Rick and Morty: Crippling Nihilism!
Interdimensional travel is baked into the lore of Rick and Morty. Rick’s portal gun can take him anywhere in any reality from episode one. By the end of season one, we’ve met the Council of Ricks, an entire city of Rick Sanchezes and their Morty sidekicks. One first season episode, one of their best, really sums up the thesis Justin Roiland and (I suspect but can’t prove moreso) Dan Harmon are making through Rick and Morty’s multiverse: “Rixty Minutes.”
The main hook of Rixty Minutes is that Rick rigs the family television so that they can access cable TV from anywhere in the multiverse: infinite television, mostly used for sometimes improvised sketches from the creator, that worked so well this episode became a millstone around their necks, with follow-ups demanded despite it being largely impossible to live up to (they did one then started inventing other anthology episode concepts that usually happen right after Rick turns on the interdimensional cable).
The other part of the episode, probably the actual A-plot not that anyone thinks of it as such, is that interdimensional cable accidentally reveals a world where Morty’s parents never had Morty’s older sister Summer and thus didn’t get married right out of high school, and thus both seem much happier. Something Summer doesn’t take well. The point is, as Summer has an angry spiral over whether she should exist, Morty reveals that two episodes earlier, Rick and Morty accidentally destroyed their world and slipped into this one right after their doppelgangers blew themselves up. Which brings us our thesis statement.
“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”
The nihilism is thick on this show. And the infinite entertainment possibilities of the multiverse hide an existential dread where if everything happens somewhere, nothing really matters.
Now, Rick and Morty didn’t exactly invent multiverse as portal to existential dread via this thinking, I read a short story a long, long while ago where people who discover that our choices cause splinter universes have mental breakdowns because whatever they choose, another them chooses something else, so does anything matter. But above all else, this is the thrust of Rick and Morty’s infinite worlds: everything happens, so what you do doesn’t matter.
But I’m sure you noticed that. This show flaunts its dark theses pretty bluntly. Just like how Rick is the real villain, you don’t need to be an intellectual to pick up what they’re throwing down.
Still it can be a little much. Infinite worlds always lead to grim conclusions: Rick has trouble connecting to his family because why bother, he’s on his third or fourth version of “his family” by now, he has infinite daughters so why does this one matter, as much as he wants her to? Infinite Mortys are used to break the Morty we know in “The Vat of Acid Episode.” Rick once had a quest for vengeance but the infinite nature of his target made revenge a hole with no bottom, just another way for him to feel empty. The most recent season finale saw an infinite supply of alternate selves as a literal prison to be escaped by any means necessary (because if a person has infinite variations of themself, any individual version becomes expendable).
I don’t hate it but man it can be a little much.