We know that Dylan McKay was “the cool guy” of 90210. He was the brooding loner, fitting into the 90210 gang without ever really trying to fit in. He had go arounds with Brenda, Kelly and Valerie (although I think everyone did at some point. Except Nat), and antagonized Jim Walsh by… well, I suppose it all stemmed from dating Brenda, but at times it seemed like he annoyed Jim just because he could. Anyways, it was pretty cool, and he provided a good contrast to the nice-guys-finish-first Brandon. Plus he was considered as the “next James Dean” in what’s probably a long line of guys with that label.
So Dylan is definitely cool. But that doesn’t make him great. Hell, Zack Morris was cool. So what else helps to make the guy great? Well, for one thing, he had a lot of heavy-handed crap done to him. He got to reconcile with his dad, and his dad got blown up. Although he didn’t, really (don’t ask). He then fell in love with and married the daughter of the mob boss who ordered the car bomb – and then of course his wife got shot to death. He met his half-sister, whose mother ran off with all his money. Then he went and did drugs, left for a while, came back and finally got the girl.
But wait, you might ask, how does this make Dylan great? Well, again, if only good things happened to the guy, how could we relate to him? Now granted, we can’t exactly relate to the grand scale of shit tossed his way, but it gives him depth and allows us to care for him more than if, say, he kept jumping from Kelly to Brenda all the time.
But adding layers still doesn’t make him a truly great character. The true test for us was if we still wanted to know what happened to Dylan when he was gone. And we did. Sure, hooking up (again) with Brenda was a bit farfetched, but hey, so was Donna still being a virgin for most of the show’s run. Anyways, he came back (due to Jason Priestly leaving) and helped carry the show until the series finale. And we loved him all over again. And that is the mark of a great character.