With only one episode left to go (maybe ever?), Rick and Morty is finally honing in on its biggest themes: Beth’s desperate need for Rick’s attention; Jerry’s cowardice and what it does to his family; Rick’s ability to love his family as filtered through his nihilism; and Summer and Morty as the Greek chorus, reflecting themes back to their clueless parents and acting as the moral core, while taking on different aspects of their sordid lineage. All of this comes to a head in “The ABCs of Beth,” which concludes that Beth isn’t just messed up because she was raised by Rick — she’s messed up because she’s exactly like him. But whether she’s doomed to repeat his same mistakes is another question entirely.
Beth is shocked at the news that a famous murderer is finally going to be executed for eating his son Tommy, who was Beth’s childhood best friend. Beth reveals that her way of coping with the trauma was to pretend her friend had gone to live in Froopyland, an imaginary land that “felt real” to her as a kid. Overhearing this, Rick uses a bubble gun to get Summer and Morty out of the room, and then he reveals to Beth that Froopyland was real … because he invented it. Rick opens the portal to Froopyland, where Beth hopes she can still find Tommy.
Being back in Froopyland digs up Beth’s long-repressed memories of being locked there by Rick for long periods of time. Rick demonstrates that it is impossible to get hurt or die in Froopyland (he built it with bouncy ground and breathable water), but is quickly abducted by a giant creature with razor-sharp claws.
Meanwhile, the bubble-gun bubbles deliver Summer and Morty to Jerry’s motel room. They expect to be depressed by Jerry’s bachelor life, but instead find that Jerry is “centered, calm … and telekinetic.” Jerry introduces his kids to Kiara, an alien warrior-priestess he met on an interstellar dating service who is teaching him how to control objects with his mind.
Back in Froopyland, Rick loses an arm to the bird-monster’s talons. Beth tries to get him to admit that he shouldn’t have locked her in another dimension for most of her childhood, but Rick stubbornly changes the subject, noting that human DNA has found its way into the gentle Froopyland creatures. Beth quickly picks up on Rick’s theory: Tommy is still alive, he’s creating (and eating) evil human-animal hybrids, and he’s now considered the god of Froopyland. On cue, woodland creatures apprehend Beth and Rick, taking them prisoner for King Tommy.
Getting sushi with Jerry and Kiara, Rick and Summer are unsettled at how quickly their dad has become “soul-bonded” to his new girlfriend — especially since, to Kiara’s species, that’s an incredibly serious commitment. Jerry thinks they’re just racist against aliens. Meanwhile, Kiara finds and vanquishes the last of the species she came to Earth to destroy, and proposes they celebrate with a hunt.
Beth and Rick meet King Tommy, who tries to introduce himself, but Rick and Beth are already steps ahead of him. Even so, Tommy insists on explaining his origin story through a play performed by his alien-human offspring children. In the play, Little Tommy is brought to Froopyland by Little Beth, who is jealous of Tommy’s friends and attentive dad. Little Beth pushes Tommy into a honey swamp in an attempt to kill him. Little Tommy then humps everything in sight, creating a hybrid Froopy beast that he can eat. It’s … unsettling.
Rick promptly sends himself and Beth back home, although Beth insists they return to Froopyland to save Tommy. Rick believes in Tommy’s play over Beth’s feelings, and they argue about his lack of involvement in her childhood. Rick reveals that he didn’t make Froopyland to get rid of Beth, but actually because Beth was “a scary little kid.” He was trying to protect the neighborhood. Beth insists she just wanted her dad to spend time with her, which is why she had him make an endless series of terrifying inventions, and goes to Froopyland herself to try and save Tommy. Rick’s response: “Whatever you say, Stone Cold Steve Austin.”
On the hunt, Morty, Jerry, and Summer are absolutely exhausted, and Jerry realizes he has to get out of his soul-bond if he wants to avoid constant hunting. He asks Summer and Morty to help him, but they refuse to be thrown under the bus just because Jerry is a “baby and an idiot.” Summer’s takedown of Jerry as a “beta-male sexist” is just fantastic. They leave Jerry to clean up his own mess.
In Froopyland, Beth tries take Tommy back to the real world so they can exonerate his father. When Tommy realizes that she is Beth, however, things take a turn: He asks for an apology and Beth refuses to give him one, which leads her to realize that she is Rick. At first that realization upsets her, but then it empowers her. She happily begins slashing through Tommy’s horrifying offspring.
Back on Earth, Jerry interrupts Morty’s math class to take Morty and Summer to Alaska. Jerry blamed his kids when he broke up with Kiara, and now she wants to murder them.
Beth returns from Froopyland covered in blood. She asks Rick to make a clone of Tommy from the finger that she severed (“He gave you his finger?”) and Rick offers to let her help. They successfully clone Tommy, who shows up to his dad’s execution just in time to save his life. Beth tells Rick what she’s realized: The truth isn’t that he’s an amazing guy and she’s nothing like him; it’s that he’s a bad guy and they’re exactly the same. Beth asks Rick what she should do, now that she knows how smart she is and how meaningless that makes everything. Rick offers to make a clone of her to take care of the kids and do her job while the real Beth travels the multiverse. Beth asks Rick why he’d do that for her if nothing matters, and he comes out with it: “Maybe I love you.” Beth considers the possibilities.
Kiara catches up to Jerry, Morty, and Summer. He finally tells Kiara that he’s the one who wants to break up, and that he was just dating her to make Beth jealous. Just then, Kiara’s ex shows up, and Jerry realizes that he was her rebound, too.
Summer and Morty come home to find Beth and Rick chipper and happy. Which version of Beth is this? Which version of Rick is this? Rick spent Beth’s childhood traveling the multiverse without paying much attention to his daughter, and she grew up to get the exact same opportunity, even knowing how it will affect her children. So did she take it?
If the fact that “The ABCs of Beth” comes right after “Morty’s Mind-Blowers” is at all significant, we might conclude that they’ve done all of this before and they’ll continue to do this again, in every conceivable universe, until the end of time. But as Rick — or Beth — might remind us, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing does.
Dispatches From the Multiverse
• “Bitch, my generation gets traumatized for breakfast.” Team Summer forever.
• If you haven’t checked out the namesake of this episode, The ABCs of Death, it’s on Netflix and it’s a solid Halloween watch.
• Wow, it was really the wrong night for an episode that includes the line, “I’m not kneeling, suck my dick” to air.
• Mr. Goldenfold’s algebra lesson isn’t just inappropriate — it also seems mathematically unsound.
• The song that plays during the cloning sequence — “Every daughter is a doo-doo from her father’s butt” — is the Father’s Day carol we’ve always deserved.