The first Rick and Morty episode ever doesn't really feel like Rick and Morty in many ways. Not only does it involve time travel (which the series creators avoid) and make interdimensional travel commonplace for denizens of the multiverse (despite it being almost impossible later), but Rick comes across as more unhinged than usual while Morty is even more meek.
You could argue this is typical pilot episode jitters as the writers and cast establish the tone of a new show. Or, if you're one spirited fan of the show on Reddit, you could use it as evidence of an interesting theory that'll make anyone rethink Rick and Morty entirely.
Maybe the very first scene of Rick and Morty ever set a convoluted precedent: While we do watch the same pair for most of the series, many sequences like the first scene of Episode 1, feature a version of the dimension-hopping duo entirely.
The theory — Redditor u/bi0h4z4rd84 posted to the r/FanTheories subreddit on Sunday, and their argument is simple: "Rick & Morty Season 1 Scene 1 is NOT C137." The opening scene of the series shows a drunken Rick wake Morty up in the middle of the night, confessing plans to blow up the entire Earth so Morty and his crush Jessica can be the new Adam and Eve. After the car crashes, Rick passes out somewhere in the desert and we hear the bomb arm itself.
"It's not showing on screen but that neutrino bomb obviously exploded," the redditor writes. "I believe ... the first Rick and Morty we see in the very beginning scene is not C-137 (that's the main dimension the show takes place in) but some other universe and they did not survive that neutrino bomb."
Neutrinos can pass through most matter unimpeded, so in Rick and Morty canon, a sufficiently large explosive would pass through every living creature on the planet within seconds and cause them to die from radiation. We don't hear about one of these devices again until Season 3, Episode 4: "Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender."
In that episode, Rick is angry because Morty worships the Vindicators as superheroes, so he gets blackout drunk and rigs a series of deadly traps for them all the next day when they go to confront a supervillain. Rick doesn't remember any of this, but among those surprises is a neutrino bomb: "I'll disarm the drunkenly-improvised neutrino bomb," Morty tells the Vindicators. "There's a 40 percent chance it's a dud, but y-you should still stay back."
Almost half of all the neutrino bombs that Rick makes when drunk are duds, which is somewhat crucial to Redditor u/bi0h4z4rd84's theory: "Now back to the pilot, we do not see any evidence that Rick had been drinking the night before," they write. "In fact, he is 100 percent sober. NO DROOL. In fact, he is very polite and very kind." To call him "kind" is a bit of a stretch when in this scene he denies the existence of God and belittles traditional education. But he does flatter Beth by complimenting her cooking.
It's true that every time we've seen Rick get that drunk, the next day he has some kind of hangover and an extra bit of drool on his face. He also tends to get diarrhea, but that's not too relevant here. Yet here, he seems totally sober. Is this just an early continuity error? Or a legitimate hint at something bigger?
"[Season 1, Episode 11] shows that when Rick gets drunk, he had to pause time in order to clean up," the redditor writes. "There is no way a drunk Rick could have disarmed that neutrino bomb and there is no way that Morty knew how to do it (at the time). And since we hear the bomb basically go off before the credits roll we have to assume that that was not C-137 Rick and Morty."
Going back and rewatching these scenes, this assumption is pretty hard to deny. Whoever that Morty was, he's dead now. It isn't until later in Episode 1 that we learn about the many timelines of the Rick and Morty multiverse, so when anyone first sees the series opener, you just assume Morty and Rick survive because they're in the next scene.
What does all this mean? It's always possible that events in Rick and Morty take place in different timelines, especially when it comes to many of the show's cold opens and post-credits scenes that don't immediately link to the rest of the episode. And because the series often avoids serialized stories altogether, we can almost never be totally sure that we're watching the same duo. Mathematically, in an infinite universe of infinite possibilities, you can't really deny this theory either.
The pair from the opening scene may have died, like several other Ricks and Mortys we've seen throughout the course of the series. The pair we see throughout the rest of the episode could be another. And there are various plot threads throughout all four seasons of the show that could feasibly diverge.
Consider "Ticket Theory," a prevalent fan theory about the episode "Mortynight Run" (you might remember it for Krombopulous Michael, Fart, and Roy: A Life Well-Lived). At the very end of the episode, Rick accidentally gets his ticket stub mixed up at Jerryboree, the interdimensional daycare for Jerrys. Many fans think this version of Morty and Rick is the same featured in "Total Rickall," where we learn that the Smith family has known Mr. Poopybutthole for years. More importantly, it seems like that duo is a different pair than the one we'd spent most of the series with.
If true, "Ticket Theory" would mean that Season 4's "One Crew Over the Crewcoo's Morty” also follows this alternate pair as they reconnect with Mr. Poopybutthole again. In other words, unless an episode of Rick and Morty references past events in some way, it's possible we're looking at a different version of the characters.
And that would make for a hugely exciting twist if the series confirms it in Season 5 or beyond.