When I first started watching Rick and Morty a couple of years ago, I didn’t quite understand the complexities of the characters in the Dan Harmon show. While we could do individual articles on the character traits of Morty, Summer, heck, even Jerry, I think it’s better to do this on the first half of the titular characters of the show, Rick Sanchez.
In my never-ending quest of re-watching the show several times, I’ve started to take notice of just how interesting Rick is not only as a family member but as a character, and honestly, he’s one of the best characters on television right now. In celebration of Rick and Morty Season 5 premiering soon as part of the 2021 Summer TV shows, here are my reasons why.
Rick Sanchez Has Some Of The Best Humor On Television
Let’s get that out of the way first. While Rick and Morty, in general, is hilarious, most of the great jokes are delivered by none other than Rick himself. I can’t think of how many times he has broken the fourth wall – one of my favorites being in the Season 3 episode, “Morty’s Mind Blowers,” when he simply turns to the camera and says directly to the audience that the episode would take the place of the Season 3 Interdimensional Cable episode.
And let’s not even get started on the dark jokes that he has, but oh boy are they there and it helps if you have a dark sense of humor. For example, reactions from viewers were mixed on the reference to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor in the Season 4 episode, “Promortyus."
I happen to love dark humor, and there are plenty of moments that make me snort with laughter. I mean, who can forget Pickle Rick? No one, because it's a ridiculous episode that's hilariously led by Rick.
Rick Sanchez Is A “No-Nonsense” Anti-Hero
Another reason why I love Rick in Rick and Morty is his outlook on life and how he’s simply a no-nonsense anti-hero. In a lot of TV shows, we often have that one villain and that one hero to root for. With Game of Thrones, it was the living vs. the Dead and the Night King. With The Walking Dead, it was the Alexandria group vs. the Saviors or the Whisperers. But with Rick and Morty, there are never any real heroes or villains – there are occasional antagonists, but usually, it’s just Rick being an anti-hero.
There’s so much grey area when it comes to a character like Rick. He knows he’s a horrible person. He’s established it several times throughout the show. Literally, in the Season 4 episode, “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty,” Rick goes so far as to drain the enthusiasm from his grandson so he can keep him under his thumb. That’s really not something a good person would do.
And yet, we’ve seen plenty of times where he has sacrificed himself as well because even as horrible of a person he can be, he still has morals. A lot of the time, the issues he causes are to preserve timelines, even if it means sacrificing lives to do so. I can’t even remember how many times the main timeline Rick has switched timelines because one went horribly wrong. This isn't to say that there aren't other amazing antiheroes out there, like Harley Quinn, but Rick is definitely one of the best, in my opinion.
Rick Sanchez Cares Mostly About Himself - But Draws The Line With His Family
As we’ve seen before in Rick and Morty, Rick cares mostly about himself. For example, in the Season 3 episode, “Morty’s Mind Blowers,” we see several memories that were erased from Morty’s mind because it showed Rick in a bad light, showing that he didn’t care about what was happening to his grandson, and only cared about himself.
However, there are moments where we see the humanity in Rick. He literally could not give two middle fingers up if people died because of him. There are infinite realities. Why bother? But with his family, despite all of his jadedness and selfishness, he does show that he cares. In the Season 2 episodes, “A Rickle in Time,” where their realities are split in several different realities and they must use a time necklace to somehow get each reality back into one, Rick is willing to sacrifice his life when Morty’s necklace breaks and he might get erased from the timeline.
In the Season 3 episode, “Rest and Ricklaxation,” both the toxic parts of Rick and Morty are trying to reunite with the pure parts of Rick and Morty, and we can see that Rick has an attachment to his grandson on his toxic side, although he calls it an unhealthy and irrational attachment in his line of work – but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his grandson and care for him, despite never showing it often.
Even the season finale of Season 4, “Star Mort: Rickturn of the Jerri,” focuses on Rick and his daughter – or, rather, daughters, where he was willing to fight his old best friend to try and find his daughter and her clone so they would be safe because he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her. And Rick has even saved Jerry numerous times in the show – too many to put here – because he knows Beth cares for her husband. He’s a selfish man, but he has his moments.
Rick’s Character Is Dark And Complex - Despite His Hilarious Nature
I think this is what makes Rick in Rick and Morty one of the most compelling characters on TV. Despite his brilliant mind, despite the fact that he can basically solve anything, despite the fact that he does have his tendencies to be a good person (rarely, but they’re there), he is also extremely depressed, jaded, and cynical about the world.
This can be attributed to the fact that Rick has a warped view of the universe because he has an awareness of the infinite multiverses and the infinite versions of everybody in existence, which is a reason why he is so careless. But at the same time, he has shown remorse for the actions he has done in the past and shows genuine fear for the future.
In the Season 2 episode, “Auto Erotic Assimilation,” when Rick has a run-in with a past fling of his, this episode also tackles the most toxic points of his character, his pain, his nihilism, his alcoholism, his self-destructive nature, each one being given its own point of interest throughout the episode. Then, when he returns home, these thoughts and feelings sit with him, as he puts an alien out of its misery, and then drunkenly botches his own suicide, giving us a window into the true emotions that hide within Rick’s mind.
In the Season 2 episode, “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez,” we see Rick as a younger version of his own self, but how terrified he is of returning back to his older body. While he tries to play it off, he literally lets it out through song, saying, “Let me out, let me out, this is not a dance. I’m beggin’ for help. I’m screaming for help. Please come let me out.”
This shows the serious fears he has regarding death, and growing old, despite his cynical views on the world around him.
Mentioning the Season 4 finale again, the last scene addresses one of Rick and Morty’s biggest questions – which version of Beth is the clone? The answer is that not even Rick knows, because he turned away and programmed the machines to mix them up, because he himself couldn’t make the choice of whether he wanted to send his true daughter off into space or not, and live without her while having a clone. He himself didn’t even want to know who, and while he can make jokes about it, he’s self-aware of how complex he is – and that’s what makes him a great character.
Rick Sanchez is one of the best characters on TV. Some of his best moments were in some of the best Rick and Morty episodes, showing off that wonderfully character-driven complex arc that I don’t think any of us were prepared for when starting to binge this show. But it’s a welcome change to the world of animation, and this brilliant scientist will forever live as one of the bests – fart and burp jokes included.