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2019-2020 by Inspiration Wise

Fictional Character Case Study - Rick Sanchez (Rick and Morty) Part I

Updated: Feb 12

‘Tis the season of gifting and love, but it’s also a season of TV shows pausing their airings. Some of you might have noticed that I mention some famous TV characters here and there, but in case you didn’t know, I’m very big on watching high-quality TV shows and I often delve into characters and the way they are presented to us.

Now that How to Get Away With Murder is making a pause (by the way, have you seen it? If you like law and crime but also a good mystery and psychology shows, I highly recommend it. This is the last season, so you won’t be on hiatus like me for 5 years between seasons!)

Anyways, I went for a lookout on IMDB.

Now I’ve heard about Rick and Morty, as they have a huge fanbase, but I never actually thought about watching it. In my opinion, they were drawn poorly (I’m a big fan of anime so American style of drawing didn’t appeal to me much) and I thought they were just some cartoon about space and stuff.

Until now.

And was I in for a ride!

For those who don’t know, Rick and Morty is an AdultSwim animated series that follows the exploits of a super scientist and his not-so-bright grandson.

I swallowed the first three seasons in a week and now I’m back to watching them again. And since I started thinking about Rick Sanchez for days at a time, I thought why not write this character study. He’s interesting enough and I will probably discover even more by writing about him.

For this, I will purposefully omit the “original pilot” episode. You know, the one with… balls. Simply because that didn’t end up in the show, and the relationship between Rick and Morty is way different now than what it was in that pilot.

This will be written under the premise that we’re following the C-137 Rick, the “Rickest Rick”.

I’ve noticed that he often changes his dominant hand and upon googling it, I learned that there is a theory that we’re following multiple Ricks. But for the sake of simplicity, I will say that he’s ambidextrous (probably practiced to reach that level of using both hands).

I will include other characters around him, as they serve us great purpose in setting him properly. Also, I will mention some theories out there. So beware, there will be spoilers!

This analysis will be done by seasons and made into blog series, as in every season of Rick and Morty there is something new to learn on how to develop fictional characters.

Plus, cramping it all into one blog post will make it too long in my opinion.

So this is Season 1 of Rick and Morty, Rick Sanchez character study.

Rick Sanchez is clearly a dynamic character and a protagonist, as his stories and emotions develop through the seasons and we get to see more and more of his thoughts reflect on the surface.

Morty Smith could be classified as a dynamic character but a deuteragonist, as they both lead the story by switching their roles through the adventures.

To place them into perspective as the most complicated characters of the show, we have their family.

Beth Smith (nee Sanchez) could be classified as a static character. Her development does not undergo a significant change. She hates being called a “horse” surgeon, feels bad that Rick had left her mother and think whether or not she should leave Jerry.

Jerry Smith is a classic flat character. We know he got Beth pregnant, he’s a coward and he lost his job, but we don’t care to know more.

While Summer, their first kid, is actually a round character, and we will see her playing some big roles in later episodes.

Episode 1 - Pilot

The season opens with a somewhat already built character of Rick shown to us. He’s drunk and he wants to destroy the planet in the C-137 dimension. He only takes Morty with him, saying that they’ll go get Jessica too (Morty’s love interest) but he passes out and Morty’s left on diffusing the neutrino bomb. There is a theory out there that Rick wanted to kill Morty because he knew that that Morty will become the Evil one, but I don’t believe it to be true.

Later in the show, it’s discovered that Rick had made the whole world for his daughter Beth (obviously compensating for leaving her mother), so he could’ve easily taken Beth out to save her and kill Morty and the rest of them.

But what Rick did know is that Morty’s brain waves cancel his and that he actually needs Morty in order to survive his adventures. That could be the first time we see how selfish he is – he would save himself and his “human cloaking device” only so that he can go and do what he wants.

We also see some aspects of their family relations and we can instantly figure that Morty is Rick’s counterbalance. While Rick is smart and capable of so many things, ignoring all feelings by getting wasted, Morty is basic – he wants to focus on school and Jessica and is not extremely smart or strong or capable of surviving on his own when they go on their adventures.

Having a character to counterbalance any other is important because nothing expresses more features than a contrast.

So right before Rick passes out, he says that this was a “test to make Morty more assertive”. Later in the series, we will see that Morty often tries to complain, but it doesn’t work on Rick.

This is a good start, as fictional worlds often tend to drag us in by beginning with an event. This event was so crazy and interrupted us in the right moment to play the opening credits so that we’re stuck to the screens, waiting to see what’s next.

If applied to a novel, it would be written as something extreme happening in the prologue and then we’d be given the first chapter to “cool off” and make us read further by feeding us at least one important character.

After opening credits, we see Rick’s need to instantly confront Jerry about school. He’d say anything, just to annoy Jerry, but at the same time he’s somewhat right – the school doesn’t teach us real life. This way we see that Rick has what every scientist out there does – an open mind to observe every aspect of life from a different perspective, giving him the skill of complex thinking and problem-solving.

As we observe Rick further, we see his flaws instantly, but he was done in such a way that we find them ridiculous. He burps all the time and gets lost, studdering while speaking – all consequences of his alcohol abuse. But I’ll get to alcohol in later posts. It’s a really important aspect of Rick that needs a special paragraph.

After talking about how dangerous situations need to be dealt with, Rick convinces Morty that he should help him take the mega seeds, but Morty rushes into it and breaks his legs in the process. Rick goes to another dimension to find the cure, but he gets to have “fun with a lot of young ladies” losing power in his portal gun.

Now, earlier in the episode he says that he wishes Beth’s mother was there to eat the breakfast, so we pull out the conclusion that her mother is gone. But now we see Rick willing to let Morty wait with broken legs while having “fun” for so long that he drained his portal gun. A person who mourns the loss of his wife wouldn’t do that, at least not to that extent. But more on his wife later.

So they must go through the intergalactic airport of some sort, and we see Rick speaking of bureaucrats and hating to be told what to do. Only with one difference – he is literally free to always do as he wants, which not every fictional character is. But with all the knowledge, he’s allowed.

Rick and Morty get into a mess and this is the first time we see Rick openly lie to Morty about how it’s okay to shoot the robots, which are actually not robots. But Rick doesn’t care, he just wants to get home and he uses Morty as a vessel.

As they reach home, Jerry and Beth decided to move Rick away since Morty was missing school. Rick manipulates them again, solely for the purpose of having Morty stay by his side.

Rick says to Morty that the “world is full of idiots who don’t understand what’s important and they’ll tear us apart” telling him to not speak about their adventures. By that, we see that Rick places himself on top of everyone else, even his basic community – his closest family.

Episode 2 - Lawnmower Dog

In this episode we see Rick making a dog sentient and then rushing out with Morty to enter people’s dreams. he purposefully selected Morty’s math teacher for this experiment so that Morty is willing to go with him since he’s struggling with math. Plus, it’s a win for Rick too – if Morty gets an A in math, he’s free do go with him all the time.

With this episode, we start exploring the idea that the writers of Rick and Morty can do whatever they want. Which is fun for character development.

Episode 3 - Anatomy Park

The episode opens up with Jerry wanting to remove the phones and tablets and have fun with his family, but ends up with Rick’s pettiness completely revealed.

At Christmas time, Rick decides to see what’s going on with his Anatomy Park creation by pretending to help Ruben – a man he used to build an amusement park inside of. He’s especially proud of Pirates of the Pancreas, and he won’t let anyone touch his idea.

This character trait is often present, but rarely so openly. Rick becomes somewhat of a caricature showcase of pettiness, an extreme lacking of compromise as he openly becomes defensive and attacks anyone who even mentions his “baby” Pirates of the Pancreas.

Weirdly enough, he’s aware of his behavior but does nothing to change it. Why would he?

In this episode we also see the writers touch on the satire. While it’s raining blood outside for Christmas, the news says that they “should all be fine” as the whole family sighs with relief. Jerry then continues on to giving everyone their device back to “help them relax” while saying how they all learned something. Summer responds that they didn’t.

But Rick did – as he sends another group of people into Summer’s boyfriend Ethan, he learns that that group won’t continue with his Pirates of the Pancreas, yet they want to change it. Rick can’t do anything about it and it’s funny to see him being annoyed.

Exposing a character like Rick to situations like these is important as it can show us how he deals with stuff when he’s powerless. He gives up under the mask of annoyance.

Episode 4 - M Night Shaym-Aliens!

Even though I watched it a few times, I missed the point of Rick says how he likes this Morty’s real-time response at the beginning and his comments about CPU burning out. And since this episode is about a simulation, inside a simulation inside a bigger simulation, that puts some perspective on what Rick does when he’s finally “alone” with “Morty”. He allows himself to have fun with his grandson.

As far as I’ve noticed, this is the first time Rick was so open about their relationship, throwing crystals around and playing, actually having fun and being close to Morty without covering it with a snarly comment afterward.

He probably decided to present himself like that for one other reason – he wanted the aliens to think they have won. But why not have some fun with “Morty” as he’d like to in real life while he’s at it.

It’s important to notice that Rick has at least 2 motives to behave as he does. By giving a fictional character more motives, we are making the observer think about the character more, wanting to discover new situations the character might be in. Would he always behave like that? In Rick’s case, the answer is yes. He will always think deeper than a regular person and will always be ready for anything that comes into play. He doesn’t let things slide without controlling them or attempting to do so.

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Of course, Rick ends up winning over the aliens with his acting and gets to go home with Jerry who was basically a lag in the simulation, is the real human.

On the writing side, this is one of the better episodes for me, because we are instantly placed in the question mode. What does he mean by saying those things to Morty? Why does Rick pronounce Morty in that manner? What’s going on? Yet we are forced to follow Morty, as if he was real and observe Rick’s relationship with him. But we keep staying on Morty’s side until the very end.

Building anticipation is the key. By making us believe that somehow Morty has to be real, we reach the peak of our attention and become slightly disappointed when we realize he’s not, only to feel a rush again when Rick wins for the last time. We feel satisfaction knowing that he “avenged” Morty, even when he’s at home, waiting for Rick’s return.

This is also the first time we see Rick having a stage persona. He knows how to act and perform, which will later reveal to have been a huge part of his life during the time he left Beth and the family.

At the end of the episode, we see him coming back to check up on the real Morty and make sure he’s not a simulation. Rick relaxes again for a brief amount of time, knowing that he’s drunk and that Morty will perceive his words as the words of an alcoholic, thus won’t even bother to understand what’s going on.

Rick is extremely aware of himself, and that’s making him more complicated, as he’s using and abusing his family. We will also see him break the fourth wall later.

Episode 5 - Meeseeks and Destroy

I laughed so much watching this one! We see the family becoming dependent on Rick. Beth wants him to fix the dishwasher, Summer wants help with homework and Jerry wants a device to open a jar.

And while Rick attempts to “help the family” Morty’s mocking him. Rick takes the upper hand, gives the fam the Meeseeks box and he’s actually just ditching them to prove a point – Morty’s adventures are gonna suck.

Rick is very competitive in all spheres of his life, so God forbid Morty gets to win! But that’s better than staying at home, dealing with mediocre things.

During their adventure, Morty gets attacked by an alien wanting to rape him. Here we see how far Rick is willing to go in order to both make Morty feel better and avenging him. He kills the alien wanting to get Morty without even thinking.

This is also the episode where he breaks the fourth wall for the first time with his famous “Wubba lubba dub dub” saying.

Episode 6 - Rick Potion #9

The episode opens the question about love. Rick claims that love is just a chemical reaction, but what he really tries to cover is that he failed with love. Love “hits hard then slowly fades leaving you in a failing marriage”. He also states that he’s not proud of it.

By putting Jerry into the idea that Beth is cheating, Rick seems to know a lot about the cheating spouses. We still don’t have a faint clue as to what has happened to his wife, but I will speak of some theories later.

This episode turns out to be a mess, as the whole world ends up wanting to fall in love and kill Morty. But that shows us another aspect of Rick – he would never admit his own guilt (as he is guilty after all).

So much so that he’s blaming Morty for everything that happened, and more.

Rick is too prideful that even after the whole world goes to hell, he’d rather ignore it and escape than admit he’s wrong. In a weird way, Rick is rubbing his guilt on Morty’s nose, making him feel guilty but at the same time we are also aware that Rick knows what he’s done.

On the other side, we finally find out that he left Beth’s mother, as Beth states it.

In the end, we witness Rick and Morty pass to another reality where they previously died.

Rick then expands on multiverse idea and how nothing really matters. He is presented as not caring about what they left behind and we get the feeling that his knowledge is actually forcing him to ignore many things in life.

Rick is also showing traces of sociopathic and psychopathic behavior here. He cold-bloodedly buries “himself” while making Morty do the same, then slides in the house and chills with a can of beer, not even paying attention to Morty, while Morty is freaking out.

Rick shows no sense of guilt about the family or Morty, but we will later witness some events that will prove Rick isn’t really a sociopath/psychopath.

Episode 7 - Raising Gazorpazorp

Basically, Rick buys Morty a sex robot. Morty does what any teen would do and he gets an alien child. But this episode is important because we see Rick’s thoughts about women.

Rick ends up on an adventure with Summer, to try and find parents for Morty Jr. Actually, it’s Summer’s fault that she got involved because she stood in front of a portal while arguing with Rick about women since Rick stated that he doesn’t do adventures with chicks.

Rick and Summer end up trapped and with a broken portal gun, but as always, the story escalates.

We see Rick claiming women to be in a lower position than men, while Summer objects. Soon enough, Rick gets served, as the planet they end up on is actually a female planet. Rick being Rick, can’t stop complaining, ignoring the fact that maybe pretending to be Summer’s slave might save their lives, and ends up insulting the female rulers of Gazorpazorp.

While waiting on their death punishment, Rick does what he does best – apologizing to Summer for “letting her get them into this”, but Summer doesn’t react like Morty – she ignores it, finding a solution to get them out of the problem.

It’s interesting to delve into why Rick seems to despise women. Was he disappointed in his wife? On a few occasions, he mentions cheating in marriage. Was his wife the cheater?

We also see another character trait – Rick is often a nihilist as “nothing matter or has a point to it.”

Episode 8 - Something Ricked This Way Comes

Rick gets to meet the Devil himself!

The Devil wants to get Rick interested in his offers, so he gives him a microscope, but Rick doesn’t use it. Instead, he analyzes it and figures out that if he would’ve used it, it would’ve made him stupid.

There is a theory that in one of the realities the Doofus Rick from the Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind episode uses this microscope, ending up stupefied. But not our Rickest Rick!

Instead, he goes on to fight the Devil by opening up his own shop to take the curses off Devil’s items proving to actually be worse than the Devil and showing his competitiveness again.

Summer shows a bit more character development in these last few episodes, as she is the only one actually capable of making Rick internally ask himself some things.

As soon as she opposes Rick and tells him to enjoy “not caring”, Rick gives up.

We also see him joyfully greet Morty, but then quickly hiding his joy for seeing him again.

This is one of the rare instances where writers of Rick and Morty pulled Rick’s happiness through a brief moment.

In the end, he makes peace with Summer while they go out to kick the Devil’s ass. He accepts Summer as his sidekick (pun intended). This is a good set up for their future relationship and trust-building.

Episode 10 - Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind

The episode opens up by Rick and Morty getting kidnapped by themselves. They were gone for the day and tomorrow the Council of Ricks comes back to arrest him and take Morty too.

We soon find out what the Council thinks happened – Rick killed other Ricks. As the Council says Rick from C-137 fits the profile of a killer, as he finds the whole Citadel stupid and often devalues their efforts and claiming to be the Rickest Rick because all others joined, thus lost their individuality.

Upon letting the Council scan his portal gun, Rick figures it was a setup. Rick then escapes with Morty, aiming to clear his name by finding the Rick who actually killed the others.

While Morty gets all happy about how their relationship is so important that it spans into so many realities, Rick explains that Morty is actually just a cloaking device as his mind waves cancel Rick’s.

Rick then discovers the coordinates to where the real killer is, and upon arriving they find the matrix of Mortys trapped around the building, definitely canceling out every brain wave.

Morty keeps complaining about being “just an object” in a very loud manner, which gets them trapped by Evil Rick. Evil Rick just wants the contents of Rick’s brain and when he starts the download process, we see Rick getting affected by his memories with Morty so much that he actually cried. Of course, he tried to hide why he was crying.

Morty ends up freeing him and the thing Rick does prove how much he cares – he instantly stops the Morty shield, releasing all the Mortys from the matrix. He also does that in order to help other Ricks from the Citadel find them. When offered a Morty voucher, he pretends he doesn’t want it so that he doesn’t insult his Morty but takes it anyway – better to be safe than sorry once brain waves canceling is needed.

Morty ends up basking in pride about how he saved Rick, while Rick claims that the Rickest Rick should have the Moryiest Morty, giving Morty another boost in self-esteem.

In the end, we see the biggest subplot twist in the series – Evil Morty. And the real beauty of it is that we see Evil Morty only once every two seasons!

Talking about prolonging the plots, huh?

By seeing Evil Morty so rarely, he becomes even more impactful and it’s hard for us to forget about him. We know he’s out there, planning stuff, and can’t wait to see what his arc will bring.

Episode 11 - Ricksy Business

The season finale is bringing us a new perspective. While Morty is the one to care about not getting punished and forbidden to go on the adventures, Rick is the one who wants to relax and again mask his internal suffering by getting wasted. Morty acts as the adult here.

We also see a glimpse of Rick’s past – Bird person and Squanchy arrive at Rick and Summer’s party, and Bird person tells us that Wubba lubba dub dub in his language means ‘I am in great pain please help me’ while explaining to Morty that Rick has to get high and drunk in order to numb himself.

What is Rick suffering from that’s so hard to handle? Does he simply know so much that he has to quiet his mind with alcohol and drugs?

We might know, but probably won’t.

The season finale ends with Rick, Summer, and Morty actually having fun, while Jerry and Beth (and all else) are frozen in time. Rick is relaxed again, for a brief moment claiming that he “loves his grandkids” is his new catchphrase, but acting as if he’s joking again by “correcting” himself that his new catchphrase is “I don’t give a fuck.” Morty and Summer seem to know that’s not completely true as they end up dancing with Rick.

By lacking some definitive info about Rick, Rick remains the character we will always go back to. By not determining Rick Sanchez, writers actually left many things out in the open. That way fans are free to find themselves in Rick and feel compassion for him on many levels.

Rick Sanchez is a complete fictional character as they come. Later we will learn that he was not always so much into science, but I’ll save that for Season 2.

What’s your opinion on Rick? Do you like him or is he too insane? Leave a comment below and make sure you check out other blog posts.

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