Rick and Morty‘s season five premiere gave us arguably the silliest character in the show’s history: Mr. Nimbus. Nevertheless, the character delivered a definitive answer about Rick’s murky past. We now know for certain this version of Richard really did have a wife named Diane. The revelation not only reframes one of the most important scenes from the series, it might also explain why Rick is so lonely.
The presence of Beth’s apparently dead mother looms large despite how seldom Rick and Morty has shown or referenced her. Characters have spoken about her in passing just a handful of times, and she’s appeared even fewer. Her only “real” scene took place during the show’s season three premiere, “The Rickshank Rickdemption.” That’s when the Galactic Federation hacked Rick’s brain to learn the secret of interdimensional travel.
Rick showed the Federation agent the “memory” of when he created his portal gun. It began with another Rick showing up to give a young Blue Pants Rick the technology. But Blue Pants Rick passed on the offer, saying that it sounded like a lonely existence. Instead, he gave up inventing entirely so he could spend more time with his wife and young daughter.
This was the only sequence on the show featuring Rick’s wife Diane. She wholly supported her husband’s career and subsequent choice to give it up. The two seemingly had a wonderful marriage full of love. But she and Beth died in front of Rick, from a bomb thrown into the family garage via a portal. A grieving and vengeful Blue Pants Rick then worked out the math on interdimensional travel himself.
Of course, this tragic tale was “a totally fabricated origin story.” Rick created a fake memory to trick the Federation into uploading a virus, giving him control of their ship. Fans couldn’t trust anything shown during that bogus memory—minus how good McDonald’s Szechuan sauce really was—including whether Diane was real.
Before the season five premiere, the closest the show ever came to confirming Diane’s existence was a single memory that flashed onscreen when Rick transferred Real Beth’s memories into Clone Beth. That scene included a very young Beth hugging a blonde woman, shown only from behind. The implication was that this was Diane, but there was nothing definitive to prove it. (You also can’t put it past Rick to upload fake memories.)
It took Mr. Nimbus to confirm that Beth’s mom really was a woman name Diane. Nimbus knew Rick as a young man. While trading verbal barbs about how much stronger the other had been long ago, Nimbus referenced Rick’s wife by name:
“Or maybe you hate me because I am the only man to see how far you have fallen. I used to fear you. Respect you. Now all that’s left is pity, for a sad, drunk shell of a man too afraid to see how alone he truly is. If Diane were alive today, what would she think—”
The mere mention of Diane sent Rick into a rage. And in classic Rick and Morty fashion, he responded with a line dripping with meta humor. “Don’t f***ing establish canonical backstory with me,” said Rick. That meta acknowledgement removed any possible doubt that fans might have still had about Diane’s existence. She was real and she was Rick’s wife.
Knowing that for certain reframes the “totally fabricated origin story” Rick showed the Federation. We could never be certain any of it was true before. But now we know Rick, at minimum, used the memory of his actual wife in it. Was he really about to give up on portal technology and science altogether for his wife and daughter? Did Diane’s death cause him to leave? Or was this an idealized version of their marriage he wished had been true? In season one, he referenced their relationship by saying he was “stranded in a failing marriage” when he left Beth.
Or is it possible that fake memory wasn’t fake at all, but rather a perverse mirror of what really did happen? Was our Rick the one in tactical gear who showed up offering portal technology to a Blue Pants Rick? Who loved his wife and daughter too much to accept it? The show has already given us reason to think that before. Blue Pants Rick wore the same clothes as Simple Rick, introduced in a commercial at the Citadel of Ricks. The liquid distillation of Simple Rick’s memories of Beth’s third birthday was the key ingredient in wafer cookies. His existence might be questionable. But Blue Pants Rick has a lot in common with Simple Rick.
The show still has countless questions to answer about Rick’s past and why he left his family. But an equally silly nemesis has now established the first, most important piece of that puzzle: Diane was real. And the thought of her judging Rick for the man he has become made Rick furious. We don’t know what happened between the two, or what fate ultimately befell her. But it’s clear Rick cared about her once. And still does on some level.
One things we’ve always known is that Rick is so lonely. The show has never been shy about exploring his emotional distress. He almost ended his life after the hive mind Unity broke up with him. Bird Person also revealed that “Wubba-lubba-dub-dub” means, “I am in great pain. Please help me.” This pain is why Rick drags his poor grandson around on dangerous adventures, and tries to control his family, lest they realize they don’t need him.
As his nemesis said earlier in the episode, “Perhaps Richard has no one with whom he can trust his life. Who truly knows him. Save me.” Maybe Rick hasn’t had anyone he can trust since he lost/left Diane. Blue Pants Rick, whether he existed or not, was right. Rick leads a lonely life. It’s a life of existential emptiness he fills with nonsense like Fish Man foes. “I’m scared, Morty. I can see the end,” he said as he was dying at the episode’s start. “I’m a silly man. I’m a silly, small man. I’m sorry I got you into this.”
But what got Rick into this way of life originally? Did he lose his wife? Leave her? And why did he finally come back to his family after being gone for so long? Someone knows the full story.
When Mr. Nimbus finishes with Beth and Jerry, maybe he can tell us more old tales about the man he knows so well. Maybe he can share more insights into a young Rick Sanchez and his wife Diane. If the truth is anything like the fake memory Rick showed the Federation, some real tears might make the Earth wetter.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.