It’s easy to forget that Rick and Morty is technically the story of a man and his grandson. Weird stuff happens. A lot of people die. And despite Rick’s habit of shoving Morty through portals and taking the kid on adventures that will undoubtedly scar him until the day he finally embraces the sweet mercy of death, Rick actually does give a shit.
Some of the shits Rick gives are stronger than others. Sure, Rick’s showed loyalty to his friends time and time again throughout the first two seasons of Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s messed up cartoon masterpiece. But it’s Rick’s estranged family, the Smiths, who really bring out the crazy in him in the best way possible. It’s really his grandchildren, Morty and Summer, who bear the brunt of Rick’s love.
Throughout the series, Rick is determined to get Morty and Summer “the best ice cream in the multiverse,” has his ship “keep Summer safe” to an alarming extent, watches TV with Morty to block out the drama, and spends months having fun with the kids while time is frozen. As far as grandparents go, Rick isn’t the worst one out there. And just because Rick needs Morty’s brainwaves to keep law enforcement from finding him doesn’t mean he drags Morty across interdimensional space without loving him.
So, here are the top 5 moments in Rick and Morty that made you realize just how much Rick loves his family. Don’t even trip, dawg — Rick totally has a heart.
5. Rick kills Mr. Jellybean for touching his grandson.
While murder is definitely never the answer (unless you’re Rick Sanchez), one of the most horrifying, uncomfortable scenes in Rick and Morty comes with Season 1’s “Meeseeks and Destroy.” Morty almost gets raped by Mr. Jellybean — who turns out to be the king of the medieval land they’ve been romping around in — in a bathroom, but gets away after bludgeoning him with a toilet seat.
Rick side-eyes Mr. Jellybean as he’s exiting the restroom, battered and bleeding, and Morty’s jumpy behavior and traumatized expression tells Rick all he needs to know. After Mr. Jellybean is exposed as the king, Rick and Morty hightail it out of there, but not before Rick reaches through the portal one last time and shoots Mr. Jellybean, killing him.
While “heartwarming” isn’t the first word that comes to mind about such an act, it’s definitely one of the first moments in the series where Rick goes ham to protect Morty. From that moment on, Rick proves several times that he’s not afraid to bring out the big guns to protect his family (especially his grandchildren).
4. Rick turning himself in for war crimes so his family can have their lives back is the ultimate gift of fatherly love.
Part of the reason fans are clamoring all over Rick and Morty’s creators is because the ending of Season 2 hit them so hard. When Rick realizes in the final episode of Season 2 that his forcing the Smiths to live on Dwarf Terrace-9 is hurting them, he turns himself in to the authorities. The Smiths are permitted to go back home to the newly alienized Earth, but Rick is locked in the Maximum Security ward at an interdimensional prison for his war crimes. The whole thing is backed by the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” and is appropriately heartbreaking.
This scene shows two seasons’ worth of character growth for Rick. Season 1 Rick would never have sacrificed himself to give his family a better life. But now he’s willing to be strapped to a panel for the rest of his life so the Smiths don’t have to live in a tiny planet and wear wedding clothes all the time.
3. Rick C-137 cries over his Morty because he loves him.
The revelation that there are infinite Ricks and Mortys out there in the multi-verse doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. But when Evil Rick kidnaps the show’s “real” Rick and Morty to steal Rick’s knowledge and add Morty to his Morty-torturing shield, the audience gets a glimpse into Rick’s mind.
“You’re crying? Over a Morty?” Evil Rick demands of Rick C-137 in “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind.” Of course, the “real” Rick recovers from his emotions immediately and responds with, “No, I’m just allergic to dipshits,” but the point still remains. The scene shows a young Morty staring at Rick with love and begging to be picked up by his grandpa. Rick tears up, prompting Evil Rick’s taunts.
Rick just really loves his grandson, okay! He’s not so heartless for a sociopathic genius.
2. And Rick has always loved Morty.
The Season 2 episode “Get Schwifty” offers up more than crazy, funky beats and giant heads in the sky. When Morty’s had enough of Rick’s antics, he runs out on him, stealing Rick’s portal gun and ending up on Birdperson’s home planet. Birdperson is, of course, Rick’s best friend and former partner in crime. It’s Birdperson who tells Morty that leaving Rick behind to write a planet-saving song on his own is considered a “dick move” in Bird culture, and that he should go back.
The high point of the scene comes when Birdperson indicates a wall of framed photos, the last of which is a picture of a much younger Rick holding a teary eyed baby that holds a striking resemblance to Morty. When Morty questions Birdperson about the picture, Birdperson ignores him, but the sentiment is still there. Rick’s supposedly been gone from his family’s life for 20 years before showing back up in the pilot episode to live with the Smiths, but he obviously couldn’t stay away from his grandchild for too long.
1. Rick was literally willing to die for him, and doesn’t that just break your heart?
While an infinite number of Ricks and Mortys are arguing in “A Rickle in Time,” a singular Rick dives through the garage floor to give his working time-stabilizing collar to his falling grandson. This act ensures that Morty will live and Rick will continue falling endlessly through the cold, dark vacuum of space. It’s the ultimate sacrifice, and sad as can be (for a total of two seconds before Rick realizes that he can fix the other collar and return to a “one dot” reality).
“Fuck you, God! Not today, bitch!” might be the most Rick Sanchez-y line ever uttered on television. But in those two seconds before Rick realizes he can save himself, he’s willing to sacrifice everything to let Morty live.