It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia S12E06 Recap: 'Hero or Hate Crime?'

I don't know if I can really explain why, but it feels as if It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia could truly get away with anything. Maybe it's the fact that it's been on so long, that not a lot of people are paying attention to it at any given time, or maybe it's just simply because it's so consistently great that we give Rob McElhaney, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day and everyone else involved a pass because, for well over a decade now, they've proven their talent and their worth.

The guys have already tested the limits of what they can get away with this season with their incredible season premiere tackling racism and real issues such as police brutality in a frivolous way, and they maybe rightfully got some shit for it, even if it wound up being an amazing episode. But now, that line will be tested even further with "Hero or Hate Crime?", as The Gang unleashes a fury of political incorrectness in an episode that sees the use of a bevy of slurs and horrible words and also has Mac officially come out of the closet.

The reason why they're able to get away with this stuff might have more to do with balance, however. The twist in the premiere with the black kid shooting works because it's a shocking, unexpected moment. The cynic in you knows that they're probably going to go there, but the pragmatist in you doesn't think they'd actually do it. The Gang spends the better part of the episode trying to figure out the rules for this new reality where they're singing songs and being black, and it all comes crashing down when one of them gets shot because of the perceived color of their skin. It screams "we get it" while also managing to somehow be funny.

In "Hero or Hate Crime," it's kind of similar. There's an initial shock in the cold open when Frank uses the "f" word to warn Mac of his impending doom when a piano is plunging towards his unsuspecting head, but then we settle in to an otherwise normal episode of IASIP. The Gang is having a disagreement that's mostly irrelevant to that shocking moment, they rope other people into their bullshit and yell at each other for the better part of half an hour. In this case, it revolves around a lottery ticket that Dee bought and Mac found. Everyone is laying claim to it, either because of possession (Dee bought it, Mac found it, but it was purchased with money Dennis gave her) or the result of altruism (Charlie saved Mac by heroically kicking him in the chest, but he would have never noticed the piano if Frank didn't yell an obscenity towards him).

So everyone is making their case, and we find out funny, weird shit about all of them, like how Dennis is using the money he's giving Dee to hit on an underage girl at the store, or how Dee and Charlie have been smoking together and Charlie is using more-and-more foul stenches to try and hide it, or Mac's ass-pounder 4000. Then it happens; a sequence so utterly offensive that it maybe cancels itself out and instantly raises the bar of what this show is capable of getting away with. They discuss Frank's dropping of the f-bomb, Charlie says the N-word in front of a black lady, the C-word is brought up and Dee even gets to utter the show's second "fuck" of the season. They use every term in the book except for (unfortunately for my count in the notes) "goddamnit"). It's shocking, hilarious, offensive and just plain crazy all at the same time.

To top of all off, the end of the episode comes full circle in a genuinely hilarious, Curb-esque ending. Mac and Frank wind up having to split the ticket, unless Mac admits that he's gay, thus making Frank's use of the f-word a hate crime. Despite his long diatribe about how the Ass Pounder 4000 is not a gay thing, he admits he's gay to win the ticket. The ticket winds up being a winner, but he stays out of the closet. When The Gang gets a nearly-$10,000 bill for the arbitration, they decide they'll make Mac pay for it because they hate him, but not until tomorrow, allowing him to have his moment.

I have no doubt that people are probably going to be pissed about this episode tomorrow. But I also have confidence in the show's ability to get away with it. Not only because they actually demonize most of these words that they wind up using, but because the show is funny enough for it to be justified. There can be humour around these kinds of words, you just have to make sure that the reason you're using them is subversive and funny. Like Louis CK's old bit about the word. It was funny for a while, and then our view on the word evolved and it wasn't. I think that Sunny's take equally works, although I wonder how I might feel about it on multiple viewings, or at least in a few years.

But for now, it works, and it's truly hilarious. In fact the entire episode is right up there with the premiere and possibly an instant classic for the long running show. This is the most I've laughed all season in a given episode, probably the most I've been shocked, and the most I haven't wanted an episode to end (tied with the premiere on that one). Despite the obstacles that it sets up for itself, the show really does manage to succeed with this episode, and that's why "Hero or Hate Crime" gets 10 deposits out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Goddamnit Count: 0, goddamnit. But we got a few f-words, a c-word, even a goddamn n-word from Charlie and the second f-bomb of the season!
  • This was almost a perfect opportunity to do a spoof of The People Vs OJ Simpson, but after the parodies they've already done this season I'm glad they didn't go there.
  • "Is it Phil? Is your name Phil? It IS Phil?"
  • "Is this about your weight? Because if it is you're already pretty bony." "I don't think so, I think you're getting pretty tubby in the midseason." "Like a bird!"
  • "Dee this isn't about whether or not you have some horrific neurological disease or whether or not your hands are the right size. They are, by the way, but your elbows are a mess."
  • Dennis is working on the cashier "Much like an IRA. You put the money in and then you wait. And then you make a hefty withdrawal."
  • "I just spotted the perfect pile of dog shit and naturally I step in it."
  • "I was trying to cover up the smell of the skunk that I let spray me so that there would be no questions." "Now I have more questions."
  • "If it smells like shit you must acquit!"
  • The c-word is hilarious, "especially directed towards a woman when you're trying to insult her."
  • "Catch me up, you're not gay?"
  • "It's not what it looks like!" "Yeah, it looks like you're fucking yourself with a dildo bike."
  • "This is just the work of a man who's an extreme sexual deviant, gay or not."