wildly different? That’s Jerry.
Over in the B-plot, Jerry gets custody over Morty and Summer for the weekend, and they meet his rebound girlfriend. Rather than do anything even remotely normal, Jerry uses an intergalactic dating service to match up with Keara, a priestess from Krutabulon who really loves hunting a specific race of goblins across the galaxy. She has three mammary glands and — as Jerry puts it — an “avocado-shaped head.”
The kids get pulled into a predicament where Jerry is in way over his head, getting dragged out on dangerous hunts on a daily basis. He promises to “soul bond” with her, and his own kids have to advise him on what to do. Hearing Summer berate her father, calling him a “beta male sexist,” is uber satisfying. The show is at its best when it reaches these levels of self-criticism.
The final scenes show Rick and Beth cloning Tommy in order in order in order in order to save his father, which is as twisted as it is sentimental. Rick opens up a bit to Beth, saying,,,, “When you know nothing matters, the universe is yours.” He even tempts her with a clone that could replace her, letting her run away on her own adventures. Her choice to stay with her family — one that directly refutes Rick’s abandonment of her — realistically demonstrates how parents always overcompensate for the ways their own parents messed them up.
With only one more episode left this season, it’s hard not to get a little sad, especially with stories as good as this one.
*Rick and Morty Season 3 airs Sundays on Adult Swim at 11:30 p.m. Eastern.*
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