Beth and Jerry never had a strong relationship in the traditional sense, as established in “Meeseeks and Destroy” and again in “Rick Potion #9,” but it’s here in “Rixty Minutes” that the prospect of actual separation becomes a possibility — albeit one that isn’t followed through on until the Season 3 premiere. However, in an alternate reality where Beth and Jerry got an abortion rather than have Summer, they’re both seemingly thriving.
Jerry does cocaine with Johnny Depp. Beth performs surgery on a human (she’s a horse surgeon in the regular timeline). Jerry tames a lion in a movie. Beth gets a Nobel prize. This sci-fi mechanic winds up feeling a lot like the toxic aspects of social media, how we’re only privy to the best moments of a person’s life without getting the full context. This initially drives a wedge between Jerry and Beth so big that they’re ready to get a divorce.
“If your father and I achieved our dreams, there’s a chance you weren’t even born,” Beth admits to Summer when she can’t find her own alt-reality self in the VR goggles. “When two people create a life together, they set aside their lives as individuals.” This very bleak interpretation of marriage and family triggers catastrophic emotional trauma in Summer, who internalizes her parents’ frustrations. She feels like she ruined their lives and decides to run away, saying she’ll “move to the southwest and — I don’t know, do something with turquoise!”
Summer can’t process what’s going on, as if she’s been punished for something completely outside her control. In this, Rick and Morty demonstrates how we psychologically process human conflict, and how damaging brutal honesty can be to children.
While Summer packs her bag, Morty’s there to console her, and his sci-fi adventures have wizened him to the ways of the multiverse. “You’re not the cause of your parents’ misery, you’re just a symptom of it!” Summer yells at Morty, a cutting insight into their twisted family dynamic that’s absolutely true.
Then Morty explains how just two episodes prior, we watched the world end in “Rick Potion #9.” In this present reality, Rick and Morty died, so that pair migrated here to go on living. “I eat breakfast 20 yards away from my own … rotting … corpse.”
In his time spent adventuring Rick with Rick, he’s experienced meaningless cruelty in the universe, and, like Rick, learned that time and energy are better spent in the pursuit of enjoyment rather than dwelling on all the suffering outside of our control. Summer’s shame and embarrassment feel small by comparison, but they’re no less valid.
No matter the size or scope of our troubles, there’s a certain kind of zen that arrives when we detach ourselves and realize that nothing happens for a reason and death is inevitable. So why not take existence less seriously and enjoy a little bit of fun TV?
There’s literally nothing more Rick and Morty than this outlook.