When Rick and Morty's premiere season was receiving critical acclaim back in 2014, co-creator Dan Harmon did an expansive interview with Alan Sepinwall of HitFix (I'm not exaggerating when I say expansive, it's split into three parts but well worth the read).
Harmon covers a lot of interesting stuff in the interview, including how the show came to be through his work with creator Justin Roiland, how it compared to working on his hit show Community and what he loves about it. He also reveals his favourite Rick and Morty character, the one he refers to as the "the center of the show", and who it is might surprise you...
Harmon describes Morty's horse heart surgeon mother Beth as "this really fucked up woman who I love more than any character on that show", and he lays down a pretty convincing argument for why we should love her too.
She's the centrepiece of the show, Harmon explains, because she is the reason that Rick is allowed to take his mentally-deficient grandson on these crazy dangerous space adventures in the first place.
"Harmon: I was like, “Why would that be the case? Why would any parents let this crazy man disappear through clearly dangerous portals with their son?” And after talking about it with Justin for a while, I realised the most important thing about that show for me, which is that Rick left at one point in Beth’s childhood and Beth blamed her mother for Rick’s absence."
Though we don't really know exactly what happened prior to the start of the show or the events surrounding Ricks return to the Smith family household, it unfolds over the course of the two seasons that Rick had left Beth and her mother 20 years prior. At the start of Season 1 he's recently moved back in with his daughter, much to her delight and her husband Jerry's annoyance.
It also becomes clear (particularly in the Season 2 finale) that Beth is terrified of her father leaving her again:
Jerry: "Why are we doing this for someone that would never do anything for anyone but himself?"
Morty: "That's not the point Dad! We love Rick... F-for the most part."
Summer: "Yeah, you don't love people in hopes of a reward Dad. You love them unconditionally."
Beth: "That's very good kids, I'm proud of you."
Jerry: "Okay, so let me get this straight. For the rest of your lives, no matter how much it hurts you, no matter how much it destroys our children's futures, we're gonna do whatever Rick wants, whenever he wants?"
Beth: "Because I don't want him to leave again, you dumb asshole!!"
Harmon explains that he believes children sometimes idolise their "worst" parent and blame the other for causing them to leave, to get away from the parent who actually stays to raise and care for them. The same is true of Beth, she idolises her crazy but brilliantly intelligent father and blames her mother's "unremarkability" for him leaving.
She also suffers from cripplingly low self esteem, an issue that is addressed several times throughout the series, and Harmon explains how this affects her decisions regarding her father:
"Harmon: In Beth’s case, she’s a horse heart surgeon. She’s not a real surgeon. She’s a horse heart surgeon because she got pregnant at 17. And she fetishizes exceptionality."
This is why Beth allows Morty to enter often life threatening situations with Rick and defends her father to Jerry, because she'd rather Morty became exceptional like her father than boring and be left behind like her mother or her and Jerry. And Jerry won't try to stop Morty either because he in turn is terrified of losing Beth; a woman who is so out of his league that he believes the only reason they're together is because he got her pregnant at 17.
It's all pretty heavy stuff for a wacky sci-fi parody show based in crude humour and belching, but Rick and Morty has proven numerous times that it doesn't shy away from the emotional just as it doesn't avoid the grotesque. Both the Season Two finale episode (The Wedding Squanchers) and S02E03 Auto Erotic Assimilation stand as particular testament to this; when Rick and Morty goes for the emotional jugular it certainly doesn't pull its punches.
Though the show has worked mainly without getting bogged down in overarching narratives, Harmon has said that they plan to revisit certain plotlines and characters in Season 3 now that they know that they have that capability:
Harmon: "I rewatched both seasons a couple nights ago, and now I'm excited about revisiting stuff in season three because I was so phobic about revisiting stuff in season two... We've already proven that the show isn't going to start eating itself, and that will feel even more limitless if we go back to a couple things that we really enjoyed doing."
This means we could well have a deeper storyline surrounding Beth and the circumstances under which Rick left and returned to her, which would be nice to see and would feed into the additional character development the Smith family members received during Season 2.
We suspect Rick and Morty Season 3 will deal first with how Rick gets out of prison, though if we've learned anything it's that Roiland and Harmon will always find a way to subvert our expectations. So we wait with baited breath for news of Season 3, though we know it's going to be a long "year and a half... or longer!" until then.
All 21 episodes of Rick and Morty are now available to stream online via Adult Swim, wubba-lubba-dub-dub!
Related: Rick and Morty Season 3, And The Back To The Future Parody That Started It All; Rick and Morty Season 3 Creators Tease A Return To Previous Cliffhangers And Characters; Aww Geez Rick! A Year And A Half... Or Longer Until Rick and Morty Season 3