In a surprising turn of events, Jerry Smith has actually been on something of a redemption arc in Rick and Morty. Voiced by Chris Parnell, the supposed family patriarch has been a part of the acclaimed Adult Swim show since the beginning. Jerry has always been defined by his insecurity and maddingly simplistic nature - as conveyed by Jerry’s insanely mundane dream of being a water delivery person. As such, Jerry has served as the complete antithesis of the complex genius that is Rick Sanchez. Often butting heads, Jerry’s life reached its nadir when Rick actively usurped his position within the family. Manipulating Beth into getting a divorce and kicking Jerry out of the house, the status quo remained that way for the bulk of Rick and Morty season 3. Rather than completely break Jerry’s spirit, however, the experience actually helped him to grow.

Jerry’s new-found perspective was most prominently on show during the Rick and Morty season 3 episode, “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”. At Morty’s request, Rick takes Jerry on an excursion to an intergalactic theme park. Once there, Jerry met a seemingly kindred spirit in Risotto Groupon, who had also been somewhat usurped by Rick. Becoming embroiled in Risotto’s scheme to vengefully assassinate Rick, Jerry is ultimately unable to go through with it. Not only did Jerry actively help to protect Rick, but he actually began to confront some of his own faults. Finally accepting the fact that he uses helplessness to lure sympathetic people and manipulate them, Jerry came to understand the role he played in ruining his own marriage. As a result, he vowed to develop a spine and become a stronger person.

That vow ultimately paid off in the Rick and Morty season 3 finale, when Jerry successfully managed to win Beth back. Having officially moved back into the family home, Jerry’s personal growth has only continued in Rick and Morty season 4. There were a few noticeable blips - including traveling to Florida with a mysterious talking cat and unleashing a dangerous dating app upon the world. Still, the Rick and Morty season 4 episode, “Rattlestar Ricklactica”, demonstrated how far Jerry had come. After being made lighter than air, Jerry ultimately got in trouble when he lost the shoes that kept him grounded. Despite that, he actively refused to be helped by anybody - be it Rick or Beth or one of the time-traveling snake hybrids attempting to protect Morty and his family.

Obviously, this being Rick and Morty, Jerry’s misadventure was played to maximum comedic effect. As such, Jerry’s resolve went to some extreme levels - be it clinging to a plane or incurring the wrath of a bar full of surly bikers. Throughout it all, it felt consistent and true to everything that had shaped Jerry since his official breakthrough in Rick and Morty season 3. As such, it actually felt like a heartfelt accomplishment worth celebrating when Jerry made it home more or less in one piece. Even more than that, Jerry completed his initial mission to decorate the house with Christmas lights. Granted, it wasn’t exactly a job well done, he had missed helping Beth and Summer with the snake problem, and he immediately injured himself by falling off the roof. Still, Jerry’s successes in the episode constituted a giant leap from the character he was just over a season ago.

Though Rick opted not to reciprocate on Jerry’s attempt at a fist bump, the mad scientist was willing to meet his son-in-law halfway. As a gesture of compromise, he only healed Jerry’s injured leg by fifty percent, allowing Jerry to work through the rest himself. As such, while Jerry still has a way to go if he’s ever going to fully earn Rick’s respect, it’s at least a step in the right direction. The same could actually be said for both of them, given that even Rick has experienced some personal growth in recent episodes. Whether or not that continues in 2020, however, will remain to be seen when the second half of Rick and Morty season 4 is officially released.

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