Rick and Morty has given rise to countless fan theories over its 4 seasons, but one of the most interesting is that Evil Morty doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of the series. Beginning as a filthy spoof of Back to the Future, Rick and Morty has since gone on to become Adult Swim’s most important show. A buddy sitcom meets sci-fi adventure, Rick and Morty has spent 4 seasons spoofing the tropes and conventions of both formats to the delight of its massive fanbase.
Rick and Morty’s subversive writing style and clever storytelling mean that there are countless fan theories surrounding the series all over the net. They range in believability from the outlandish claim that the entire show may be a simulation the characters are trapped in, to the more convincing theory that Rick and Morty have seen their own show, with fans providing evidence for each claim. But one fan theory would ironically render many of Rick and Morty’s other fan theories irrelevant.
It would be classic Rick and Morty to set up a seemingly important callback and then reveal that the series has no intention of ever paying off the setup. This sort of trollish move is designed to mess with viewers who are used to the narrative structure of sci-fi TV, where paying close attention to each minor clue can often lead viewers to uncover large, overarching multi-season plots in advance. In Rick and Morty, these sorts of clues are just as likely to be forgotten or outright dismissed by the series, and that may be exactly what Rick and Morty plans to do with the seemingly pivotal character of Evil Morty. The series has already hinted that nothing (and everything) is canon on Rick and Morty, so it should be no surprise that what appeared to be a major antagonist might not even appear on the show again.
When he was first established on Rick and Morty, the character of Evil Morty was immediately fascinating to fans of the series. An embittered one of Morty’s many clones (or possibly, according to another fan theory, the original Morty himself), Evil Morty was unwilling to let any version of Rick push him around any more and rebelled against his granddad, eventually coming to political power in the season 3 installment”‘Tales from the Citadel”. One of the ambitious episode’s overlapping stories saw Morty seize power and immediately install himself as a violent dictator of the Citadel, leaving the many Ricks there at his mercy. This set up may seem like one which will inevitably lead to a dramatic follow-up but, as dark as Rick and Morty gets, the series is ultimately a comedy show and thus one fan theory posits that the show is just messing with its audience and Rick and Morty actually has no intention of revisiting the character.
The evidence that Evil Morty doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of Rick and Morty is pretty compelling—not only is Rick and Morty constantly trolling fans by subverting the tropes expected from a sci-fi show, but the episode wherein Evil Morty gains control of the Citadel also ended with a post-credits sequence that sees Morty talk about how the Citadel would never have anything to do with himself and Rick. Not only that, but Evil Morty’s only appearance since that outing was in season 4’s “Never Ricking Morty“. This time, it was Rick’s turn to assure the audience that Evil Morty’s appearance wouldn’t affect the show’s canon and effectively didn’t count as part of Rick and Morty. It’s an explicit enough reference for this to almost feel like a confirmation of the theory, but there are still reasons to doubt the claim that Rick and Morty is finished with Evil Morty.
As much as Rick and Morty loves subverting viewer expectations, the show has also pulled off some audacious twists before, and it’s not unheard of for a gag set up seasons earlier to pay off long after it’s been forgotten. Seemingly dropping the Evil Morty subplot could just be a double bluff which will make it all the more effective when Rick and Morty finally does return to the character, particularly when the show has revisited long-forgotten characters before throughout its 4 seasons. Given how many fan theories there are about Evil Morty and his significance in the series’ canon, it may be less funny and more disappointing for some fans to find out that his apparent importance was all just a misdirect, so satisfying fans could mean ensuring Evil Morty needs to put in another appearance at some point.
That said, removing Evil Morty from Rick and Morty’s stable of recurring antagonists wouldn’t be a bad idea, as it would keep the series fresh and avoid the writers being bogged down by backstory. The show’s brief animatic promo for season 5 has already revealed that Rick & Morty will introduce a new nemesis for Rick, so it’s not like the series is short on compelling and funny villains to keep things interesting. Adding in new villains instead of revisiting old favorites is also a good way for Rick and Morty to revitalize its formula, particularly when the anarchic fan-mocking madness of “Never Ricking Morty” was one of season 4s’ best-received episodes. The installment was well-liked precisely because it mocked the idea of sticking to storytelling convention, so it might be something of a reversal for Rick and Morty to admit that Evil Morty was actually important after all and the seemingly chaotic show does believe in some form of order behind its freewheeling madness.
Dropping the Evil Morty subplot would open up space for more recurring villains and prove once and for all that, like Rick himself, Rick and Morty hates order and cares more about laughs than mythos and lore, and this commitment to pure comedic silliness would work well for the series. But given the amount of ink and bandwidth devoted to Evil Morty fan theories (this one included), it would also be pretty understandable if fans were annoyed by such a blatant bit of trolling after they’ve spent years trying to decipher just what pivotal role the character would play in the future of Adult Swim’s hit series, only to discover that the creators of Rick and Morty has been mocking the very idea of consistency this entire time. Only time will tell which route the writers take, but depending on how it is handled either writing him off as a joke entirely or bringing the character back as a serious villain could pay off well for Rick and Morty.