“Rick and Morty” is one of the best-looking animated series on TV. As high-concept as these travels through technicolor dreamlands and psychedelic wormholes can get, “Rick and Morty” wouldn’t be what it is without some talented performers bringing the show’s characters to life.
In Season 3, series co-creator Justin Roiland did more of the heavy lifting than ever before (including anchoring an entire episode by his lonesome). But, as usual, this now-finished season also drew on some incredible voice talent for some one-off delights. Some of these guest stars were such a natural fit for the show that it’s surprising it took this long for the show to utilize their talents. (How did two whole seasons go by before a pair of “Community” folks showed up?)
So as part of our multi-faceted farewell to Season 3 (you can read our review of the season-capping “The Rickchurian Mortydate” here), let’s take a look back at some of the year’s biggest guest stars and their many contributions to the “Rick and Morty” multiverse.
“The Rickshank Redemption”
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For an actor whose charms are so often used for heroic characters, there’s something great about seeing Fillion’s natural gifts go towards playing an enemy. As the alien charged with unlocking Rick’s incarcerated brain, Fillion not only gets to play a smooth-talking overlord, he gets to be a little devilish in the process. The first of many Season 3 battles of wits, Fillion was an effective part of the surprise premiere, which questioned whether or not the events of last season would change Rick irreparably.
Hemorrhage is a prototypical “Rick and Morty” villain: tough exterior, but extremely vulnerable underneath. McHale puts a fun spin on the shadowy bucket-headed enemy in the Mad Max dimension, revealing him to be more of a deadbeat than a fearless warrior. As “Rickmancing the Stone” showed how the show always tends to revert back to the ordinary, it’s McHale who brings in an extra heaping of sluggishness after things mellow out. Believable as both a schlub and a minor romantic, McHale plays both halves well.
Emmy winner Tony Hale didn’t have a whole lot to do as Eli in “Rickmancing the Stone,” but he did land a pretty big laugh as he chastised Summer for not recycling properly in a dystopian world where everyone is a bloodthirsty cannibal. Hale’s vocal work was rather unrecognizable, as it featured none of the nervous ticks or frantic diction that defines his performances as Buster on “Arrested Development” and Gary on “Veep.”
Sarandon’s calm and sincere voice work proved to be the perfect comedic foil to Sarah Chalke’s alarmed defensiveness in “Pickle Rick.” The Oscar-winning actress appeared as Dr. Wong, a family therapist who Beth, Morty, and Summer visit to help the children cope with Beth’s divorce from Jerry. When Dr. Wong hears that Rick won’t be attending the session because he has turned himself into a pickle, she very smoothly redirects the session to become a deep dive into Beth’s own frustration and disappointment with her father. The more Beth acts out, the more tranquil Sarandon’s voice work becomes, creating a clash of personalities that humorously anchor the episode’s therapy scenes. Sarandon is at once leaning into the frustratingly serene therapist type while also confidently probing Ben’s emotional relationship to her father. The dynamic between Beth and Rick ended up being one of the most important arcs of Season 3, and it was Sarandon’s work as Dr. Wong that got the ball rolling.
If “Rick and Morty” was a live-action television series, then the role of the revenge-seeking assassin Jaguar would probably go to Danny Trejo or an actor well versed in Trejo-isms, so it’s only fitting the series got the real Trejo to voice the character in “Pickle Rick.” Trejo brought all his world-wearied toughness to the character, an incarcerated criminal who’s tasked with assassinating Rick if he wants to save his daughter from being killed. When Jaguar finds out that his daughter has been dead the entire time, he bands with Rick to annihilate the Russian agency who imprisoned him. The character was carved from the same machismo cloth from which Trejo has made a career, making it the ideal pairing of character and voice actor.
Long a master of different voices, this supporting role in the “Pickle Rick” saga played to Serafinowicz’s villainous British strengths. Trejo gets much-deserved attention for his (literally?) explosive part in the mayhem, but the unnamed string-puller could have been a stock suited baddie. Contrast it with his much broader live-action work on “The Tick,” which came out just a few weeks after this, and he had quite the summer of versatility.
Playing the leader of The Vindicators, Slater had a field day amping up the dashing and fearless qualities of his team leader. But right as the “Mr. Robot” actor seemed to be getting into the groove of spoofing the extremely bland male hero character type, the episode shockingly killed him off. Making Vance the first team causality was an effective comedic punchline, but it did rob the episode of any more Slater wisecracks (“Sorry I’m late, it was happy hour,” he says as he destroys a martini glass with a laser). The actor made Vance the cringeworthy cousin of Star Lord and Han Solo — all trademark wisecracks and shallow heroism.
As a series, “Rick and Morty” has never wanted for all-powerful beings. But part of the fun has been seeing how those characters never resort to the stereotypical bombast of an almighty alien beast or a mysterious godly force. (See: Unity, the microverse fellas, et al.) Jacobs added another dimension to this history, bringing some real pathos to Supernova, the most mystical member of the Vindicators. It’s never easy to introduce characters as a joke but then also have the audience take them seriously, but somehow that’s what Jacobs is able to do just by saying the phrases “Crocubot” and “Million Ants.” And she explains her tragic backstory in a way that has some real emotional depth.
Reddick has always been an authoritative screen presence, playing characters who have control of the situation, dispensing orders and/or wisdom. Alan Rails has his imposing moments, but the character also gave Reddick the chance to tap into his sarcastic side. (Sometimes, he manages to combine them while delivering gems like “All abooooard, motherfucker!”) There’s skepticism dripping from every line, which helps his untimely death play out as a tiny mini-tragedy.
Jeff B. Davis
He may have only popped up for a few lines, but Davis’ Sam Elliott impression was just the thing to ease some of the rising tensions in “The Ricklantic Mixup.” The voiceover for the Simple Rick is disorienting in how true-to-target the impression is, in addition to being a jarring commercial in the middle of the heavy philosophical quandaries of The Citadel. He doesn’t oversell the wafer punchline either. Maybe all candy commercials are this twisted and we just never realized it before.
Middleditch brought his delightfully twisted A-game to “The ABCs of Beth,” in which he starred as a childhood friend of Beth’s who got stuck in her fantasy world and became its self-proclaimed king. He was also an incest-loving cannibal sociopath, which Middleditch brought to life in demented fashion by making Tommy happy to the point of delusional. Tommy wasn’t aware of how horrific or screwed up his actions were, and Middleditch perfectly sold the character’s oblivious perversion. The character was a far cry from the actor’s more downtrodden work as Richard on “Silicon Valley,” and it was all the more exhilarating to hear him featured as King Tommy as a result.
“The Rickchurian Mortydate”