Tonight was a Frank-centric episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is something that should be a concern from the very start.
Danny DeVito’s insertion into the Sunny cast in Season 2 brought fresh life to a show that was kind of all over the place in its first season, and Frank’s slow devolution from put-together straight man to another delusional member of The Gang made for some great laughs over the years (sidebar: you can tell what season a certain episode of Sunny is in by Frank’s hair, as it becomes more and more out of control as the years go on). Sprinkling Frank in here and there always worked well, and pairing him up (especially with Charlie) has its moments, but when given free reign on an entire story arc, very little of Frank’s actions make any sense whatsoever.
In tonight’s episode, Frank’s business was in danger of being bought out, so his mission was the get back in with the company and try and sort things out the old fashion way, as “The Warthog” persona of his past. But forgive me if I’m not up to date on my Sunny mythology, but how long has it been since Atwater has even been mentioned on the show? Frank seemed to have left his business days behind him seasons ago, yet at the drop of a hat, he’s able to return to the company and just be the boss once again? Even on a show that never needs continuity to be effective, the sense of place in this episode was off from the start, leaving Frank’s purpose questionable throughout.
Also, with an extended Frank arc, his flaws become more prevalent. Of course on this show, character flaws are welcome, and in fact entirely necessary, but what I mean is that what makes Frank funny in spots becomes old real fast when the writers lean too heavily in that direction. For one, there were no fewer than four times in this episode Frank made a racist remark. Frank is a racist, and we know this, and this deplorable aspect of his personality has been used against him for comedic effect plenty of times. But when mentioned in dialogue this many times in a single episode, not only does it become unfunny but uncomfortable. Frank even managed to do the near impossible and dulled down Charlie for an entire episode. (Although there were still some solid Charlie lines I’ll get to down below. Also Frank and Charlie in matching tennis outfits was pretty great.)
Luckily, the installment was salvaged somewhat by Dennis taking on the identity of Brian LeFevre, who planned on becoming the controlling shareholder of Frank’s company before he was murdered by a hobo in the ally next to Paddy’s Pub. While most of The Gang are simply idiots (or savages in the case of Dee and Mac in this episode stealing everything they could get their hands on in the Phillies’ suite), Dennis is much more diabolical and calculating in his quest to become one of the worst people to ever walk the earth. When given the chance to live inside another man’s skin, Dennis will do whatever it takes to get off, even if he never truly knows what he is doing. He’s smart enough to understand the situation without all the details, yet sick enough to test the limits of how far he’s willing to take this new angle — so much so that he’s ready to at least engage the young Asian man before realizing that he was a golf caddy and not LeFevre’s prostitute.
In the end, Mac and Charlie are both exiled from their groups and team up to create a marginally funny infomercial for Fight Milk, an alcoholic energy drink for bodybuilders made with crow’s eggs, although the gag would have worked much better had the show not gone to that well several times before (though I should really stop counting the amount of things they’ve recycled this season). Dennis gets found out for not being LeFevre, which literally gets him off, resulting in a funny, seemingly improv-ed, exchange between he and Dee that was refreshing. It seems like these off-the-cuff arguments have been occurring less and less.
In all, another up-and-down episode from a very inconsistent show. I feel like Sunny is trying to embrace its inconsistencies by winking at them in these Season 8 episodes, but to only marginal effects.
– Dennis’ brilliant response to Frank anointing Charlie his new assistant: “Charlie can’t read.” Unlike many things on this show, I’ll never get tired of Charlie’s illiteracy being a punchline.
– “We need to cut the crust off this shit sandwich.”
– “The company jet has been upgraded…I got rid of that piece of trash.”
– “A few interesting facts about our city: There’s been an influx of crow’s eggs…”
– The sight gag of Frank getting heated and actually snorting was fun because of DeVito’s uncanny resemblance to an actual warthog in that moment.
– Charlie misunderstood “get his fingerprint” as “get his fingertip,” so now he carries around LeFevre’s fingertip in a plastic baggie.
– My favorite part of the episode? The promo for the new season of Archer.