In the Always Sunny Season 13 opener, the gang works to fill their collective Dennis-shaped hole with the help of Mindy Kaling.
We knew it all along. Dennis Reynolds hasn’t even begun to peak. And in the Always Sunny Season 13 opener, the golden god is back and better than ever, spouting his trademark vitriol and just generally dragging the gang down to his level. Long live the most gloriously funny abusive relationship on TV.
At the end of last season, all sorts of hell broke loose for the gang. Charlie slept with the Waitress (!), Dennis left to go be a dad in North Dakota, and the rest of the crew finally used that baller rocket launcher. After that bonkers finale, the show took an extended hiatus as the team pondered what to do next. In the interim, Kaitlin Olson finished the second season of the criminally cancelled series The Mick, Glenn Howerton premiered the first season of his NBC comedy A.P. Bio, Charlie Day starred in a whole bunch of movies, Danny DeVito filmed a part in Disney’s live action Dumbo, and Rob McElhenney, well, Rob got super duper shredded. Seriously, the dude is eye-poppingly ripped. But we’ll get to that.
When the Always Sunny team finally reassembled to put the new season together, they had given themselves options. With Dennis gone, there were opportunities to play with that had rarely been open to the show before. As the greatest – and downright evilest – antagonist in the group, Dennis’s absence left a power vacuum that needed to be filled, even in the briefest of absences.
Enter Mindy Kaling.
Right at the top of the Season 13 premiere, we hear an unfamiliar voice. It’s newly appointed member of the gang, Cindy. It’s a bit shocking to see a person of color – much less a woman of color – standing in Paddy’s and giving the rest of the jabronis instructions, but entertainment badass Mindy Kaling is definitely the woman for the job. She’s confidently commanding the rare Paddy’s crowd as she stands in front of a fancy sign that advertises “A Night of Liberal Conversation and Liberal Drinking”. It’s clear that this is all just a big scheme, and it’s a well executed one at that.
Turns out that Cindy is the new brains of the Paddy’s operation but, unlike Dennis, she’s got a genuine motivation to think big and achieve her goals. Her self confidence allows her to build up the other members of the gang instead of tearing them down, and things are going pretty well. Until Mac introduces them to the doll.
In a meeting at Mac’s place (he makes Mac’s famous mac and cheese, hold the dead dog), he first unveils his rippin’ bod. No one cares about this at all – they don’t even ask how much Fight Milk he had to drink to get to his goal – but instead of relentlessly making fun of Mac’s achievement, they’re simply indifferent. Charlie even goes so far as to offer up a half-hearted “congrats” to his friend.
The fact that McElhenney went from fat Mac to buff Mac in a few short years is pretty hilarious given that there was no narrative reason for him to do so. Sure, actors gain and lose weight all the time for different roles, but as the gang repeatedly reminds him, there’s absolutely no way that Mac’s washboard abs are going to benefit them in any part of their scheme. That Mac even considers that his impressive transformation would have any intrinsic worth to the gang is utterly ridiculous. It’s worthless, as is everything he does. He remains the gang’s resident punching bag, but now he’s a more firm and toned punching bag.
But then Mac unveils something so cuckoo insane that it derails everything else. Due to a completely misunderstood suggestion from Cindy, Mac has ordered a super expensive looking sex doll that looks just like Dennis.
(Note: I soooo wanted to Google if you can order custom made sex dolls that look like people you know, but I just can’t do my search history like that. No way do I want to see what my suggested ads look like after searching for a bespoke f*ck dummy.)
Holy woah. The doll looks just like Dennis, only with a disturbing ‘O’ face. And that ‘O’ is certainly going to be used by Mac for “dropping loads”. The gang disbands after the Dennis doll reveal, but they quickly reassemble at Paddy’s the next day to finally hear Cindy’s plan.
Cindy has a four step plan. Incite a riot between liberals and conservatives, shutting down Murphy’s Pub down the street, thereby filtering more business to Paddy’s. The girl is smart, sensible, and definitely works with the gang’s strengths. I’d really love to know where they found her, or how she found them, but unfortunately the episode doesn’t reveal that part of the story.
At first, things seem to be going well. Frank is playing the tuba like a pro, Dee finds her inner hot blonde, and Mac and Charlie take some glitter initiative while swapping labels on wine bottles.
But then Dennis ruins everything.
The gang has been indoctrinated to their maladaptive patterns of behavior for so long that they – and we – can literally hear Dennis’s retorts to everything. Dee is a bird, and she obviously needs more makeup. Frank looks ridiculous playing the tuba. And, best of all, Mac looks fat. These are the gang’s worst insecurities, made manifest by a giant rubber sex doll in the shape of their abuser. So, of course, they hate bang it.
When the gang comes back to Paddy’s, they proudly parade in with Charlie and Frank playing the Dennis doll’s butthole like a tuba. It’s pretty weird. While their intent is to “embarrass” Dennis, Cindy sees through the incestuous rationale for the caper right away. Realizing that all the guys had sex with the doll, she goes on to describe one of the most horrific things ever to happen off camera in the series. She details, “the most insane, disgusting orgy that has ever taken place.” Poor Dee just sat and watched, completely numb to what was happening.
The gang doesn’t even get an opportunity to absorb the repulsive reality of the situation because BAM! Dennis appears. Like some sort of ghost back from the dead, he’s returned to haunt the gang with his negativity and controlling behavior.
It’s kind of shocking that Dennis has returned so soon into the season – honestly, I could have gone another episode or two with the sex doll as Dennis stand in – but at the same time, how could the world of Sunny go on without Dennis?
There’s no coincidence that promotional material for Season 13 of Always Sunny had Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank running away from an ambiguous psycho killer character in the shadows. Dennis is their social kryptonite. While the entire gang is capable of doing horrible things, Dennis is clearly the instigator of evil. A man who invokes “the implication” as often as he does is evil to the max. But he’s also what keeps the dysfunction chugging along. And dysfunction is what keeps the good times rolling for viewers.
Random Thoughts Before I Go:
- Someone get Rob McElhenney into a superhero movie, stat. That bod deserves a plot line.
- When Charlie busts into the apartment to find that the Waitress has banged the Dennis doll, Steve Winwood – aka: Dennis’s favorite musician – is playing in the background. Oh, callbacks, how I’ve missed you.
- Other callbacks include Mac in the duster, Dee with the blinding lighting behind the bar, and Mac invoking Charlie’s famous quote, “Dennis is a bastard man.”
‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FXX.