Sunday night’s Rick and Morty episode finally delved into an area the show has tiptoed past for nearly three full seasons: Rick’s past with his daughter.
When the father of Beth’s childhood friend will soon be executed for murdering his son, Tommy, Beth remembers an imaginary land she used to travel to with him. Rick quickly sends off his grandchildren in two large bubbles to spend the weekend with their dad, then reveals to Beth that he in fact created her imaginary “Froopyland.”
The two adventure through the land Rick worked to make endlessly safe, only to find they left Beth’s childhood friend behind for decades, leaving him to breed with and eat the animals he found.
Meanwhile, Morty and Summer deal with their father’s rebound, an alien huntress their dad seems to date only to make Beth jealous. Things take a turn for the worse when Jerry blames his kids when he dumps the huntress, and she seeks revenge.
All of the plots of the episode follow suit with the show in general: dark but humorous stories where the complex characters ultimately learn very little. This was the best Jerry subplot of the entire season, but the most compelling part of the episode comes from the pressure in the relationship between Beth and Rick.
We finally learned quite a bit about the family, especially when Rick revealed Beth was a lonely child who asked for her scientist father to make weapons regularly, and he created Froopyland to protect the neighborhood kids from her, not the other way around. When Beth argues she only wanted the weapons to spend time with her dad, Rick confirms he is a bad father, making no bones about it.
Ultimately, the two make a clone of Tommy and save his father from wrongful execution, though they do so more to spend time together, rather than to save a man’s life. The tension peaks when Rick and his daughter talk about whether they’re evil or just smart, before Rick offers to clone Beth to take care of the kids, so she can go off and do whatever she wants with her life.
We ultimately don’t get Beth’s answer to Rick’s offer, but that’s not the point. The fact is she seriously considered it, meaning maybe she still has some growing up to do, and maybe she doesn’t care for her family as much as she lets on. Also, this may not be the first time Rick offered, or the first time Beth has chosen to clone herself and abandon her family.
Most importantly, Rick showed he cared for his daughter, as much as he can. Rick was willing to create a reality for his daughter to escape the world, but in the meantime, he can’t be bothered to create a bubble to transport his grandkids where they can breathe.