This review of Always Sunny contains spoilers.
Always Sunny Season 14 Episode 5
For better or worse, computers and smartphones have evolved the language of friendship. Frank can now convey in an emoji what used to take a phone call; if he’s going to be late for nightcrawlers or if he wants Pondy to pick up snortskis, that information can be relayed more efficiently than ever before. Charlie can digest emoji communication like primitive shorthand, opening up a new world of personal interaction for a man who can’t read or write. Dennis and Dee can bring their sibiliary rivalry to a virtual battlefield in the comfort of their own homes. And everyone can ignore or berate Mac to their heart’s content.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s latest episode, “The Gang Texts,” shows that texting hasn’t fundamentally changed anything about these characters—it does, however, open up an additional avenue to reinforce their traditionally toxic behavior.
A texting storyline could have worked in most settings. It’s a fun visual gag throughout the episode but it works especially well juxtaposed against the purity of the animal kingdom on display in the Philadelphia Zoo. The episode avoids venturing too far down the cliched “we’re distracted by our phones” road and instead focuses on how the technology exacerbates flaws in the Gang’s biological makeup. Mac can thirst for validation from his friends in an instantaneous fashion now, a nightmare for the others in the group chat. Dee’s insecurities and fruitless bids to outsmart the guys are now timed-stamped for all to see. Though good with emojis, Charlie is still functionally illiterate and frequently miscommunicates information—and here it costs them a chance to see the lion feasting on its prey. Frank’s arrogance and backwards attitude is exposed by the phone; he’s the resident edgelord of the group chat with the sexist and homophoic texts, but he also gets distracted and has his bananas swiped by a gorilla who isn’t as dumb as he looks.
Mac believes the group chat can bring the Gang closer together, but it’s through Dennis we see texting as a digital extension of flawed human behavior. Dennis wants to control the chat ecosystem just like he believes he rules the bar with an iron fist. He’s the alpha, a lion easily conquering its prey inside an enclosed cage. Yet we know Dennis’ command over the Gang is often illusionary. His threats and put downs can only temporary nullify wild card behavior for so long before it foils his plans. When Mac and Charlie prevent him from seeing the food chain work in all its glory, Dennis’ fetish for bloodletting only grows. All the while, Dee is tormented by the guys to the point where she’s literally trampled by her past demons, a horde of goats.
“The Gang Texts” is the cry laughing emoji of Always Sunny episodes; a consistent shot of dopamine that is simplistic and irrefutable in its intentions. The episode asks if texting is bringing us closer together. For the Gang, information travels faster than ever before, but they are in no way communicating more effectively. For these people to get any closer to each other could only invite more toxicity, which sets up the best recurring joke of the episode, the scent marking. It’s not all eggplants, peaches, and toxic behavior, though. In what should be a lasting scene for the series, the Gang ditches the phones and for a brief, wonderful moment they find a sense of connectivity that the meerkats have perfected, no wifi needed.
– Always Sunny continues to pound the line of socially acceptable humor like a fist emoji followed by a peach. As Dennis sums it up to Dee: “It says that Frank is on fire and Mac is still a raging flamer… which is totally acceptable… for now.”
– Dennis is correct: Five minutes actually means 20.
– Glenn Howerton and his facial expressions were the real MVP of the episode: “That’s some Jurassic Park shit… I like it.”