Rick and Morty season 5, episode 5 spoilers follow.
"Could this be the end of Mousetrap Nipples?" It's a question we've all grappled with at some point in our lives, and asking it now is more important than ever because many characters around him meet their untimely end in Rick and Morty's latest episode. While that's par for the course these days, there's one particular death that hints at something larger, something even more important than the fate of Mousetrap Nipples.
'Amortycan Grickfitti' breaks down the pointless pursuit of "coolness" with two separate stories. One follows Rick and Jerry as they hang out with Hellraiser demons who feast on Jerry's innate cringeness. "Jerryoake" anyone?
The other revolves around Morty and Summer's quest to become friends with Bruce Chutback, the new kid at school. The potential for his coolness is apparently limitless, and in a bid to win him over, the Smith kids quickly commandeer Rick's ship for a joyride. But the ship isn't playing by their rules, and in a surprise to no one, things soon take a more violent turn.
But among all of the planet hopping and Transformer make-out sessions, Rick's ship also kills a giant space man at one point after luring it out with a delicious solar system for it to eat. The show names this character Space Tahoe, but another name probably came up pretty quick for Marvel fans watching back home.
— Charlie Schneider (@AwesomEmergency) May 1, 2021
Clearly, this is supposed to be a spoof of Galactus, a major Fantastic Four character who hasn't yet popped up in the MCU. Not only is Space Tahoe's design extremely similar to that of the cosmic villain, but the show's latest casualty also eats planets, just like he does.
Space Tahoe only makes a brief appearance, but this isn't the first time that Rick and Morty has included a Marvel-lous parody like this. Just a few weeks ago, the season five premiere kicked things off with a satirical take on Namor, the upcoming villain of Black Panther 2. Think Aquaman, but weirder and hornier.
And beyond Mister Nimbus, everything from Octopus-Man and the Council of Ricks to the Vindicators episode in season three has long parodied the inherent silliness of comic book tropes. And crucially, it's not just superheroes that Rick and Morty is lampooning here. It's specifically Marvel superheroes.
So what gives? Do the people working on Rick and Morty have some kind of beef with the MCU? Or is Marvel Studios just a big and easy target, much like Space Tahoe himself?
In a multiverse full of infinite possibilities, there are also infinite jokes to make at Marvel's expense. And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Well, in the previous episode to this, titled 'Rickdependence Spray', Beth says early on, "OK, let's go see the latest piece of Marvel shit." Ouch. That's about as subtle as giving the name 'Mousetrap Nipples' to someone walking around with mousetraps on their nipples.
A slightly more restrained, and yet no less savage version of this also came up previously on Community, an earlier show made by Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon. "I want to have an opinion about those boring-ass Marvel movies," said Joel McHale's character in the series finale. "And I want those opinions to be of any concern to the people making them." And in case you're wondering, yes, Harmon did co-write that particular episode.
It's also worth noting that plenty of alumni from various Harmon shows have gone on to become major players in the MCU, including Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo (who previously directed a bunch of Community episodes), as well as She-Hulk showrunner Jessica Gao (who worked on Rick and Morty), and also Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania writer Jeff Loveness.
Could this be why Rick and Morty loves to take shots at Marvel? Even the studio's latest success story, Loki's Michael Waldron, was originally going to take over as Rick and Morty's new showrunner until Marvel came a-calling.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about this switch, Harmon said: "We're like, 'Okay. He's a little green, but he's moving so quickly and he learns so fast and he's such a hard worker. We're crazy for doing it. Let's take a chance on this kid.' He's like, 'Guys, I'm so flattered by this. I have a meeting at Marvel this afternoon. I think I might be running a show for them.' That’s the story of how we loved, semi-supported, semi-discouraged, and definitely lost Michael Waldron."
Expanding on Waldron's departure, Harmon joked: "Well, you can't fight Kevin Feige in the street. He'll just say, 'Oh, I love that you're fighting me, this is so wonderful,' and everyone will start booing you for being a bully."
But on a more serious note, Rick and Morty's co-creator also said, "I am honored and validated by the idea that if people leave me, they leave me for Marvel. That's an amazing legacy."
Harmon himself has also worked with Marvel before on the first Doctor Strange movie where he was asked to write some additional script pages. However, director Scott Derrickson has since revealed that almost none of Harmon's work actually ended up in his final cut.
During a chat with Moviefone, the Doctor Strange filmmaker admitted that while some of Dan's jokes "might have stayed in there", the majority of his writing was just "too out in Dan Harmon-land" for Marvel. All that remained of Harmon's input was a "really striking analysis" that helped the Doctor Strange team "break down things" with a fresh perspective.
Since then, Rick and Morty has directly referenced the film that Harmon worked on in a season four episode where Rick says, "Lab coat, rip off Dr. Strange" before said lab coat then attacks a security guard. Is there some animosity there? Despite what happened on Doctor Strange, Harmon has described his time with Marvel as "a joy", explaining (via Reddit) that the experience was "as intensely orgasmic as you'd think, times ten".
And then there's the future of the Vindicators to consider as well. Back in season three, an episode titled 'Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender' spoofed the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy with a new intergalactic team. While they didn't all survive that chapter, a new Rick and Morty spin-off based on The Vindicators concept will soon be heading to Adult Swim.
Will this new show be a loving homage to Earth's Mightiest Heroes? Or will it just provide the writers with more opportunities to rip the House of Mouse a new one? Somewhere in there is a joke about Disney's mascot and Mousetrap Nipples just waiting to happen... But why waste time working it out when we could just go sing Smash Mouth's entire back catalogue, Jerryoake style?
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