This RICK AND MORTY review contains spoilers.
Rick and Morty Season 5 Episode 3
It seems like Rob Schrab is nostalgic for the era of kids’ cartoons from my childhood. I say my childhood, because Schrab—longtime collaborator and friend of Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon—is over a decade older than me, but he loves to parody cartoons from when I was growing up. He had a major role doing a Cobra Commander impression in the animated episode of Harmon’s sitcom Community, “G.I. Jeff” (which he also directed) and now he’s written this episode, “A Rickconvenient Mort,” half of which is a parody of the nineties’ environmentalist cartoon, Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
I really didn’t enjoy “G.I. Jeff.” It was a bizarre, confused episode with humor that didn’t work unless you had a fondness for the eighties (and/or early nineties)’ cartoon series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. I was alive during the airing of this series, but I never watched it, so “G.I. Jeff” fell flat for me. I’m more familiar with Captain Planet, though I’d hardly call myself a fan. I preferred to get my superficial, ecological moralizing from Widget the World Watcher, a cartoon that nobody remembers, which happens to have an amazing theme song, but I digress!
Like “G.I. Jeff” before it, I question how well “A Rickconvenient Mort” works for those unfamiliar with Captain Planet. Granted, that series’ iconically cheesy reputation has outlasted it and you don’t need to know much except that the titular captain is an environmental superhero who materializes when five ethnically diverse kids put their elemental rings (earth, fire, wind, water, and heart, which is not an element and never will be) together. But if you haven’t actually watched any of the series, the blatant parody character in this episode, Planetina (Alison Brie), probably won’t do a whole lot for you.
That said, as someone who has seen at least a little Captain Planet, the parody didn’t do a whole lot for me, either. The idea that the kids who summon Planetina (the Tina-Teers) are now cynical adults who use the superhero to sell merch is a clever subversion of Captain Planet’s core concept, but, besides that, there aren’t any really funny ideas or jokes that come out of this extended homage. Eventually, Planetina starts killing every person who she feels has wronged the Earth; this is another funny subversion because, you know, Captain Planet didn’t kill people. What is this shit, Robot Chicken?
One aspect of this plotline that works well is how the Tina-Teers believe they can push Morty around, but Morty, at this point, has become a jaded killing machine like his grandpa, so he turns their ring powers against them and murders the hell out of them. However, the resolution that Morty stops dating Planetina because she murders too many innocent people feels like it’s introduced abruptly just to wrap things up. Plus, sure, Morty probably still has some kind of moral compass, but considering how much accidental murder he and Rick regularly commit, the episode fails to convince that Planetina’s killings would be a hardline reason for Morty to break up with someone he recently thought was the love of his life. Also, chances are good that the congressman Planetina killed totally had it coming.
The B-storyline is about Summer and Rick doing an apocalypse party crawl, flying to planets that are about to be annihilated to have lots of meaningless sex, and then jetting off to the next planet before they get blown up. Where Morty’s story is chock full of hyperviolence, the Rick and Summer story is basically joke after gross-out alien sex joke. If that’s your thing, cool, but it got old quickly for me. The only time I laughed was at the reveal that Summer had introduced herself as “Mrs. Obama” to some of her alien sex partners. The alien shouting “Hey! She’s the one that saved the world! Now we gotta go to work tomorrow!” was a little funny, too.
What’s best about “A Rickconvenient Mort” is it has a good character moment in Summer out-Ricking Rick by being even more cynical than he is, something he’s forced to acknowledge and appreciate. Morty sort of has an emotional arc, but the episode doesn’t seem to be too seriously interested in it, as it’s abruptly tidied away. For the most part, this is a really silly episode that relies on the old Rick and Morty standbys of ultraviolence and gross-out gags, along with some nineties’ nostalgia thrown in, to get its laughs. If that works for you, cool, but I was bored.
And Planetina did nothing wrong.
(Just kidding, Planetina definitely did at least a couple of things that were wrong.)