On Sunday the highly anticipated fourth season of Rick and Morty debuted its first episode, and as one would expect from a series with bizarre and bonkers ideas, there were plenty of developments for our favorite scientist. Some of the new wrinkles added to the fabric of Rick and Morty lore are the Death Crystals, a few new alternate universes, and a hologram Rick, but the frame of the episode comes from something previously mentioned in the series which has only been elaborated on now, Rick's fabled “Operation Phoenix.” First mentioned in episode 2.07, "Big Trouble in Little Sanchez,” the new episode of the series reveals just how this operation would have functioned, and how Rick has used it to conquer death.
In the episode, Morty accidentally kills Rick while flying their ship. Rick, not wearing his seat belt, flies through the windshield and impales himself on a spiked rock. Following his death, a hologram Rick appears and guides Morty into the first steps of Operation Phoenix. Morty is to take a sample of Rick's tissue and place it into “the clone compiler.” From there, Rick's consciousness would (in theory) be uploaded into the new clone; however, as you may recall, Rick destroyed the clones of himself after the fallout of episode 2.07 aka the "Tiny Rick” episode (Rick makes reference to this, saying he took his own clone vat “offline a couple seasons ago”). In episode 4.01 though, Rick's consciousness uploads itself into a clone of himself in an alternate universe since no clones of his body exist on the main universe. As a result, Rick must navigate a few different universes, killing himself in the process, and being reborn on the alternate Earths.
Following his return to the main universe, with help from a Wasp Rick, Rick manages to get back into his own regular body. It's unclear by the end of the episode if Rick still considers Operation Phoenix a failure as he did before, but he seems to have realized its use once again, perhaps because he didn't have to relive the pubescent trauma of his teenage years.
Rick and Morty Season 4 will be 10 episodes in length, much like all of the other seasons of the show, save for the first (11 episodes). However, the release schedule of Season 4 will me much different than in years past. This time around, the season will be split into two halves.
There will only be five new episodes of Rick and Morty released in 2019, including Sunday night's premiere. Another five episodes, the second half of the season, will be released in 2020. While that's a little disappointing for those who wanted a ton of new Rick and Morty at once, it will at least keep the show from once again disappearing for years on end.
The next episode of Rick and Morty will air on Sunday, November 17 at 11:30 pm ET, it's titled "The Old Man and the Seat," a parody of the Ernest Hemingway novel.