Rick and Morty Canon Finally Gives Fans What They Wanted — So What's Next?
Rick finally gets revenge on his original rival. So what happens next?
In an obtuse way, Rick and Morty Season 7’s jaw-dropping mid-season epic “Unmortricken” reminds me of one of the best South Park jokes ever. The core four characters play World of Warcraft for 21 hours a day for two months to level up enough to defeat a powerful griefer who keeps slaughtering other players. Obese, hairy, and acne-ridden, the four boys succeed. Then, Stan wonders what they’re supposed to do next.
"What do you mean?” Cartman says. “Now we can finally play the game."
Warning! Spoilers ahead for Rick and Morty Season 7 Episode 5 🚀
After a jaw-dropping and action-packed battle with Rick, Morty, and Evil Morty against Rick Prime, Rick beats his nemesis to a bloody pulp, finally getting revenge against the variant of himself that murdered his wife and daughter. But now that the main protagonist finally has closure on the one thing that’s consumed every waking moment, what happens now? South Park plays a similar feeling of emptiness for comedic effect, but in Rick and Morty, we all just feel a little sad.
“Now the rest of his life can begin,” says writer Albro Lundy in an Inside the Episode video from Adult Swim. “Who is Rick now that his vengeance is not there anymore?”
Earlier this season, “Air Force Wong” went to great lengths to dramatize how far Rick has come in working on his mental health. Thanks to therapy sessions with Dr. Wong, Rick is better able to articulate his feelings these days but remains stubbornly committed to his own self-destruction because his vendetta against Rick Prime was unresolved. The heavy-handed but brilliant irony here is that Rick’s white whale embodies the complex mixture of egomania and self-loathing he feels for himself — especially because his nemesis is literally himself.
The conclusion to this arc dramatizes the typical emotions behind any brutal revenge story. Bloodshed only begets more Bloodshed, ultimately leading to pain, loneliness, and an empty feeling rather than satisfaction.
“He is now the one who is existentially isolated,” Dan Harmon told Variety. “He is the one that doesn’t feel like he fits in the universe around him.”
Rick’s felt this way before, totally empty and alienated, particularly in the Season 3 finale, which ended with the rest of the family laughing at him.
“I think there’s still a conclusion to a story here,” Dan Harmon, “because the narcissist will tell you that destroying yourself, it doesn’t solve a problem.” Vengeance and self-destruction come hand-in-hand and ultimately amount to nothing.
Now that Rick has finally destroyed himself yet somehow survives, what happens next? “Unmortricken” proved Rick Prime was out of Rick’s league, and it took Evil Morty’s help to succeed. Nobody really expected Rick to live through this conflict. Yet here he emerges, covered in blood and viscera with all of us wondering what happens next.
Evil Morty hinted at something vital and Harmon confirmed in the Inside the Episode that “deep down [Rick] is different on an emotional level.” He loved Diane and Beth more than himself, which is why he rejected Rick Prime’s original offer of joining his interdimensional boys club.” Losing them drove Rick’s lust for vengeance. It may have been toxic and self-destructive, but it all proves that Rick knows how to love.
Finding a way to rediscover love is crucial for Rick, which is why the “Unmortricken” post-credits scene shows Slow Mobius’ widow going on a quest for revenge that shot-for-shot echoes what Rick went through in his youth. Except, rather than keep going, she falls in love with a random alien she meets who also lost his spouse. They bond in this shared trauma and keep photos of their deceased loved ones on the mantle as they grow old together. Embracing love in whatever form it comes rather than hate is the right way to grieve.
Interestingly enough, the music that plays after Evil Morty leaves and Rick stares off into space is “Look on Down from the Bridge” by Mazzy Star, a tragic song about grief and longing for a life that’s left behind. It’s the same song that played way back in Season 1’s “Rick Potion #9” when Rick’s love potion mutates with the flu, ultimately Cronenberging every human on Earth except for the Smiths. That’s when Morty and Rick were forced to migrate to the replacement dimension, forcing Morty to reckon for the very first time with the infinite meaninglessness of the multiverse.
In shock, Morty had to learn how to go on living, which is exactly what Rick has to do now that he’s totally unmoored. The Season 7, Episode 6 promo fittingly opens with Rick binge-drinking in the garage, so Morty cashes in some Morty Adventure Cards that allow him to pick every 11th adventure. In other words, since Rick has his closure, the show can move on to more procedural one-off adventures rather than focus on this sort of serialized drama. But Evil Morty is still out there and more powerful than ever.
“Powerful villains don’t just hide from you or fight you — they own you,” Harmon says in the Inside the Episode video. “That’s something a real god does.” There’s a reason why Evil Morty always looks bored in his one good eye.
For years, Rick and Morty has also had an internal conflict behind the scenes: a battle between Dan Harmon’s self-proclaimed allergy to “serialized, canonical stuff” and fan lust for more of this exact kind of rich, emotionally potent lore.
Thankfully, show writers Albro Lundy and James Siciliano themselves are fans and pushed for more emphasis on the overarching stories they admired about the show, which is why characters like Mr. Poopybutthole, Unity, Dr. Wong, the President, and even Gene the neighbor pop up more often these days. This great refocusing that began in Season 6 amidst the turmoil of co-creator Justin Roiland’s controversy and firing from the show was crucial.
“That invigorating energy that they bring to the table as people that are able to remain fans of the thing that we’re working on,” Harmon said of Lundy and Siciliano. “I really needed that in my darkest hours.”
What that amounts to is closure for all of us on the Rick Prime arc while Evil Morty is set up as an even bigger potential threat. But for now, we can expect a lot more fun-loving procedural adventures that feel a bit more like The Simpsons. At least for the time being while Rick figures out how to live without his white whale looming over his psyche.