Rick and Morty season 5 episode 3 spoilers follow.
After airing two of the schwiftiest episodes we’ve seen in quite some time, Rick and Morty took a surprising turn this week with a Captain Planet parody that a lot of younger viewers might not have fully understood.
As older fans will remember (including ourselves), the theme tune for this ’90s cartoon started with the line, “Captain Planet, he’s our hero…” But in this case, Captain Planet is no longer a “he”, and he’s no longer a “hero” either.
Planetina starts off as a protector of sorts, but by the end of ‘A Rickconvenient Mort’, she mercilessly kills anyone who poses a threat to our planet. And despite all the death and destruction that Morty has caused over the years, it seems that he can’t abide murder when it comes to his first true love.
Yes, Jessica has been a constant source of infatuation for Morty over the past five seasons, but this is the first time that he’s actually fallen in love with someone — and more importantly, had that love reciprocated. However, that all changes when Morty realizes that his first true girlfriend is also a murderer. In the final moments of this episode, Morty breaks up with Planetina and cries in the arms of his mother.
It’s an unusually serious and emotional ending for Rick and Morty, so it might not surprise fans to learn that this story almost ended very differently. During a segment of Inside the Episode which aired immediately after on Adult Swim, creator Dan Harmon revealed that the episode – “which is really special to me” – was originally going to end with Planetina breaking Morty’s heart instead. Either way, the story doesn’t end well for Morty.
“We tried to capture that loss by treating it like an actual dramatic story,” says director Juan Meza-León. Because of this, there’s no punchline at the end, just a teenage boy sobbing into the arms of his mother.
As writer Rob Schrab points out, this is also the first time “we’re getting to see Beth be motherly”. Usually, her detachment from the kids is a source for humor, but that’s not the case here. “After that scene, I was a wreck,” Rob adds. And on paper, it’s easy to see why. When you break it down and forget what actually brought us to this point, that final scene embodies the kind of heartbreak everyone can relate to, whether their grandfather has cracked inter-dimensional travel or not.
It’s about time that Rick and Morty encouraged us to invest more in these characters beyond their involvement in whatever scheme Rick hatches – or screws up – each week. Fans primarily come to this show for its absurd humor and zany takes on established sci-fi tropes, but if you don’t ground all this in something relatable and recognizably human, then it becomes harder and harder to maintain interest.