Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched Rick and Morty's Season 4 finale!
Rick and Morty went down some surprising avenues in Season 4, having seemingly cut itself off from the storytelling canon established in prior seasons. Thus, it was all the more shocking to see the season finale bring back established characters that fans haven't heard from in ages, giving much-welcomed updates on their current lives. This time, the clever pop culture references came as a middle-finger homage to another space-faring franchise, Star Wars.
Below, we're going to dive into some of the Star Wars references that Rick and Morty offered up during "Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri," as well as talking out Rick's final somber moments. But let's go ahead and take this moment right here to celebrate the short-lived promise of the spinoff Invisible Garbage Truck Jerry. Oh, what could have been! And now, let's move on.
NX-5 Planet Remover a.k.a. Fake Death Star
The episode kicks off by introducing what may or may not be the Beth clone that Rick created in Season 3 when "real" Beth was contemplating divorce. (More on that later.) As part of The Defiance battling the still-operating Galactic Federation, Other Beth watched a promotional video for the Wrangler-sponsored "NX-5 Planet Remover," a purposefully transparent nod to Star Wars' most questionably designed fortress, the Death Star. Beyond giving the device a similar purpose of blowing planets into smithereens, Rick and Morty took a straight shot into the Death Star's thermal exhaust port with this boast from the video's presenter:
The NX-5's industry-leading tachyon beams eliminate planets twice as fast as the NX-4S, with half the batter and zero fatal design flaws. That's right, no more secret hole that blows the whole thing up when you shoot it. Your enemies will say it's unfair. We say it's about time.
Of course, Rogue One built in a logical reason why the Death Star fell victim to such a shameful vulnerability in A New Hope's Battle of Yavin, but fans (such Rick and Morty's creative team) still enjoy poking fun at that plot point. Thankfully, the NX-5 Planet Remover didn't get to blow Earth out of existence, leaving most of these characters free to return in Season 5.
Rick Calls Out Defiance Beth's Adventures
As Rick and Defiance Beth bonded over mugs of beer – and what better place for it to happen than a Shoney's – she told him details of her latest mission, in which she led her rebels in overtaking the capital of the planet seen in the opening. Rick is clearly proud at first, but he does walk that back a little to sound superior, surprising no one. In his words:
My daughter, having space adventures. They are skewing a tad Star Wars-y, though. Don't forget to have fun.
By all means, Defiance Beth is a solid take on Star Wars' Leia, especially in a reality where Leia got to call her dad out as being an asshole. That said, the whole cloning element also ties into Rey's family history, even if the situations are totally different. The best (or something) of both worlds, no?
Rick Reluctantly Becomes Star Wars Hero Himself
The finale featured a sweet showdown between Rick and the returning Galactic Federation agent Tammy Guerterman, during which Summer and Morty destroyed a bunch of alien enemies and took Tammy down, and Rick killed her. (For making him go to a wedding, but also for killing his best friend, or so he thought.) Once the NX-5 Planet Remover showed up on Earth and started its targeting process, Rick begrudgingly accepted that the Smith family would have a Star Wars-ian adventure of their own, and dropped an F-bomb while doing so.
Ugghhh, I guess the galaxy's most wanted mammal needs her daddy to come change her diapie. C'mon kids, we have to go do a fucking piece-of-shit Star Wars.
Not the least offensive way to have put it, but I'm pretty sure he was just saying that their adventure would be a shitty version of a Star Wars story, and not that Star Wars is a piece of shit in and of itself. Although by all means, Rick does hate most things that aren't booze and others' misery.
Morty And Summer Are The Non-Cringey Luke And Leia
After Rick tasks them with seeking out the NX-5 Planet Remover's weak spot, Morty and Summer took a second to celebrate their successful partnership after being at odds early on in the episode. But they probably shouldn't have tried to compare their totally non-taboo situation to the Star Wars universe, since it resulted in the following exchange:
MORTY: Dream Team rides again!
SUMMER: Oh yeah, we're like Luke and Leia. Except, no kissing part. What's another famous brother-sister team?
MORTY: Uh, Hansel and Gretel?
SUMMER: Yeah, right. Those two were fucking.
We know there's a universe out there where Summer is a positive-minded lesbian, but might there be one where she and Morty are... nah, let's not go there. Going back to the episode, it did sort of appear as if Morty was strong with the Force after he and Summer figured out how to use the invisibility belt to their advantage. Sure, Rick and Morty referred to it as being psychic, but we're not going to look a gift Star Wars semi-similarity in the mouth here.
Rick (Obi-Wan) Vs. Phoenix Person (Anakin)
Season 4's finale featured the return of Phoenix Person, the bionically resurrected Bird Person (voiced by Dan Harmon) who was last seen during his cyborg-ian transformation in the Season 3 premiere. The parallels here aren't perfect, of course, but the ideal-swapping Phoenix Person is basically the Darth Vader in this situation, and his battle against Rick felt somewhat like Rick and Morty's take on Obi-Wan's fight against Anakin in the final fight of Revenge of the Sith (which has gained renewed interest as of late.) The scene's largely red lighting scheme helped strengthen the connection to the lava-centric brawl, even if it involved a bird-bot and actually referenced other forms of pop culture during the actual fighting.
This scene also featured the moment where Phoenix Person asked Rick about Tammy, whom he still loved, and Rick blithely stated that he killed her. While the Star Wars scene this seemingly references happened after Obi-Wan left Anakin all chopped up in the volcano, it definitely appears to call back to when Palpatine told Vader that he'd killed Padmé in a rage, ruthlessly crushing the still-healing Sith's spirits. Granted, Anakin-as-Darth-Vader's still-revivable remains were never shown to be attached the the back of a door in any Star Wars character's garage, but I did say earlier that the parallels weren't perfect.
Jerry Saved The Day With His Puppet Skills
Rick and Morty gave Jerry the ultra-rare chance to go clutch and save Earth, and it worked! His technique, which involved his (admittedly lackluster) skills as a puppeteer, felt like the most stealth Star Wars nod in the episode, even if it wasn't actually intended. Jerry's victory didn't reference any movie moments, per se, but rather the franchise's changing stance on physical puppetry over the years. Within the episode, Beth shut down Jerry's attempts to bring his therapy puppet to their marital counseling session. Later, an invisible Jerry earned appreciative words from his wife after maneuvering Tammy's corpse as a Weekend at Bernies-esque puppet, which distracted Phoenix Person long enough for Team Beth to take him down.
The situation seemed to loosely mirror George Lucas' decision to replace Frank Oz's puppeteering mastery with instantly dated CGI for his prequel trilogy, which was reversed for the most recent set of films and beyond. For instance, The Rise of Skywalker introduced Babu Frik, whose voice actress actually learned the puppeteering process in order to provide a more organic performance. And let's not even get into how the world came surprisingly close to getting an ugly CGI Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian instead of the globally adored puppet that became a poster Child for Disney+.
Rick's Sad Ending
Considering The Empire Strikes Back ended on a downer note for just about every protagonist, and not merely a single alcoholic narcissist, that film doesn't quite work as a comparison point for the way Rick and Morty capped off Season 4 before the credits rolled. Even after all the talk about which Beth was the clone, everyone decided that they were all better off not knowing the truth, since it meant both Beths could be appreciated equally. That meant no one had any reasons to appreciate Rick or his knowledge.
Of course, as the finale revealed in those surprisingly emotional moments, Rick set up a game of Two Beth Monte with his daughter and her clone, so that not even he would be fully aware of which Beth was which. In returning to those moments, Rick finally took to heart just how terrible a father he is at times. He tried to soothe his woes with the reveal that he's keeping Phoenix Person's remaining body parts inside the garage, but his former best friend was still quite peeved. Without anyone else to turn to, Rick sat down in his chair, dejected, alone, and feeling the weight of his negative life choices.
One can only wonder if Rick and Morty will indeed start off anew in Season 5 without flexing its serialization muscles very hard, or if it will continue to develop Rick's introspective phase in a way that reflects the personal growth of BoJack Horseman's titular egoist. I can't even tell which route I'd prefer at this point.
Rick and Morty might be done with Season 4 on Adult Swim, but Season 5 is reportedly in mid-development, with production hopefully set to kick off again in earnest in the near future. You can stream the first three seasons on the recently unveiled HBO Max.