Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart sees the return of the series’ staple villain, Dr. Nefarious, a robotic mad scientist determined to rule the galaxy. He’s also an incompetent, silly dope, and Ratchet and Clank have foiled his plans numerous times since he first appeared in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. But Rift Apart teaches us something new and unexpected about the villain: apparently, he’s a pretty good employer.
If you’re a Ratchet & Clank fan and you’ve been paying attention to the trailers and screenshots of Nefarious in Rift Apart, you may have already asked yourself, “Where’s Lawrence?” For the uninitiated, Lawrence is Dr. Nefarious’ robot butler and assistant. He’s more clever than his boss, but he doesn’t really have the same evil intentions. For years, he’s attended to Dr. Nefarious, mostly content to watch his boss fail, clean up after the mess, and gear up to try something new. But Lawrence doesn’t make an appearance in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and the in-game reason provided is both hilarious and heartwarming.
[Spoiler Warning: This post contains miniscule spoilers for two jokes in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.]
Rift Apart opens with a parade in Ratchet and Clank’s honor. Clank gifts Ratchet the Dimensionator, a gadget that can open portals to different dimensions, so that the two of them can find other members of Ratchet’s species. It’s a tender moment that Dr. Nefarious instantly ruins by stealing the Dimensionator for his own evil musings.
But this is a solo venture for the mad scientist, as his right-hand-robot is nowhere to be seen. Minutes later, as he’s losing the game’s first boss fight, Dr. Nefarious shouts, “This is what I get for giving my assistant paid paternity leave!”
Now, this is funny for a few reasons, least of which being that Lawrence is a robot. But the thing that makes me laugh every time I think about this is that Dr. Nefarious — an evil mastermind hellbent on overtaking the galaxy in not only his dimension but all dimensions — offers his “employees” benefits. And not just standard benefits like health insurance or PTO, but good ones. The United States government doesn’t offer guaranteed paid parental leave, but Dr. Nefarious does.
This joke is easily missed, but Insomniac eventually pushes it a little further. After the final boss of Rift Apart, a short version of the credits roll, complete with cute vignettes of what various characters get up to after the game. One image shows Lawrence introducing his boss to his new child. Dr. Nefarious stands there with his mouth agape, hearts swirling around his head.
The whole bit here is goofy, but it also gives us a better look into who Dr. Nefarious is. He’s silly, he’s evil, but also he cares. Sure, maybe he only cares about Lawrence and that new baby, but it’s nice to see that he has strong feelings for things outside of his work. People often get so consumed by what they do for a living (such as world domination) that they forget to appreciate the beautiful things in life.
I don’t condone most of Dr. Nefarious’ actions in Rift Apart. He’s a problematic fave to say the least. But at least he cares enough about his assistant’s well-being that he gave him some paid time off to become a father. For this reason — and only this reason, honestly — we should celebrate Dr. Nefarious as a boss and humanitarian.