by Jeremy Rogers
Warning: This review contains spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of Rick and Morty.
After the plot of the season started picking up in episode 7 and the seasonal improv episode following after, “The ABCs of Beth” seems to have halted the momentum that had been built in “The Ricklantis Mixup”. As far as descriptive titles go, “The ABCs of Beth” gets the whole message across: this week’s installment focuses on the matriarch of the Smith family.
Beth realizes that she left her childhood friend Tommy in the childhood playland that Rick made for her. As Beth and Rick go back to Froopyland in search of Tommy, Beth is angry at how much work Rick put into Froopyland instead of their relationship, but Rick highlights how much effort he put into making Beth’s playland a completely safe place. This conversation is cut short by a monstrous pterodactyl-like Froopy Creature that attempts to feed Rick to her chicks.
Immediately Beth and Rick jump to the conclusion that Tommy must have survived by making children with the Froopy creatures and eating the babies, making himself the ruler over his inbred children. This suspicion is seemingly confirmed when they are captured and taken as hostages to meet the king of Froopyland. This intro seems somewhat promising, but the focus on the dynamic between Rick and Beth undercuts the tension of their situation.
Meanwhile Morty and Summer visit their father for the weekend as a part of the custody battle. The kids arrive to find that Jerry has cleaned up his act and is no longer living in depressing shambles. They also find out that he is dating Kiara, a telekinetic alien huntress on a mission to kill another alien species that is hiding out on Earth. Morty and Summer are unimpressed with their father, since he is still on the rebound from their mother. This plotline is classic Jerry: thinking that he has everything in control but woefully unequipped to deal with the situation at hand. Jerry denies a spot-on accusation from his kids, that he is dating a badass warrior priestess to make his ex-wife notice him.
Rick and Beth come face to face with the king of Froopyland. After Tommy tries and fails to make a dramatic reveal, he explains how he became the king of Froopyland through an expository play which alleges that Beth trapped him in her playland, because she was jealous of his family that actually liked him. Rick decides he’s had enough after Tommy decides to eat a baby, so he takes Beth back home where they have a heart to heart about how Beth was an unhappy, slightly psychotic child.
Rick reveals that it was easier to send Beth to Froopyland than to clean up her messes when she murdered children or small animals. Rick also reveals some of the twisted things she had him make for her when Beth was younger. This sequence showing off the weapons is probably the most humorous part of the show, because it is the only part of the episode that gives the audience any new insights into the world. Beth then takes a few weapons and tries to bring a reluctant Tommy back into the real world, intent on solving a problem she caused by herself if she must.
Jerry breaks up with Kiara, so now she wants to murder Morty and Summer. As Kiara uses her telekinetic powers to try to kill Jerry’s kids, they make Jerry admit that he used them as scapegoats so he wouldn’t have to take responsibility for hurting Kiara. After the kids almost die, they convince Jerry to truly break it off with Kiara. Afterwards they find out that she was only into Jerry to catch the eye of a male alien hunter who was on Earth. With Kiara and her former lover arguing, the kids drag Jerry to safety.
Beth returns covered in blood, having come to the realization that she is very much like the father she has a love-hate relationship with. Rick says she is smart and that the only way for her to be happy is to make her own way in the universe, whether that is as a mother or as anything. Rick offers to make a clone of her that will take her place in the domestic sphere if she wants to leave. Beth wrestles with this newfound freedom, looks at pictures of her kids on the fridge, and says, “Okay. I know what I want to do.”
As Summer and Morty return home, what we can assume to be Beth offers to get pizza for dinner, resuming her life as a mother, supposedly happy to have chosen a path in the universe. Either that or it’s a clone created by Rick.
Overall, “The ABCs of Beth” was a lackluster episode that tried too hard to make the narrative about the interpersonal relationships of the characters without giving enough thought to the adventures that the characters were going on together to foster those relationships. Saving Tommy never really felt like a journey that Beth needed to go on to facilitate character growth; it just feels like Froopyland was a fun joke in the writing room that only ever got as refined as Tommy’s playwriting.
Featured image from Rickipedia
Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 9: "The ABCs of Beth"
Despite the bright visuals of "The ABCs of Beth", the A-plot with Beth and Rick fell flat because of a lack of tension and momentum. On the other hand, the B-plot with Jerry and the kids fell flat because the kids never had agency in the story, and Jerry is still boringly the same as always.