SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “A Rickconvenient Mort,” the third episode of Season 5 of “Rick and Morty.”
Despite a surefire premise to work with, “A Rickconvenient Mort” is the weakest episode of “Rick and Morty” Season 5 so far. Considering just how strong the first two episodes of the season have been, that’s not even necessarily a bad thing, but it does make for a relatively unfavorable comparison. While there are arguments that can be made about “Mort Dinner Rick Andre” and “Mortiplicity” possibly being all-time great “Rick and Morty” episodes, “A Rickconvenient Mort” doesn’t quite clear that same bar. The ingredients are there, from the premise (a contemporary riff on “Captain Planet and the Planeteers”) to the stellar guest voice cast (Alison Brie, Steve Buscemi and Jennifer Coolidge) and even to an emotional Morty storyline, but “A Rickconvenient Mort” doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
A titular play on “An Inconvenient Truth,” “A Rickconvenient Mort” is, however, surprisingly prescient, not just because of the constant state of trouble the environment is in at this point, but also because the Gulf of Mexico was just recently on fire. But the most surprising part of this episode is the fact that the premise (“Reduce, reuse, bro. Might be too late.”) doesn’t go down the bleak and nihilistic route that “Rick and Morty” is wont to take. It would be so easy and expected for this episode to not only mock the conservationist messages of cartoons like “Captain Planet” (and the PSAs of “G.I. Joe”), but also the idea of even caring about the planet itself. After all, in this show there’s always just another planet or dimension, and in this episode episode there’s a subplot all about not caring at all about other planets dying. But “A Rickconvenient Mort” doesn’t do that, instead opting to simply tell a doomed love story. How effective that love story is is the question, though.
Considering that this episode opens with Rick (Justin Roiland) and Morty (also Roiland) getting custom t-shirts that say “Rick & Morty P***y Pounders!” it’s impressive that either of them seemingly finds love moving forward. But then an impromptu spot of acid rain brings forth cheesy environmental superhero Planetina (Brie), with whom Morty is immediately so smitten that, to Rick’s annoyance, he can’t help but say, “Wow.” From there, we have another story of Morty falling head over heels for a girl. In this case, the girl is also into Morty, which is always kind of a toss-up on “Rick and Morty.”
Naturally, Planetina has a catchphrase: “There’s only one solution to Earth’s pollution.” And from the moment she utters it at the top of the episode, it’s already obvious that said catchphrase will be used later in a much more twisted way.
The A-plot then follows Morty and Planetina as they fall in love, with the B-plot charting Rick and Summer (Spencer Grammer) on their apocalypse bar crawl. “A Rickconvenient Mort” actually opts out of giving Beth (Sarah Chalke) and Jerry (Chris Parnell) their own plot, though the episode kicks off with their frustrations over the fact that Morty and Summer, respectively, continue to disrespect their supposed parental authority. Beth at least gets slightly more to do in this episode, with a small arc when it comes to her issues with Morty’s whirlwind romance with Planetina — while Jerry remains Jerry. Morty doesn’t care that Beth thinks Planetina’s too old for him (“How old is this woman? She looks very mature.”), and he has the performative door slamming to prove it. As Morty tells his mother (right before the door slamming), “I don’t wanna think! I wanna see a girl I like!” And that’s why he travels 200 miles to see Planetina again during a wildfire. He saves a rabbit! That’s nice.
The episode establishes that while Planetina also likes Morty, her one issue is her kids, the Tina-teers. Those are the “four young adults from each major ethnicity” that use their elemental rings (as this does not hide being a “Captain Planet” riff), who are also now four very grown adults who use Planetina for their own financial gain. Morty and Planetina then attempt to keep their relationship secret from the Tina-teers, leading to a scene that can only be described as a depiction of them consummating their relationship. The animation in that particular scene goes full crayon drawing, which feels like it perfectly captures Morty’s particular, perpetually 14-year-old mind—and, of course, only makes Planetina an even creepier old woman. When the Tina-teers summon Planetina (and by extension, Morty, as they overslept) at an environmental convention — using the four elements of fire, water, air, and dirt — they decide to take matters into their own hands, to ensure that a business deal goes through. A deal with who they simply call, “some Arab overseas” — which is clearly a pointed reference to the type of stereotypical villain “Captain Planet” would have — to whom they plan to sell Planetina.
As “Rick and Morty” constantly proves that it relishes in hyper-violence, it’s that hyper-violence that is naturally the high point of this episode.
Taken captive by Tina-teer Eddie’s (Buscemi) and on the verge of being permanently scarred (if not worse) by his fire ring powers, Morty fights back in a way that leads to his weekly massacre. He bites Eddie’s ring finger off, uses the fire ring power on him, and scorches him to death before infiltrating the business meeting and systematically killing each remaining Tina-teer — and allowing baby seals to kill the Arab — taking their rings in the process. It all makes for an especially gruesome Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet visual. That the episode follows that scene with Morty recounting the story to his parents and Planetina as, “Then I put my sunglasses on and walked out like nothing happened” is absolutely unhinged — which makes the reactions of both Beth, who’s upset because her son did a massacre for this woman she doesn’t want him with, and Jerry, who’s scared because his son did a massacre, even better.
However, with Morty freeing Planetina from her oppressors, the plot goes exactly where one would expect it to go from the very beginning, especially if you’ve ever seen Funny or Die’s “Captain Planet” sketch — or any episode of “Rick and Morty.” Planetina goes from friendly conservationist super person to superpowered ecoterrorist. That is what causes Morty to end things with her, though as he confides in Beth that he loved Planetina so much. The thing is, this is not the first time Morty has loved someone so much, as much as the episode tries to wring emotion out of acting like it is.
As noted, the A-story doesn’t actually mock caring about the environment, even as it pokes fun at how over-the-top (and racially stereotyped) “Captain Planet” was. In fact, the lack of mocking, even extending to Morty’s romance, can easily be attributed to the fact that Rick has barely any interaction with this plot at all, other than the initial crack that Planetina’s dialogue could use some punching up. Instead, Rick is off with a recently-dumped Summer on their space party adventure.
However, because Rick is also unlucky in love, of course when he puts himself out there with Daphne (Coolidge), he ends up learning that she was only using him to stay alive. Thus, she dumps him as soon as Summer saves a planet — Planet Ferkus 9, which had descended into orgy-based chaos due to an asteroid coming to destroy it —from destruction, because she no longer needs something from him. There’s something to latch onto into this plot, with Rick at least appreciating that Summer pulled a Rick move (saving a planet she didn’t care about just to prove herself right and him wrong) in the process, but other than Coolidge’s guest appearance as Daphne, there’s really not too much to this B-plot at all. Rick’s loneliness and inability to love without destruction has been a major factor in the character over the years, and this story is basically a small additional entry to that plot thread. Really, both of these plots feel like retreads of emotional bases that the show’s already touched on, in better ways.
At least the massacres always hold up, though.
“Rick and Morty” Season 5 airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on Adult Swim.