“Dennis’ Double Life” does away with two core truths of this universe called Philadelphia: that Dennis cannot be made to experience human feelings, and that the Waitress will never stop hating Charlie. Upending these two constants threatens to break apart the cozy derelict world that It’s Always Sunny has built, but at the same time, it opens up a ton of storytelling options for these two stuck-in-their-ways characters. Put simply, they’re risks. And in the words of Steve Guttenberg, “No risk, no reward!”
- This episode runs pretty light on laughs, and most of them come from Charlie’s lovingly crafted visual aids that accompany his presentation on why he and the Waitress should have a kid. As Charlie explains that life with him and the baby would be “pretty good,” he holds up a collage of magazine clippings featuring a woman with wads of cash stuffed into her bikini.
- Mac gets the best throwaway line, helpfully explaining the nature of his alleged sexual relationship with Dennis: “He’s the power bottom. He generates a tremendous amount of power from the bottom.”
- Recapping this season has been sweeter than a fresh-cut rum ham, and I hope you’ll all join me when the show returns for lucky season 13. Until then, take care and stay off PCP.
Frank, meanwhile, wants eggs. As has been typical of his role throughout this season, he spends the episode off to the side in his own loony scheme, this time offering Mandy a “decent proposal” of $5,000, failing to realize that the amount of money was never what made the more infamous proposal so indecent. It’s redundant to suggest that a sitcom would have comic relief, but Frank’s undoubtedly the member of the Gang most purely devoted to dispensing bizarre punch lines over character-driven storylines. He’s been a constant MVP this season, and the revolting matter-of-factness with which he lays out the terms of his proposal serve as a fine reminder why.
After Sunny began to spin its wheels in season 11, this year has felt like a breakthrough for the show. It’s plumbed new depths of racial and gender-based satire, and perhaps more impressively, it’s added new dimensions to characters we’ve known for a decade.
I marvel when I think back to Dennis taking a shine to the pint-size con artist at the water park, seeing how the show has played this transformation out incrementally so it didn’t arrive as a betrayal of Dennis’s profile. The show could coast on its boorish-yelling shtick for as long as FXX renews it, and the fans would probably keep watching. But It’s Always Sunny deserves to be commended for continuing to challenge itself, expand its boundaries, and push the signposts of good taste a little farther. I wish we could get ten more seasons like this one, and the most thrilling thought of all is that we very well may.
The same goes for Charlie, who experiences his own personal upheaval as a reaction rippling from Dennis’s newfound purpose in life. Charlie decides that it would be mutually beneficial for he and the Waitress if they decided to have a little one together, and calls her to mount what ends up being a pretty persuasive argument. As he frankly and rightly points out, her life is in a shambles, and Frank’s money would get her out of the women’s shelter where she currently lives. But it’s not until Charlie opens up and uses the L word that she starts to pay his offer any mind. Charlie Day is a better actor than he’s given credit for, and he does his best to sell this moment, but this is the closest the episode comes to shattering its sense of internal logic. Charlie is a stalker in no ambiguous terms, and the way he’s treated the Waitress is not the way someone treats someone they love, even if his devotion feels true in the moment. Their offspring should have an even more far-reaching aftermath than Dennis’s, but there’s no telling if this will all get wiped away for a clean slate next season.
After doing everything in his power to wriggle out of the responsibilities of fatherhood, Dennis follows through on the glint of humanity he displayed at the climax of “The Gang Tends Bar” and agrees to rear little Brian Jr. with Mandy, setting up a cliffhanger that’s yet to be resolved. Credit’s due to episode writers Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, and Rob McElhenney for carefully working up to this change of heart, and noting that Dennis doesn’t want to repeat the same pattern of disappointment established by his own father. The staff avoids a feelings ex machina by giving a long lead-in to Dennis’s choice, and hopefully, that same level of care will be present in the season to come.