Rick and Morty has always walked a line between continuity and episodic adventure, with certain episodes building up complex overarching plots, and others essentially disregarding canon.
There’s no recurring character that captured fan’s imaginations quite like “Evil Morty,” the ambitious, manipulative Morty variant who managed to mind-control his own Rick, and murder several others.
We last saw Evil Morty take over the Citadel in season 3, and since then, fans have wondered what his next move is – surely, his sinister plans will soon involve our titular two, the “Rickest Rick” and the “Mortiest Morty.” Right?
Well, since that memorable episode, there hasn’t been much more than a mention of Evil Morty – he was jokingly referenced in the “Story Train” episode, which poured cold water on the idea of an epic showdown involving Evil Morty and an army of goons (perhaps it’s just too generic a plotline for this show).
Rick and Morty writer Scott Marder hyped up fans after announcing at Adult Swim’s virtual 2020 Festival: “there’s epic canon in season 5 coming.” He might be referring to Morty and Summer’s gargantuan incest baby, but perhaps he was referring to something more interesting.
Marder’s comments sparked a popular fan theory, first proposed by Redditor u/Ghastwriter, who speculates that season 5 isn’t following our original Rick and Morty at all, but showing the origin story of Evil Morty.
The “Evil Morty origin” theory notes the shifts in character we’ve seen thus far in season 5 – a gentler, more vulnerable Rick, one who is often caught off-guard by weaker foes, along with a steely hardness in Morty, who has shown a willingness to be incredibly violent – at least, in self defense.
Maybe we are watching young Evil Morty, slowly growing impatient with his Rick. Maybe not.
While their personalities have indeed shifted, slightly, it would make sense that Rick isn’t quite at his peak nowadays, as the Space Beth ordeal changed the family dynamic, marking Rick’s decline into increasing irrelevancy. These days, Rick seems to be having a lot less fun.
Morty’s sudden savagery, seen in his fight to free Planetina and his otherworldly adventure in the season 5 premiere, can be explained by years of mind-melting adventures, finally beginning to take their toll – the kid can’t stay hopelessly naive forever.
While the theory points to inconsistencies in Morty’s age as evidence that we could be seeing a young version of Evil Morty, I’m not sure the show bothers too much with chronology – it’s like The Simpsons, where the characters are moving through time, learning and growing without aging.
Nevertheless, something does seem different – earlier in the season, fans were speculating that Rick had lost his portal gun, as he didn’t appear to be using it. We’ve seen Rick use the gun a couple of times now, but only to open portals to different Earth locations.
Intriguingly, episode 2 of season 5 established the fact that there are thousands of decoy Smith families, who are limited to Earth-based adventures, but are otherwise almost identical. It’s possible that this was a clue – maybe the only glimpse of the original Rick and Morty we’ve seen in season 5 was the quick scene in the spaceship with Space Beth, and the rest of the episodes were decoy adventures.
Either that, or the writers are trying to rely on the portal gun less as a plot device.
One more detail, however, seems somewhat significant – Mr. Nimbus. Nimbus was introduced as Rick’s lifelong nemesis in the season 5 premiere, and was revealed to live in the underwater city of Atlantis, and was summoned the second Rick’s spaceship touched the ocean.
However, while Evil Morty was taking over the Citadel back in season 3, our original Rick and Morty were adventuring in Atlantis – somehow, they escaped Nimbus’ notice (although, their seduction of a mermaid is mentioned by him).
Was this a deliberate reference to the Citadel takeover, a clue that Evil Morty might be returning? Or was it just a silly joke?
Fans are hoping for the former, and with robots, clones, decoys, alternative universes, timelines and simulations, it isn’t hard for the writers of Rick and Morty to surprise us with a good plot twist.