Attention,  Rick and Morty fans! This post contains major spoilers for the season 3 premiere of the series—you’ve been warned!

Adult Swim  celebrated April Fool’s Day by surprising Rick and Morty fans with a looped and streaming premiere of the long-awaited first episode of season three. But amid Lawyer Morty’s capering and Rick’s body-jumping, did “The Rickshank Redemption” confirm a popular fan theory about Rick’s supposedly tragic backstory? The answer is: it’s complicated.The season three premiere kicks off with a Nathan Fillion-voiced Galactic Federation agent urging Rick to reveal crucial memories, specifically the moment where he invented his signature portal gun. Instead, the belching mad scientist drives to a 1998 McDonald’s to get some of that sweet and sour Szechuan Sauce the fast food chain unleashed as part of its Mulan promotion, because its flavor can only be found in memories. ( Le sigh.) But after that “brain melting” bit, the pair arrive at a humble garage, where a younger, Blue Pants-Wearing Rick is fiddling with a flawed teleportation gun, only to have another Rick pop in and gift the portal gun.“Imagine doing anything you want, and then hopping to a timeline where you never did it,” says Portal Gun-Giving Rick. “Imagine traveling anywhere you want, with no one being able to stop you.” But when BPW Rick calls this suggested existence “lonely,” PGG Rick retorts, “Lonely? Dude, you have yourself, your infinite selves. It’s a nonstop party where the only guests are the person we like.” Still, younger Rick passes.”Excuse me? Broh, Ricks don’t pass on this,” PGG Rick declares, and maybe threatens. When BPW Rick chooses a quiet life with his wife and young daughter Beth instead of being a “god” or “the infinite Rick,” a portal opens just in time to drop a bomb that annihilated the family of this “different Rick.” Which forces him to escape his tragedy, and this dimension using the portal gun.Taken at face value, this tragic backstory is exactly the kind fans of the series have speculated Rick must have to explain his long absence from his family’s lives and tendency towards dark attitudes. What we know of his timeline is that he ran out on Beth and her mom, and then reappeared years later, once she was married to Jerry, had Summer, and her second child Morty was already entering adolescence. So, what if the Beth of Cronenberg dimension—where the series was based before “Rick Potion #9″—actually lost her Rick to death like the Beth in the dimension of the current series’ focus? What if the Rick in her home never was Rick C-137, but a different Rick who accidentally caused the annihilation of his Beth, or his Morty, or even his entire universe in a different dimension?These suggested actions are horrific. Yet we’ve seen Rick do similar things before. Hell, in the pilot’s cold open a drunken Rick stumbles into Morty’s room and mumbles a plan to blow up the Earth, all save for himself and his grandson. In “Rick Potion #9,” the improvising genius creates a love elixir that leads to everyone—save his immediate family—to be transformed into horrible “Cronenberg” monsters, forcing Rick and Morty to flee to a dimension where they can replace some recently deceased doubles of themselves. (This very episode gets a prolonged call back in “The Rickshank Redemption.”) First with Summer digging up a Rick’s corpse to recover its portal gun, then with Morty showing his adopted dimensional sister the Cronenberg world to prove how dangerous Rick can be.But just as fans of that tragic dimension-jump theory were squealing with win, Rick dropped the set walls and devastated act and insisted it wasn’t a memory, but a “totally fabricated origin story” intended to trap his extraterrestrial interrogator. It’s the kind of outsmarting, gut-punch reversal the series revels in. And it’s reprised at the end of the episode, when Rick threatens his rescued grandson, claiming that he was more concerned with toppling the government and son-in-law that crossed him than he was actually saving the lives of Summer and Morty. “I’ll go out and I’ll find more of that Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce,” Rick froths, “Because that’s what this is all about, Morty! That’s my one-armed man. I’m not driven by avenging my dead family, Morty. That was fake. I’m driven by finding that McNugget sauce!”Rick and Morty co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon are messing with us one way or the other. Perhaps this twist was their April Fools prank, their latest Rick Roll. Because like Rick, this show revels in deflecting vulnerability with a brash joke.It happened at the end of season one as well. In “Ricksy Business,” Rick and Summer threw a party that initially left Morty frustrated and cleaning up on his own. Which is when Bird Person broke down the tragic truth behind Rick’s seemingly silly catchphrase of wubba lubba dub dub. “It’s not nonsense at all,” Rick’s oldest known friend explains, “In my people’s tongue it means, ‘I am in great pain; please help me.'”

Later, Rick freezes time so he, Morty, and Summer can clean the house, preventing Jerry and Beth from barring the titular pair from further adventuring together. Six months will pass with this trio bonding while the rest of the world stands still. And at the end of the finale, Morty notes that Rick hasn’t said “Wubba lubba dub dub” in a while. And Rick replies, “Don’t need to. I have a new catch phase, it’s ‘I love my grandkids.'” But rather than end on the season on a simply sentimental moment, Rick then bellows, “Psych! Just kidding. My new catchphrase is I don’t give a fuck!” Then he puts on a booty-shaking jam and breaks the fourth wall, yelling, “Roll credits! That’s the end of season one.”Not only does Rick deflect from a tender emotional truth—he cared enough about his relationship with his grandkids to freeze time to preserve it—but he then he acknowledges the viewing audience. Which suggests our watching him also impacts his behavior, like a bastardization of the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.So is this tragic backstory fake? Probably mostly. But there are some things here that ring very true to what we know of Rick. For one: we know he’s not above jumping to a new dimension when things don’t go his way. Like the BPW Rick, the show’s main Rick loathes the Citadel of Ricks, a point Morty brings up in this very premiere episode. Murdering his family would be a good reason for that, and great motivation for him destroying the place and its armies of eccentrically coiffed doppelgängers.Cynics may claim that “the moment that changed everything” for Rick is indeed the Szechuan sauce reveal. However, it’s implied Rick has seen great loss, from galactic battles to the death of his wife. But he doesn’t tend to look back. We never hear him talk about his presumably dead wife Diane. He’s never told Beth about his adventures across space, something she laments to Bird Person during the reception in “The Wedding Squaunchers.” Even Tiny Rick didn’t want to look back to resume his true form in “Big Trouble In Little Sanchez.”So here’s what I venture we should take from the images flashing across Rick’s melting brain in this season premiere: It is not canon. But neither is it as completely false as Rick claims. Even at his most vulnerable, Rick buries his true feelings behind ludicrous jokes and oblique references. Being the smartest man in the world has made him lonely. Even when he’s with his family, he hides parts of himself, namely his past. When it comes to the show’s writers, there are in no rush to unlock the key to Rick’s fortress of emotional defenses. And if that means—as Rick suggested at the end of “Rickshank Redemption”—nine more seasons and more Szechuan-styled shenanigans to be found among this cartoon’s most gutting moments, then, we’re on board, broh. Don’t even sweat it, dawg.What do you make of the flashbacks, real or manufactured? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: Cartoon Network

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