It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia S12E10 Recap: 'Dennis' Double Life;
As crazy as It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia can get, there is one core tenet of the show that, up until tonight's episode, has never been broken. That tenet is that no matter what happens within any given episode, the lives of the show's five main characters never truly changes. The Gang's actions have consequences, just for other people. The Ponderosas, Cricket, The Waitress, for example, have all seen their lives become demonstrably worse specifically because of The Gang's actions, but throughout all of it, The Gang's lives never change in any material way. They might have to sleep with an Old Man for a while, they might have a near-death experience or two, but at the end of the day, they're still five asshole friends who own a bar together.
That is, like I said, until tonight's twelfth season finale, "Dennis' Double Life". Not only does this episode introduce The Gang to events that cannot be considered anything other than life-altering, such as Dennis having a kid or Charlie finally getting The Waitress, but it ends on a potentially bitter note, as after Dennis says a bittersweet goodbye to the kid we were just introduced to, declares that he can't go on living this life. He says goodbye to The Gang and says he's leaving them and Paddys for good, before Mac blows up his car with the rocket launcher from a couple of weeks ago. And if you think this is just some elaborate gag, apparently it might be real, as Glenn Howerton told The Wrap that he might not be coming back for the already picked up seasons 13 and 14, and that the show might be going on a longer than usual hiatus.
If season 13 rolls around and Dennis isn't back, then there will surely be some interesting conversations to be had amongst fans. There are purists out there who don't even agree that these last few seasons have been the show's creative peak, which to me is crazy talk. Imagine if the show would come back without one of its core cast members?
But here's the thing. Season 12 has been about big swings. "The Gang Turns Black", "Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer", "A Cricket's Tale", "The Gang Tends Bar" and "Hero or Hate Crime" range from instant classic Sunny episodes to arguably some of the best they've ever done. And they wouldn't have been possible if The Gang wasn't willing to play around with the formula in some ways. My favourite among them, "The Gang Turns Black", is ironically the most formulaic of all when you think about it. It's escalating nonsense that ends with The Gang having learned nothing despite pushing the bar and toeing the line, it's just that it's unexpectedly set to music. "The Gang Tends Bar" is the opposite. It has the outward appearance of a normal Sunny episode but then is suddenly subversive and self-aware of the formula and ends on a legitimately emotional moment that winds up paying off in tonight's finale. The rest of the aforementioned episodes are gimmicks, one-shots and envelope pushing episodes that truly contribute to helping the show evolve as well. That evolution, as subtle as it may be, builds to what happens in the season finale in brilliant way.
In that sense, while Dennis (and potentially Glenn Howerton himself) announcing that he's leaving is certainly surprising, it certainly works within the framework that they've built. This episode, in fact, works on a lot of levels. Dennis might be leaving to start a family, having finally grown up and realized there's more to life than what he has, and that's kind of a brilliant way to end the show if this were indeed the series finale. The rest of The Gang is still around, but Charlie has this thing going on with The Waitress now, and Mac's come out of the closet. But they're inherently the same people, as are Dee and Frank. Dennis, however, has changed, and he sort of had to, because we all expected him to just flat out go full sociopath and kill someone. Going the other direction while still teasing the possibility in "Making Dennis Reynolds A Murderer" is pretty smart.
But I don't think this will be the end of the show, whether or not Howerton comes back. In fact I think this is a show that can go on in perpetuity, coming back every so often whenever the crew feels like putting in the effort for 10 new stories, whenever there's social commentary to be told. We wait a full year for those ten episodes as it is, waiting a little longer for more every time won't matter, and will hopefully allow them to keep the creative juices flowing, since reducing episode counts and giving each season time to breathe has already done so much for the show.
What's more, there are too many loose threads. Dennis leaving is a cliffhanger, Frank and Dee don't really get a satisfying send off, Charlie has a lot going on with the Waitress after pragmatically explaining to her why her life is never going to get any better and sleeping with him is the only way to salvage it, only to realize that she's kind of a pain in the ass that she wants nothing to do with now that they've had sex. Only Mac is left in a sort of interesting place now that he's fully out of the closet, albeit apparently obsessed with Dennis. And normally that would be okay, but now the show has introduced us to the idea that things can change for these people. And that's a whole new game.
This was an episode of change and potentially even finality that will certainly be the subject of discussion for a long time among IASIP fans. While controversial, it was also hilarious and deeply rooted in Sunny lore, both bringing up the season premiere from a couple of seasons ago that was the catalyst for Dennis having a kid and even going as far as to be canonically accurate about all the dances The Gang goes to when their jam comes up. We can discuss the developments all we want, but we can't deny that this was also a fantastic finale. "Dennis' Double Life" gets 9 indecent proposals out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- Goddamnit Count: 2
- And if you wanted reassurance that despite Dennis leaving, the show and the remaining Gang hasn't changed, it take them all but a few seconds to get over Dennis leaving and blow up his car with the RPG they left behind.
- It's probably just a coincidence, but the fact that this episode aired on International Women's Day while completely deriding its only two female characters for being too emotional was amazing.
- Mac: "Can I be someone else? I don't want to be me."
- Dee: "Yeah I got a great plan but I'm thinking this isn't my thing and you guys wouldn't listen to me no matter what I said."
- "I got it, if I could just get the Waitress pregnant, she's goin g to be tied to me for life, so I gotta do that." "He's already on to another thing, christ."
- Mac, describing his fake sexual relationship with Dennis: "He generates a tremendous amount of power from the bottom."
- Dennis: "If you're upset, smash an egg, into a pan, or Frank. Solve problems, don't cause them."