Season three of Rick and Morty is officially over, and all that’s left at this point is to pick up the pieces, take stock of where we are, and evaluate what horrors have just unfurled before our eyes.
Spoilers for the entire series run throughout this article, by the way. Oh, and there are also spoilers for a longrunning and incredibly infamous storyline from the Spider-Man comics.
So, with everything said and done, where are we now with Rick and Morty?
Beth sums is up best at the end of the season finale, when she breaks the Fourth Wall to explain to everyone what’s just happened and where the show is going next.
“In many ways, things will be like season one, but more streamlined. Now Jerry and I are happily married parents, and the idea that I was motivated by a fear of you leaving can be eschewed.”
It’s always nice when a show sums up exactly how the plot is supposed to be interpreted by viewers.
Obviously, though, not everyone’s going to respond that way to the finale. For those of us who aren’t mourning the lost opportunity to see more Evil Morty, there’s been a lot of discussion online about whether this “Beth” is the “real” Beth, or whether she’s a “clone” “Beth”.
The big question that everyone’s been asking is whether, following a season filled with domestic upheaval and drama, Beth decided to take an opportunity to step away from her family, being replaced by a clone, or whether she decided to stay and work through her frustrations in spite of how unfulfilled this choice would leave her.
Is the Beth that stayed with Jerry the real Beth? Or a clone?
These are good points of debate, but there’s another important question to consider: what does all this have to do with Spider-Man?
If you’ve never heard of The Clone Saga, this is going to be a little confusing.
Shortly after the death of Gwen Stacy in the Marvel comics, Spider-Man found himself confronted with a clone of himself who seemed alike in every single way. The two fought for a while, before they realized that, as they had the same memories and emotions, they were actually both good guys. They teamed up against the clone’s creator, and one Spider-Man was killed in the fight.
The remaining Spider-Man returned home, unsure of whether he was the real Peter Parker or not. Eventually, he convinced himself that, because of his romantic feelings for Mary Jane, he must be the real Peter (as the clone would have still been in love with Gwen Stacy, thanks to comic book logic).
All was quiet for years and years, until the “clone” Peter showed up again. Turns out he wasn’t dead after all.
If this already sounds confusing, then you might want to take the next few paragraphs slowly, as they’re pretty dense with comic book nonsense.
Peter and the other Spider-Man, who’d named himself Ben, got some kind of test done to prove which one of them was a clone. Turns out, Peter was actually a clone all along! For five years of Spider-Man story continuity, a clone had thought he was the real Peter Parker, while the genuine article had wandered America as a drifter, thinking he was a fake!
It was too late for the pair to swap identities, as Peter was married to Mary Jane, who was expecting a baby. Ben moved to New York and took on the mantle of Spider-Man while Peter retired to spend time with his family.
Then, someone found a skeleton wearing a Spider-Man mask in the place where the clone Spider-Man had been buried.
Also, there was another, evil clone of Spider-Man running around, who named himself Kaine and spent all his time trying to mess with Ben’s life.
This nonsense went on and on and on, with more and more clones turning up endlessly, until finally, Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, showed up and definitively announced that he’d been behind all of these clones in an effort to screw with Peter.
Then he killed Ben, Peter became Spider-Man again, and everyone agreed to never, ever talk about this ridiculous comic story arc ever again.
All in all, The Clone Saga lasted from 1975 to 1996, with the majority of the really confusing stuff starting in 1994, and some characters from all this nonsense (most notably Kaine) still kicking around. Ben was recently resurrected, because comics are weird, as the books have attempted to revitalize this chapter in Spider-Man history, despite most readers agreeing that it was far too weird, even for a story about a guy with radioactive spider blood.
Now, here we are, with Rick and Morty exploring a very similar theme. Is the Beth at the end of season three the real Beth, or is she a clone? If she has all of Beth’s memories and feelings, does it even matter if she’s not the real Beth?
Somehow, what feels ridiculous as a long, drawn out storyline for a Marvel comics character feels perfectly placed within a show like Rick and Morty.
It’s hard to know for certain whether this is intended as a direct parody of The Clone Saga, but Dan Harmon is almost certainly aware of the Spider-Man story arc, so there’s definitely an homage buried in here somewhere.
Who knows? Perhaps Rick and Morty will find a way to turn the premise into a moving, heartfelt, emotional exploration of human nature? There are definitely some meaningful stories to tell with this core concept, once you strip away all the complexity of the Spider-Man timeline.
Or, perhaps the premiere episode of Rick and Morty season four will involve the real Beth returning from her time away, and fighting to the death against a clone Beth that’s become so much a part of the family that nobody really wants to see her go.
Yep, that definitely feels like it’d be a perfect Rick and Morty episode. If there’s one thing that’s clear about this show, though, it’s that you can never tell where the story is going to go next.