[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Rick and Morty, Season 5, Episode 2, “A Rickconvenient Mort.”]
As we’ve discussed before, the thing about Rick and Morty and sitcoms is that the characters can never change, and they certainly cannot age. Bart Simpson will always be 10 and Morty will always stay 14. Even if we’ve seen Morty go through enough to age him horribly, he is still a hormonal teenager, not just in terms of his constant crude sex jokes the show does on his behalf, but also in terms of how emotional he can get. Even if the jokes don’t land as well as in the past two episodes, A Rickconvenient Mort delivers a rare moment of sincerty for the show that once gave us Picke Rick.
The episode begins with Morty accidentally getting involved in the latest fight between Planetina (Alison Brie) and a supervillain that controls acid rain. Rick and Morty has done plenty of parodies before, but this is a rare episode that is solely devoted to jokes about a single property. If you’ve never heard of the ’90s environmental cartoon Captain Planet and the Planeteers, it’s possible this episode won’t do anything for you. At the same time, the core concept of a superhero entity that is summoned by a group of ethnically diversed kids and whose sole purpose is to fight against pollution has been parodied and homaged so much that it’s easy to understand what writer Rob Schrab is going for.
Schrab may be a newcomer to the world of Rick and Morty but he’s a longtime collaborator of co-creator Dan Harmon and he fits seamlessly with the Harmon-verse’s sensitivities. What’s new is that he infuses A Rickconvenient Mort with the kind of sincere emotion we don’t really see in the show, particularly from Morty and Beth. You see, the moment Morty meets Planetina, he jumps to flirting with her, and surprisingly enough, she is into it. As I speculated in my recap of the premiere episode, now that Jessica is gone seemingly for good, the show should finally move on from Morty’s obsession with her, so it felt refreshing to see Morty and Planetina’s young romance blossoming. There are a couple of problems with this, however. The first is that Planetina, much like Captain Planet, is controlled by four kids, who are now grown up and live off of exploiting Planetina as a marketing tool, and are planning to sell her off.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Captain Planet, I certainly am not, the joke about the Planeteers being a bunch of selfish and greedy adults who are exploiting their teenage adventures works. Sure, the bit about them trying to sell Planetina off to a rich Arab feels weird and out of nowhere even for this show, but seeing the Planeteers follow Planetina around in a tour bus and selling limited edition Funko Pops of Planetina for $50 a piece is rather clever. Plus it gives us an opportunity to see Morty do his best Avatar impression when he starts massacring the Planeteers and stealing their rings. If the recently-announced Avatar Studios don’t give us an R-rated Avatar: The Last Airbender show, we’ll always have Morty.
The second problem with Morty’s new relationship is that Beth is vehemently against it. For one, Morty is still a teenager dating an older woman, even if Morty argues she’s more of a construct than a person and what is time to a being that pops out of the combined powers of four rings? But as Morty reminds us, and as we see when he starts meercilessly killing the Planeteers, Morty has seen enough planets, witnessed enough genocides, and even partaken in enough Purges with Rick that he cannot be compared to a normal 14-year-old anymore. Sure, we knew this, and the show has joked about it before, but it’s interesting that this is the second time this season that Morty directly says out loud that he’s been robbed of a normal life due to his adventures with Rick, after he told his grandpa about not going to school for a full week in years.
Of course, nothing can last in sitcom-land, so when Planetina realizes she cannot save the planet by talking to the kids in the audience and telling them of the virtues of recycling, she decides to just murder hundreds of people. Sadly, the joke doesn’t hit as hard as it was intended to because we’ve seen enough superhero deconstructions recently that seeing a cheerful hero become a cynic isn’t new, and it does make Morty’s story come to an abrupt end when he decides to break up with Planetina because he suddenly grew a conscience and can’t accept her killing people (but has no problem hanging out with Rick). But what the ending does give us is arguable the first time we genuinely feel bad for Morty, not as a cartoon character or a protagonist or even as a victim of sci-fi shenanigans, but as a 14-year-old who just got his heart broken. Seeing Beth acting like a mom and try to comfort Morty is one of the most emotionally-charged moments Rick and Morty has done in a while, and it works because of the juxtaposition between what the audience has seen the characters experience and what the rules of sitcoms allows them to carry from episode to episode
Interdimensional Lost & Found
- It feels like a missed opportunity that no one brought up the fact that Morty has an alien kid out there, while discussing whether or not he’s mature enough for a relationship.
- Rick and Summer’s sub-plot felt rather dry, as they go from one apocalypse to the other to just party with zero consequences. Even if they are completely different shows, I feel like Loki found a way to make that scenario deliver bigger moments of both fun and character development.
- Seeing Beth and Jerry just spend time together and act as parents without fighting and without Rick getting in the way feels both weird and kind of nice.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sundays on Adult Swim.
“Even though we got cancelled, it’s like, ‘Yeah, we still did it though.'”
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