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What The Rick And Morty Season 4 Finale Means For The Future

Contains spoilers for the season 4 finale of Rick and Morty

We might have to revise our pick for the most important episode of Rick and Morty so far, because the season 4 finale was beyond bonkers and packed to the gills with important developments for some the longest-running plotlines in the series.

On the season 4 finale, entitled "Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri," series creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland gathered up all the dangling narrative threads left over from the first three seasons and tied them up into one insane, higher-dimensional knot. In true Harmon-Roiland fashion, the episode delivered many of the answers to questions that fans have been debating on the internet practically since the series premiered, but the process of revelation only opened up more questions.

The existence of Clone Beth (voiced by Sarah Chalke)? Check. The fate of Tammy (Cassie Steele) and Bird Person (Harmon)? Check. The reason that the government has mostly left Rick (Roiland) alone this season? Also check. The true identity of Evil Morty (also Roiland)? Not quite, but hey, Harmon and Roiland need something to explore on the remaining 60 episodes of Adult Swim's massive 70-episode renewal.

In addition to all the plot developments, we also saw some substantial character work. Just about every member of Sanchez-Smith clan completed a character arc by the end of the episode. Some of these resolutions were somewhat superficial — see Jerry's (Chris Parnell) heroic puppetry performance. Others actually demonstrated quite a bit of depth. It all adds up to a pretty busy 30 minutes. With that in mind, it's interesting to consider just how much this finale actually shifted the state-of-play on Rick and Morty, and to what extent this shift will no doubt affect the series going forward.

The balance of power has shifted on Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty has always been willing to lean into the serialized elements of its story. Unlike a standard television comedy — wherein the status quo is usually restored by the end of each episode — Rick and Morty has shown a willingness to shatter the bedrock of its story in service of series-long lines of dramatic tension.

On "Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri," the return of Cyberpunk Beth could have easily been resolved by reintegrating the two versions of Beth. It's very convenient to tell a story in a universe where essentially anything is possible because science, a predicament that Harmon and Roiland appear acutely aware of. As a result, they like to zig whenever it would be simpler to zag. Rick and Morty never takes the narrative path of least resistance, and the season 4 finale is a perfect case study. Instead of battling each other into oblivion, the two Beths actually determine that two heads are better than one. With the cumulative blessings of Morty, Summer and Jerry, they decide that they're both going to stick around so they can tend to the family while still fighting the Gromflomites as a team.

Their choice seems to be justified in the final scene of the season, in which Rick uses the mind eraser to examine the memory he removed of cloning Beth. The missing memory reveals that not even Rick knows which Beth is the clone — how can he ethically delete either one of them? The realization leads Rick to admit out loud that he is, in fact, a terrible father.

With two Beths at the head of the family — and one of them more than capable of taking over sci-fi adventure duty — Rick looks to enter season 5 as the low man on the family totem pole. It only adds insult to injury that Jerry saves Rick during the climactic fight sequence with Phoenix Person, a reversal that should also have serious ramifications for the balance of power in the Smith household.

Evil Morty remains the biggest outstanding plot point on Rick and Morty

So Rick stands to enter season 5 as the odd man out. Summer and Morty have now realized that Rick often played them against each other (most recently with the invisibility belt) but that when they ignore him and work together, they are capable of great things. Additionally, both the Beths and Jerry appear to have shaken off the complexes that were keeping them in the thrall of Rick. Now confronted with incontrovertible evidence that he is both a terrible father and friend, the clinically depressed Rick Sanchez is sitting at the likely nadir of his character arc.

In terms of dramatic tension, this would be a pretty good time to bring the big bad back into the picture to kick Rick while he's down. Evil Morty doesn't make an appearance on the season 4 finale, but we all know he's the one who's been pulling the strings ever since his first appearance on season 1, episode 11. The eyepatch-wearing President of the Citadel, who many have speculated may be Rick C-137's original Morty, is likely to make a return sooner rather than later. Harmon and Roiland like to keep their mysteries open over multiple seasons. The resolution to Tammy and Bird Person's twisted love story finally arrived after 20 episodes of waiting. Evil Morty wasn't a major player during season 4, but smart money says he comes back to the forefront when the show returns.

How the confrontation plays out will depend entirely on whether Harmon and Roiland are telling a redemption story or a cautionary tale. From our current location smack dab in the middle of the narrative, it's basically impossible to tell. We may be experiencing a classic Greek tragedy. Rick is a man with near-godlike powers, but the season 4 finale exposed his feet of clay. Will he ultimately succumb to his hubris? Or will Rick face his emotional shortcomings and rise above them to save the day?

Whatever the master plan may be, it won't play out in any way we're expecting. Harmon and Roiland don't do predictability. Rick and Morty season 5 is already in the works, and could premiere as early as the end of this year. Or, you know, a lot later.