Hello, there! Thank you for choosing to at least check out what this is all about.
So, for the six of you that care, I would like to apologize. I actually wanted to publish something earlier back in late June. Originally, I had a Season 6 writeup planned that would’ve delved into my thoughts regarding the season. I had the outline and everything, but it just never translated into prose the way I wanted, so I scrapped it.
However, I did like the bit I had about Richard in that writeup, so I decided to flesh it out and make it its own full article! In this piece, I’ll be talking about why I loved Richard so much in Season 6, and why this season made him one of my favorite characters.
Be forewarned, though: this is a bit on the lengthy side. It’s shorter than some of my more """recent""" works, but if reading long stuff isn’t your thing, feel free to turn back.
With all that said, let us begin.
Season 6 was a very interesting time in the show’s history. Season 5 had cast the show in a direction I personally found less than favorable, so I was interested as to how the final season would play out. To concisely summarize everything, I thought Season 6 was quite the step-up from Season 5, and a good final note on which to wrap up the series in general. It took what Season 5 aimed to do and essentially refined it; despite this, Season 6 was not without its apparent flaws, mainly its subpar integration of satire and pop culture and the shaky characterizations of its stars. However, one aspect of the season I found to be consistently great, even at its lower points, was Richard Watterson.
Prior to the sixth season, Richard was a character of whom I held somewhat mixed opinions. This is not to say that he was a bad character; he had a fair number of good traits and brought about some intriguing wrinkles to his characterization. While he had his share of enjoyable episodes, he had moments that played the trite incompetent dad archetype straight a tad too often, and these moments were frequent enough to dampen my appreciation for the character.
So, what changed in Season 6 that made him so great? Fundamentally, not much: he was the same dim-witted and gluttonous hedonist he has been for years. It was one small shift in what the writers prioritized that made him go from a character to whom I remained dicey on for years to one of my favorites on the show: sincerity. Richard has always had a degree of sincerity to him, but Season 6 made it the consistent cornerstone of Richard’s character— nearly everything he did felt like it had some genuine heart. He became a character who, despite his idiocy, was a straightforward guy who wanted to enjoy his life with those he held dear.
Richard’s six most prominent appearances for the season—"The Founder," "The Slip," "The Lady," "The Master," "The Possession," and "The Father"—serve to demonstrate how making sincerity the focal point of his character made him more endearing comically, relatably, and poignantly.
Both “The Founder” and “The Slip” put Richard’s good faith in more comedic lights. “The Founder” has the simple-minded Richard wander into the Chanax headquarters looking for a snack. In an earnest attempt to simply get the food and leave without any altercations, Richard finds himself at the top of the Chanax hierarchy and is pressured into thinking he somehow belongs there. What ensues is comic insanity, with Richard’s ideas manifesting into an absolute fun-functional catastrophe; that in itself is already funny, but that Richard is only doing this because he trusts others’ assumptions about him more than his own is simply charming.
“The Slip,” on the other hand, threatens to make itself unenjoyable by focusing on Richard’s laziness (something that has not gone too well for the show in the past), but never really gets to that point, indebted to the episode manifesting Richard’s sincerity into tenacity. He has a simple yet clear goal—not having to drive to the depot to retrieve his package—and he himself will stop at nothing to avoid such a fate. Unlike something such as “The Menu,” in which he cast his two sons to do most of the work, Richard is taking this on mostly by himself, with the boys only serving as straight men. All of these bizarre shenanigans Richard finds himself in are the result of his own sincere drive to beat Mr. Gruber at his own game, adding to the fun of the episode.
“The Lady” and “The Master” are not particularly emotional episodes and are more focused on simply being hilarious than anything else, but they both manage to touch upon more poignant facets of Richard and his hobbies through his genuineness. Beneath The Golden Girl-inspired cross-dressing antics of “The Lady” is a lonely and isolated Richard whose inability to be traditionally masculine leaves him with a limited social circle. All he wants to do is find some friends to call his own, but alas, his candid search has proven that it is simply not meant to be—that is, until he meets the faux Golden Girls. Donning feminine clothing, Richard goes out and finally finds people that get him; he finds that straightforward camaraderie he wanted. Despite what the Watterson brothers’ initial misunderstanding might have one believe, there are no catches; he simply wants some friends, adding a certain sweetness to an otherwise typical episode.
“The Master” uses its fun Dungeons and Dragons front to paint Richard as the heart of the family in his own weird way. For Richard, family game night is more than just an opportunity to gush about the various nuances of the game (although that is part of the fun); as corny as it sounds, it is about enjoying the moment with the rest of the family. Whatever petty grudges that happened earlier in the day do not matter anymore because there are new moments waiting to be made, and this loving earnestness is what allows “The Master” to be a complete package with all its bickering, and makes the sweet ending that much more endearing when Richard’s efforts have finally paid off with everyone else going against him. His sincerity allows him to be a lovable straight man easy to rally behind throughout the episode.
“The Possession” and “The Father” are some of the season’s most sentimental entries, and both reveal some fascinating emotional depth through the lens of his sincere nature. “The Possession” subverts expectations in regards to Richard’s gluttonous tendencies to provide some perspective as to how he views possessions and the memories attached to them. At first, the episode leads viewers into thinking his attachment to the refrigerator is just another dig at his love for food, but the episode soon flips the script and reveals there is more to it than that. The fridge (literally) holds some of his fondest memories—recollections of the people and experiences that have helped to define him as a person. There is an honest love Richard has for that fridge and a legitimate fear that a part of him would die if the fridge were to ever be removed from his life. It is a type of sincerity that only adds to the touching power of the already phenomenal “The Possession” and makes Richard relatable.
Richard has always struggled with his parental abandonment issues, but everything comes full-circle in “The Father.” On one hand, Richard yearns to reconcile with his father and compensate for what time they lost during his thirty-year absence, but he is also aware of the fact that Frankie is a hard-wired criminal and that he lives in a completely different world. This internal conflict leads not only a pile of raw emotions that makes him a more sympathetic character; it also gives insight into how Frankie’s abandonment has shaped him as a person and how that plays into his one passion—being the best father he can be for his children. Richard himself said it best:
- Richard: I didn't start off as a good father. But your kids… they see you as better than you are, so every day, you bust your chops and try to live up to that.
- Frankie: It's too late for me.
- Richard: No. Not true. You know what my kids taught me today? The future starts now.
I believe this exchange sums up best what has made Richard an absolute blast this season. He is not just some foodie dolt. He is an honest man simply trying to be the best for both himself and for others, and one best be sure he will try his hardest even if he does not completely know how.
The Closing Notes
I appreciate it if you made it to the end! Thanks for reading.
Anyways, what do you think about Richard? Do you think Season 6 has been good to him? Still not fond of him? Think my analysis is completely off? Please, write a comment; some discussion has never hurt anybody.
nicole article coming yeeeeeeeee
That’s all I have for now. Until later, take care! :)
- ↑ Turns out the term "pop culture" alone doesn't include satire, so I edited the word in post-publication. Thank you Zoe for catching that!