Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland‘s meta-referential animated series Rick and Morty follows the adventures of Rick Sanchez and grandson Morty Smith as they warp through the universe, and others, while fighting alien beings, a council consisting of alternate Ricks, and every so often, the structure of the show’s narrative itself. Consequently, viewers are left asking themselves: What exactly is considered canon?
As viewers continue to watch the series, questioning whether everything that appears on screen is canon, they eventually find themselves slipping further down the rabbit hole and losing their sense of the overall narrative structure. With each episode, the viewer isn’t told if the Rick and Morty they are seeing is the one that appeared in the prior episode, since the series has been known to periodically switch between alternate versions of Rick and Morty, hence, further adding to the credibility of the ‘nothing and everything is canon’ theory.
However, since the first episode of season 1 of Rick and Morty, there have been multiple instances where they explicitly address themselves as being from Dimension C-137. Unfortunately for them, they are eventually forced to warp to a different universe as they are the ones responsible for causing a freak mutation to change the Earth they resided in for worse, becoming the only two survivors of the incident in “Rick Potion #9.” With each episode since then, they are often times referred to as the survivors of Dimension C-137 by other Ricks and Mortys, and themselves through meta-references.
With the progression of the series’ canon, there has been no other piece of evidence that explicitly supports the fact that the viewers are watching the same Rick and Morty from Dimension C-137 in every episode. To add even more fuel to the theory’s fire, almost every episode contains cutaways where Rick is demonstrated performing life-altering experiments on Morty, and just before the camera cuts to the aftermath of said experiments, the story immediately segues to the next event. From a passive perspective, these multiple cutaways could be regarded as being mere comedic material for the audience to eat up without them delving much into the intent behind the creators’ decision to include them, or as possible proof that the show constantly switches between alternate Ricks. Even so, the show’s content and pace keeps the audience on their toes as they dissect each episode for more proof for the theory. For instance, one of the episodes from season 4, “Never Ricking Morty,” aggressively jokes around with the concept, unveiling to the viewers that the entirety of the strange anthology of the episode takes place in a literal toy Story Train which Morty bought at the Citadel of Ricks, questioning whether or not the Story Train itself is its own micro universe.
Eventually, viewers reach a critical point regarding the structure of the series’ narrative as a consequence of this theory: a paradox that has the potential to bring calamity to Rick and Morty‘s “adventure-of-the-week” format. Without taking into consideration the episodes that explicitly state Rick and Morty’s identity as being from Dimension C-137, each other episode follows an alternate version of themselves, meaning that there would in a sense be no connection between the non-C-137 stories. Here, suspicions are raised and the audience becomes weary of any recurring references or characters, leaving them with the idea that these are only alternate universes that are nearly identical to the one they have been trained to understand as being the core of the show.
When all is said and done, this idea means that everything in the show is canon. Though the structure of the show causes for the timeline to be convoluted and filled with fragments of different universes, it can also mean that nothing necessarily matters, but instead, everything does matter, although perhaps to alternate versions of the characters. Each of the episode’s Rick and Morty carries potentially damaging repercussion for the other characters in that universe, however, the show simply never returns to the said universe for the audience to see the consequences. In the end, this is all food for thought; something to keep in mind as you, the viewer, navigate through the show’s multiple plot points. At this point, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have become masters at creating ways to subvert the fan-base’s expectations and theories.
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