The Adult Swim hit show’s latest episode references 2001: A Space Odyssey in its post-credits scene, but that’s not the only influence at play here.
“Rickdependence Spray,” the latest episode from Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty season 5, closes on a post-credits scene that references some classic sci-fi tropes. The show always gets one last joke in with their brief codas after the credits roll. Sometimes they more deeply explore an element from the episode (Hungry for Apples, hamsters in butts, Jerry the beekeeper). Sometimes they function as ancillary material like ads (Planets Only, Story Train). But most times, they’re an opportunity for the show to directly reference pop culture (Johnny Carson, Albert Einstein, and the complicated legacy of Michael Jackson). The post-credits scene from “Rickdependence Spray” falls into the third category.
In the scene, an astronaut repairs a satellite while remarking to himself about how the solitude of spacewalks helps him forget his emotional baggage. Suddenly, a massive, slightly deformed infant arises as the iconic tune of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra begins to play. The child grabs the astronaut as they solemnly accept their fate, and it shakes him around like a rattle.
There are several references at play here, the most obvious of which is Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). A fundamental text of the genre, 2001 helped make famous the Strauss piece while also featuring a space-faring newborn in its esoteric ending. Here, the infant comes with somewhat more direct an explanation: it is the incestuous child of Summer and Morty, grown massive due to the large zygotes which produced it, and orbiting Earth because of the President’s reluctance to destroy it in an election year. Aside from 2001, the ending obliquely references Gravity (2013) by portraying an astronaut on a spacewalk harboring unprocessed trauma, not unlike Sandra Bullock’s character in the Alfonso Cuarón film (and with a disposition similar to George Clooney’s character in the same).
A deconstruction of science fiction tropes from its inception, Rick and Morty is no stranger to referencing other media. The rest of “Rickdependence Day,” itself punning on the title of Independence Day (1996), includes plenty more pop-culture allusions. Rick and Morty’s C.H.U.D.s, subterranean horse creatures with which Rick and the President have tumultuous relations (in more ways than one), come from the eponymous 1984 horror film about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. The final battle even references the iconic Helm’s Deep sequence from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).
So will the United States, or perhaps more importantly the Smith family, have to worry about a giant orbiting incest baby in the coming episodes? Probably not. Post-credits scenes, while they certainly have fun melding the series’ zany sci-fi concepts with broader pop-culture touchstones, rarely impact future Rick and Morty plot lines. But on rare occasions, the show strings together running gags included in the codas, so there’s a chance audiences haven’t seen the last of incest baby.
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