Rick And Morty Season 6 Reminds Us How Far Beth And Jerry Have Come

This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of "Rick and Morty" season 6.

When it comes to weird, sex-related humor, "Rick and Morty" has never been shy. Its latest episode, "Bethic Twinstinct," takes things to another level by having Beth (Sarah Chalke) start hooking up with Space Beth. It's an act that's not cheating exactly, so much as a sort of masturbation. (Is that worse than cheating? We'll let the moral philosophers tackle that question.) 

As the episode itself is happy to point out, this is a strange and uncomfortable development, one that nearly leads to divorce when Jerry (Chris Parnell) finds out about it. Beth, Space Beth, and Jerry manage to reconcile their differences, however, through a bizarre three-way that their kids can't help but overhear from downstairs. 

As horrified as Rick and Summer might be at this week's resolution, one can't help feel like it was pretty wholesome overall. Not only is Beth and Jerry's marriage still intact, but they may actually have emerged from the conflict even closer than they were before. It's part of an ongoing trend in "Rick and Morty" that started season 3: the more time goes on, the more Beth and Jerry actually seem to like each other. 

Remember season 1?

Season 1 of "Rick and Morty" was very much a show about Rick and Morty. These two characters were the clear focus, leading Beth, Jerry, and Summer to typically only shine in the series' B-plots. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (after all, season 1's probably the most beloved season overall), but it does mean that the non-titular members of the Smith family took a while to feel fleshed out. 

At first, Jerry is the incompetent sitcom dad and Beth's his cold, unsatisfied wife. These aren't their only characteristics of course, but these are the basic starting points for the two of them, and it's what most of their storylines revolve around. Their marriage is implied to have already been rocky for a while, but Rick moving in with the family really led things off the rails. 

Despite this, season 1 reminds us on a few memorable occasions that these two really do love each other in spite of it all. Episodes like "Meeseeks and Destroy," and "Love Potion #9" both feature Jerry becoming more confident and regaining the respect of his wife as a result. "Rixty Minutes" gives the two a chance to explore alternate timelines where they never married, resulting in the revelation that even in the timelines where they were both wildly successful, they still wish they'd stuck together. (It's basically the message of "Everything Everywhere All At Once," just told through a sitcom's B-plot.) 

Basically, the recurring theme between these two in season 1 is that, when push comes to shove, these two will eventually remember they love each other just in time to stop any sort of divorce from happening. 

Season 2

Season 2 takes things in a meaner direction. Whereas season 1's "Interdimensional Cable" episode resolved with Beth and Jerry realizing how much they love each other, season 2's similar episode dedicates a lot of time to Beth happily bartering away Jerry's penis in exchange for a high-tech mechanical upgrade, despite her husband's horror at the situation. 

The difference here extends to the rest of the season: the writers are no longer as interested in stories where the two realize they love each other at the last moment. Instead their storylines tend to go in the direction of the season's third episode, "Auto Erotic Assimilation," where Beth and Jerry get into an intense argument over an alien they find in Rick's garage. The storyline culminates in the alien breaking free and giving them a piece of his mind: "The two of you are the f****** worst," he says. "You both hate yourselves and each other. And the idea that it has anything to do with Rick is laughable." 

Even though Blim Blam the alien is technically a baby eater, he's still presented as a voice of reason in this scene. Whereas a season 1 episode would likely end with some sort of counter-argument to his rant about how hopeless their marriage is, this episode gives Blim Blam the final say. The only bit of closure we get is that Beth capitulates slightly to Jerry's demands and tells Rick to stop hiding dangerous aliens in their home. It's a slight reconciliatory note, but not exactly one that'll set their marital concerns at ease. 

Season 3

It's around this point that the writers seemed to realize that something needed to change, because the season 3 premiere ends with Beth and Jerry getting a divorce. In a show that's largely episodic, this provided a consistent recurring thread throughout the whole season. The second episode revolves around Morty and Summer trying to cope with their parents' splitting up, and the famous "Pickle Rick" episode probably couldn't have worked without the divorce as a backdrop. 

The season's a low-point for Jerry, who is shown throughout this season at his most contemptible and pathetic. "You act like prey but you're a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims," Rick tells him in "The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy," a criticism the episode treats as harsh but fair. Beth isn't let off the hook either: Rick tells her about how much of a psychopath she was as a kid, forcing her (and us) to reflect on the idea that despite her normal exterior, she might be just as bad as her father. Rick then gives her the option to clone herself, which as we all know causes quite a few problems down the line. 

Despite it all, the two reunite in the season finale. Mainly because as terrible as Jerry is, Rick's whole season of toxic behavior has reminded us that things could certainly be a lot worse. If there's a lesson in season 3, it's that being smart and badass is overrated; being kind and dependable is how you build lasting relationships. So now that Beth and Jerry get back together, do they go back to their old bickering ways or do things meaningfully change?

Season 4 & 5

It's not that things are perfect between the two — Rick is still capable of manipulating the pair against each other if it suits him, and Jerry is still constantly embarrassing himself — but the couple do actually seem to enjoy each other's company now. When Beth worries about Jerry getting himself killed from those floating shoes Rick gives him, there's no scorn from her over him being so clumsy. Rather, the problems here stem from Jerry refusing to ask for help out of an (understandably) misplaced sense of pride.

These seasons are not as serialized as season 3, but it does still follow through on the larger story that happened there. When Beth and Jerry reunited and vowed to make things work, they meant it. As we'd see in the season 6 premiere's glimpse into the alternate timeline where they never got divorced, their time apart really did make their relationship stronger longterm.

In these seasons, the two are typically a united front in whatever conflict they're dealing with. It helps that Beth is no longer terrified of being abandoned by Rick again and Jerry no longer feels so threatened by Rick's presence in the house. There are no longer many storylines where the couple proves their love for each other at the end, because by this point their love's become a given. They show their love for each other in little moments each episode.

This is why when season 6 comes along and the couple reaches a crisis with the whole Space Beth situation, it's a dynamic that has real stakes. Despite Jerry's absurd Thanksgiving toast, we do generally want the two to stay together. During that minute or so where it seems like Jerry's leaving for a good, it's actually a serious concern.

Season 6 so far

The great thing about "Bethic Twinstinct" is that it shows us how complex these characters have become, especially when you remember how one-note they were in the pilot. Through Beth's conversations with her alternate self, we see how narcissistic she is, as well as how self-aware and self-critical she is about this. We see her complicated feelings about Jerry on display, and with Jerry's reaction at the end we see how much he's grown in the past few seasons. Yes, Jerry's still pathetic – he literally crawls into a shell upon hearing the news of Beth's affair — but he also takes control of the situation in his own weird way.

In the big argument scene, Jerry also makes it clear that it's not really the affair that bothers him, but the fact that they hid it from him. Once the two involve him in the affair, things seem to work themselves out pretty well. It's an absurd yet fitting resolution that makes sense for every character involved, the sort of development that could happen on no other show but this.

One of the reasons "Rick and Morty" has been able to go on for as long as it has (and why we're confident it'll be going strong for at least a few more seasons) is because the writers are willing to evolve the characters. As much as the show is often criticized for being cynical, the writers took these characters and pushed them in a surprisingly optimistic direction. No matter the exact circumstances, it's nice to see Beth and Jerry have a good time. They've come a long way, and it's going to be fun seeing where they go from here.