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“I needed something Dennis-shaped to fill my hole.”

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow…

“He’s going to have sex with it the second we walk out the door.”

While there was never any real doubt regarding the adverse, life-halting effects Dennis held over his fellow Gang members, Always Sunny’s Season 13 premiere, “The Gang Makes Paddy’s Great Again,” solidified things for any doubters or waverers.

We picked things up a few months after Dennis’ exodus, with Dee, Mac, Frank, and Charlie blossoming under the stern tutelage of Cindy, a new take-charge schemer played by Mindy Kaling. Cindy’s plans work, Paddy’s is a success, and the Gang, more or less, is feeling a sense of satisfaction and specialness they’ve never before experienced. Frank’s not a total fiend, Dee has self-esteem, Charlie seems relatively stable, and Mac…well, okay.

So Mac had to ruin everything by getting a Dennis-shaped sex doll (with an open mouth so that he “can look like he’s in mid-conversation), which thusly caused the Gang to crumble to bits – basically undoing the forward steps of the Season 12 finale and, once again, hammering home that the these bozos will never learn. Which is both this show’s gift and curse. Some of the beats were pretty funny here, even if the overall story and messaging is recycled from seasons past.

Mac, now absolutely ripped and trying to find any and every excuse to show off his torso (“I’m shirtless in a duster”), became the ultimate flailing and failing chump without Dennis around. While everyone else mildly ascended, he became – basically – the new Dee. He even asked, during a planning meeting headed by Cindy, if anyone actually liked him and the response brutally bordered on indifference. So in his spiraling, coping with the loss of a best friend he’s totally in love with, Mac brought surrogate doll Dennis into the mix and freakin’ warped everyone’s brains.

In short order, after making fun of Mac for presumedly having sex with the thing, the others started hearing Dennis speak to them. More importantly, they heard Dennis berate them and deflate them. Dee shrinks, Mac goes into full on body dysmorphia, and Charlie’s relationship with the Waitress implodes. But, sadly, the Gang only knows what they’ve been shown. When Dennis returns in the end – oh yes he does! – they all choose him over Cindy, despite knowing his toxicity. Self-sabotaging at its Always Sunny finest!

It seems as though Glenn Howerton is back for good and the entire purpose of this premiere was to totally unravel last season’s finale, including Dennis leaving. We already knew he’d be back for “almost every episode.” Oh, and that when Dennis wasn’t around, the spirit of Dennis would still loom large (as we saw with this premiere). So Season 13 may have started out with The Gang as a foursome, and a quickly ousted new member, but now it seems like everything’s reshaped into its old form. My question is: Will Always Sunny be able to offer anything new aside from “Here’s the Gang dealing with ‘hot button topic x’ this week?” Like how South Park tends to manage itself here in its late seasons?

Kaling was a really fun, though brief, addition to the Gang. Sometimes it’s cool to just watch the Gang explode on their own and other times the story needs an outsider to bear witness to their nasty and bizarre self-hobbling. Cindy was devious and spiteful and all the things this show does so well, but she was missing that crazy core ingredient that causes the others to be so gloriously gross and stubborn.

Watching her figure out that Mac, Charlie, and Frank all had an insane, drunken orgy with the Dennis doll, with veritable ease, was hilarious. As was the scene right after when Dennis appeared and it looked like the damn thing had come to life. Because I was almost all in on the rest of the season containing a giant shared delusion between them all, just imagining Dennis was there with them, saying overtly Dennis-type things.

To be fair, I’m also not 100% convinced that’s not what I saw.

The Verdict

Always Sunny returned with a biting, silly Season 13 premiere that worked to undo all that the Season 12 finale established. Is there anything to the show, at this point, beyond the rotten rut of the Gang’s lives? Probably not. And maybe that’s all it will ever need. But Sunny sure seemed more interesting last year when it felt like it was in the midst of big changes.


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