Written by Channel 101 veteran and long-time Dan Harmon collaborator Rob Schrab and directed by regular Juan Meza-Léon, season five episode three positions Rick and Morty‘s two youngest characters – Morty, 14 and Summer, 18 (outside of Galactic Federation control, anyway) – at the heart of increasingly adult situations. Morty falls in love with an environmental superhero, while Summer goes on an apocalyptic bar crawl-cum-interspecies-orgy with her grandfather Rick.
At the start of the episode, Rick and Morty are assaulted by the villainous Diesel Weasel, who can elicit acid rain. The aforementioned environmental superhero Planetina arrives, quickly vanquishing the humanoid rodent with her elemental powers. Morty is smitten and invites Planetina on a date. Understandably concerned by her youngest child dating an ageless elemental, Beth doesn’t approve. Summer laments Morty’s increasing success with women, leading to Rick inviting her on a bar crawl across three planets that are all poised on the brink of natural disaster.
Desperate to see Planetina, Morty travels to the scene of a wildfire hoping he’ll see his crush. Child and superhero express their mutual attraction to each other. Planetina mentions having “kids”, Morty understandably thinks it’s too soon, but what she’s really referring to are the Tina-Teers, four adults who carry elemental rings and summon her when they use them together. The now middle-aged Tina-Teers are jaded, abusive, dominating shits, a far cry from the young activist kids we saw on the retro TV trail when Planetina was first introduced.
Rick and Summer make a pact with each other not to get “attached” to any sexual partner they meet on their planet crawl. On the first planet, Morglutz, Rick finds himself attracted to an alien named Daphne. As Morglutz is destroyed, a besotted Rick smuggles her – unbeknown to Summer – away from the doomed planet in the trunk of his ship. After the destruction of Slartivart, the second planet, Summer struggles to ignore Rick and Daphne having sex in the back of the ship. During time out, Daphne talks to Summer, revealing why Rick is so attracted to her: she has a pair of breasts on each of her elbows. Summer is disappointed by Rick’s attachment to her.
On earth, Rick and Planetina’s relationship continues. At a convention called Eco-Con, the Tina-Teers summon Planetina to host a panel, but Morty is transported with her during the summoning. Incensed, Eddie – who has a ring that can elicit fire – ties up Morty in a broom cupboard. He reveals his plan to sell Planetina to a rich Arabic ambassador. Morty bites Eddie’s finger off and incinerates him with his own ring. He breaks into the conference room where Planetina is being sold and kills everyone.
Morty invites Planetina, emancipated from the Tina-Teers, to live with the Smiths. Beth, still disapproving of the union, demands Planetina leave. Morty and Planetina run away, battling pollution and environmental destruction across the globe. Planetina, her eyes ablaze, becomes more violent, even homicidal – think Extinction Rebellion on roids. Morty is horrified. On planet Ferkus 9, Summer tries to tell Rick that she thinks Daphne is using him to stay alive. She destroys the asteroid threatening the planet, asking Daphne if she will continue to stay with Rick now the apocalypse is off. Daphne leaves. Rick is angry with Summer, but impressed at how “like Rick” she’d been. They swear to always be there for each other, “but don’t make it weird.”
Morty, alone in bed, is visited by Planetina at his window. She begs him to make their relationship work. He remains horrified by her actions. She’s equally horrified by his murder of her “kids”. Rejected, she curses him and flies away. Beth, hearing the argument, comforts her weeping son. This mirrors the union of Rick and Summer.
It seems like the episode was suggesting that the fight against environmental disaster is ultimately doomed – though simply part of nature – and that morality lives in and amongst shades of grey. Heavy.
The episode might mark little in the way of new territory for the show – structurally, at least. But it’s the emotional beats that hit hardest this week. Summer’s character continues to evolve, Rick becomes more interesting each episode, and the emerging maternal bond between Beth and Morty is something we’ve rarely seen before. It’s no exaggeration to say that the show is rapidly becoming a familial drama, of the most pioneering kind. It would be reductive to say that Rick and Morty is a show all about family. But it is. It just happens to be about loads of other really important things too.
Yes, that is Alison Brie as Planetina. But it’s also Steve Buscemi as Eddie too!
Pop culture parodies
Any child of the ’90s will recognise Planetina and the Tina-Teers as a hardly subtle riff on Saturday morning toon standard Captain Planet, and so it’s fitting that the title nods to former United States Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 mediation on the peril of global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. A deeper cut is that the planet Slartivart is likely cribbed from Slartibartfast, a character from Douglas Adams beloved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels.
Did you know?
Believe it or not, this is the first episode in season five in which Rick drinks!