Rick and Morty rarely leave plot holes open, so what was with Beth insisting on saving a deer in season 2 for no apparent reason? Beginning back in 2013, Adult Swim’s Rick & Morty is a raucous animated comedy that manages to maintain some impressively tight plotting despite its goofy sense of humor.
Thanks to series co-creator Dan Harmon’s rigid story structure, Rick & Morty usually avoids falling into obvious plot holes. On the show, the characters’ motivations and situations drive the plot. This makes it all the more surprising that the show does not explain why Beth attempts to save a dying deer in season 2 without any obvious motivation — especially since she initially doesn’t appear interested.
In season 2’s debut “A Rickle In Time,” the B-story sees Beth attempting to save a dying deer after she and Jerry stumble across it on their way home. There’s no clear explanation for why she decides to save the ailing animal, particularly when Beth is usually the pragmatist and Jerry is typically the idealist of the pair. The answer has less to do with Rick & Morty‘s plot and more to do with Beth’s character, as the deer represents Beth and Jerry’s marriage and Beth’s use of philanthropy to mask her egotism more broadly. Beth isn’t interested in saving the deer until Jerry notes that there’s nothing she could do to help it as a horse surgeon, at which point saving the deer becomes her only goal of the episode. Similarly, Beth has ignored Jerry’s snarky comments and the family in general when it comes to the state of her marriage, but she becomes fiercely defensive of her life choices (if not her husband) when she is challenged.
Beth shares her father Rick’s hubris even if she is better at hiding it from the world, and it comes to the surface in this Rick & Morty subplot. Like Rick in the acclaimed “Vat of Acid Episode” (and many other outings), Beth is convinced she alone can control the uncontrollable and force the chaos of life into a clear and definite shape, meaning anyone telling her there is something she can’t do will lead her to prove them wrong at any expense. Being told she can’t help the deer is reason enough for her to devote her night to improvised solo surgery, much like being told there’s something that he can’t do is sufficient reason to drive Rick into obsessive attempts at it.
As similar as the characters are, Beth and Rick also diverge in important details, as proven by the difference between the deer in “A Rickle in Time” and the next season’s debut, “Pickle Rick.” Beth’s egocentric father Rick turned himself into a pickle to prove he could, much like how Beth saved the deer, but his is a comically self-interested act that has no benefit for the world around him. He’s unashamedly forthcoming about his self-obsession. Beth, in contrast, saved the deer not for its own sake (having already accepted that it was best left alone until Jerry noted she couldn’t save it anyway), but to prove that she could; yet, unlike her father’s, her decision has a veneer of philanthropy. It seems to be a minor distinction, but the desire to at least seem virtuous is what drives Beth to keep her failing marriage together where Rick abandoned his, what makes her choices so different from his, and what ultimately dooms her childhood friend Thomas Lipnip in the later Rick & Morty outing, “The ABCs of Beth.”