If I say Rick and Morty, you might think of the popular science-fiction, adult cartoon. You would also probably go on to think that it’s pretty entertaining and interesting. However, as you delve deeper into the series, you may come to realise that some of its characters have more to them than what meets the eye.
The most prominent example of this observation would be that of Rick Sanchez, our seemingly sociopathic scientist.
So, what makes Rick so great that he could be hailed as one of the best cartoon characters of this decade? (Well at least, according to me)
When we first meet the title character, we immediately assume that he is a cold, indifferent a**hole to everyone he meets, putting his needs and wants over theirs.
This seems to be a trend until much later in the first season when we realise that he is actually suffering, specifically when Birdperson tells Morty that Rick’s catchphrase “Wubba Lubba Dub Dub” actually means “I am in great pain”. This adds a layer of complexity to Rick’s character as we see him drowning his sorrows with a huge party filled with booze and drugs.
In the episode “Auto Erotic Assimilation”, we see him going through a painful heartbreak after rekindling with an old flame — to the point that he almost committed suicide, probably the lowest point we have seen him hit in the whole series.
In the episode “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez”, we see that one of the personal issues that Rick has troubles coping with, as a grandfather in his 50s to 60s, is his mortality.
In the first season finale, we observe Rick being rather dismissive of his good friend Birdperson, and is adamant about attending his wedding. However, when the wedding turns sour (f**k Tammy), Rick is rather distraught at the turn of events and Birdperson’s “death”.
For someone whom I stereotyped early on as an indifferent and heartless a**hole, the show briefly shows us later on why Rick acts the way he does. He has endured a lot of pain in his life, be it self-inflicted or due to unfortunate circumstances. He rejects the love and support given to him because he wants to retain a strong image, possibly because he has been hurt before by those he let get close to him and he cannot bear to go through such great pains again.
Regardless of the reasons, Rick’s personal issues make him human and very relatable, a special trait that few cartoon characters embody.
You may be wondering, what, that’s it? He used his grandson as a tool to finish his research or missions, he killed thousands, and was a pretty crappy father to Beth. So how are you going to convince me that he is a great character? He might have personal issues, but it does not excuse and justify his horrifying actions towards others.
The thing is, Rick isn’t a good guy and that’s part of what makes him interesting. He isn’t two dimensional in that he only has a good or bad alignment assigned to him as a character. Yes, he has done some terribly heinous stuff but he has also done some good as well. In fact, he wavers between good and bad so much that it becomes rather difficult to categorise him as any particular character archetype.
Examples being when he didn’t bat an eyelid at Morty’s safety and well-being in the first few episodes, but in the episode “A Rickle In Time”, Rick was, hesitantly, willing to sacrifice his life to save Morty’s. He was even concerned about Morty’s psychotic break down in the episode “Look Who’s Purging Now”. This comes off as rather uncharacteristic of the nonchalant Rick, especially since he has killed thousands across dimensions.
Another great example would also be when he gave his freedom to the Intergalactic Government in exchange for his family’s safety in the episode “The Wedding Squanchers”. This appears rather melancholy and bittersweet at first glance but in the episode “The Rickshank Redemption”, it was revealed that it was part of his huge ploy to topple the Intergalactic Government.
The series keeps you second guessing as to what Rick’s intentions truly are, does he love his family and want to protect them or does he want to enact revenge and chaos wherever he goes, and that in turn is what makes the series and him interesting.
Another aspect to Rick that makes audiences so intrigued in him is the aura of mystery that he has. Many questions are asked and left unanswered as we venture further into the series.
How did Rick get his inter-dimensional portal gun? What happened to his wife? Why was he distant with Beth when she was growing up? What crazy adventures did he go on with his alien pals?
Essentially, these questions ask the core question: “What made Rick the Rick that he is today?” Ultimately, none of us can answer those questions as of yet but the fact that many of us want to know or are even thinking about wanting to know proves the point that one of Rick’s selling points is the air of mystery surrounding him and his past. Hopefully, season 3 can shed more light on the matter and give us more insight into this complicated character.
Cartoons are getting much more complicated and deeper in recent times, probably reflecting the current demand for more relatable and interesting characters. Regardless, Rick can stand amongst them as one of the best in this decade, and we cannot wait to see what else Rick and Morty has in store for him.