Review: Past and Present Collide on ‘Always Sunny’ as ‘The Gang Misses the Boat’

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A lot can change over the course of a decade. Within the past 10 years, we’ve seen gay marriage go from a hot-button political issue to pretty much becoming the law of the land. There was the election of the first African-American president, which quickly ushered in an end to any delusional thought of a post-racial America. Even the pop culture landscape has strongly shifted. Comic book movies were once seen as a trend, but has since become a permanent fixture of pop culture. Throughout the past decade, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been on the air. It, too, has evolved greatly over the past 10 years. With its latest episode, The Gang Misses the Boat, the gang of Always Sunny attempts to recapture where they were when it all started.

In Dennis’ Range Rover, the gang prepares to get on a party boat. While Dennis (Glenn Howerton) is driving and applying his mascara, Dee (Kaitlin Olson) is practicing her new character, a seaman-type, and Frank (Danny DeVito) and Charlie (Charlie Day) are consuming worms soaked in alcohol. The gang misses the boat and Dennis’ attempt to catch the boat leaves his car stranded in the river. This event sparks a lingering dissatisfaction within Dennis. He thinks back to the times before Frank joined the gang, when he was a cool, calm, collected ladies’ man and the gang wasn’t so weird. But Dennis isn’t alone as his action inspire Frank and Mac (Rob McElhenney) to recapture their own youthful spirit. Charlie and Dee, meanwhile, are content with immersing themselves within the world of Def Poetry. As Dennis has little luck in selling his submerged Range Rover, let alone keeping his rage under wraps, Frank and Mac hit a nightclub prowling for action. There Frank meets a trio of young people who just purchased a bar. Mac, on the other hand, finds himself picking up a woman named Dusty (Maria Zyrianova), a nickname bestowed upon her for her love of angel dust. For this collection of weirdoes, finding some semblance of normalcy is all but impossible.

Written by Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Charlie Day, The Gang Misses the Boat features the creative team behind the show contemplating how far they’ve deviated from its original form while entirely embracing the shows crazy evolution. It looks at each character through how they once were to where they are now – Dennis’ change from calm and collected to a runaway narcissist filled with rage; Mac’s evolution from wannabe tough guy to the tough guy persona as a mask for repressed homosexuality; Dee as a wannabe comedienne to the gang’s punching bag; Charlie from quirky oddball to filthy, deranged oddball; and, finally, Frank’s shift from wealthy father of Dennis and Dee to the most depraved individual in a group of depraved individuals. This is a very clever episode that honors the past while acknowledging it is, in fact, all left behind.

In my ever-so humble opinion, The Gang Misses the Boat is the funniest episode so far of the 10th season. There are a number of awkward and funny moments in the episode, but the best subplot surrounds Frank trying to join a new gang of pub owners. Always Sunny has always gotten plenty of laughs by making people in the normal world be forced to interact with the crazed gang. Here Frank tries to endear himself to these strangers by trying to transpose the schemes of Paddy’s to these unfortunate souls. It culminates in a hurricane of bad decisions which is perfectly punctuated with a wordless punchline.

Not many shows appear on air for over a decade. With rare exception, those that do run that long never take such an introspective look into the changes that have been made to its characters. This is just another example of how the show has avoided being stale for such a lengthy period of time. It speaks once again to the lack of complacency from its creative crew. Episodes like The Gang Misses the Boat illustrates that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia might have enough steam to run for another decade.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX and is streaming through the FX Now app


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