WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Rick and Morty's Season 4 episode, "The Old Man and the Seat."
Throughout Rick and Morty's four seasons, Rick Sanchez has been in denial, using science as an excuse to avoid dealing with his wife's death. His has been a story about isolation and that existential dread that creeps in when we think about our lack of control over mortality. However, in the less-than-moral Rick's case, he has Morty, his grandson, to buffer the angst.
Yet, as much as he's masked the pain and tried to make his family believe he's not dysfunctional, the series' latest episode may well have broken the mad genius for good.
After Rick hunts down an alien named Tony for using his secret toilet, a lot comes to the surface about how he's been conducting his missions over the years. We discover he hasn't been killing enemies or people who annoyed him; He was storing them in a dream state so he could sever emotional connections and live in peace without blood on his hands. People who wanted to be his friend were also among his victims, making it clear Rick wants to be left alone and runs from friendships.
Tony susses all this out and insists Rick become his buddy because he relates to Rick's loneliness. Rick rebuffs his attempts and sends him on his way. However, when he realizes Tony won't stop pooping in his spot or attempting to be his friend, Rick creates a weapon on the toilet in a foreboding sequence that hints he's created a trap to kill the pooping perp.
But when Rick visits Tony's office to try to bait him into triggering the weapon, he discovers, to his shock, that Tony's dead. Tony tried to live his life to the fullest and perished in a mysterious accident. While attending his funeral, Rick meets Tony's dad and leaves money to keep Tony's business going, all while wondering if his stern words and refusal of friendship had a hand in the alien's early death. Tony's dad tells Rick not to worry and tries to befriend him like his son. But once more, Rick admonishes him and leaves. He just doesn't want anyone to get close to him.
The kicker comes when Rick returns to his secret planet and heads for his final poop. Or so it seems. At first glance, it's a suicidal move triggered by Rick's guilt and depression. As he sits, he flips the kill-switch. However, when the blasters rise from the ground, they don't turn into guns; They're speakers. We then see holographic versions of Rick appear and berate Tony for being alone and a loser. They make fun of him for wanting to connect to other forms of life, and as Rick inflicts the punishment on himself, it's a stark reminder how he sent Tony off to die as well as an indictment of his own insecurities.
Rick wants the message that he's afraid of love pounded into his mind, so he simply sits there looking down, wallowing in self-pity. He's sad because he knows he has no one to blame but himself, and unlike Tony, he has alienated or used his family for the wrong reasons. It's a tough pill to swallow but Rick's finally starting to accept that everything that goes wrong in his life isn't the fault of a universe of chaotic characters -- it's all on him and he's doing himself no good by keeping his walls up. It isn't physical suicide but it is a sign Rick's rigid mind is crumbling. And unfortunately, there might not be anyone left -- not even Morty -- who can help him at this point.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sundays at 11:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.