This It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia review contains spoilers.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 13 Episode 5
Things look pretty dire for “The Gang Gets New Wheels” for much of its runtime. Through the first 17 or so minutes (this is actually a relatively long episode of It’s Always Sunny at around 24 minutes), “The Gang Gets New Wheels” threatens to be the rare bad episode in the It’s Always Sunny canon.
The episode vastly overestimates how much we care about Dennis’s Range Rover as the Samson’s hair-esque source of all its power. Mac and Charlie behaving like children is something we’ve seen plenty of times before and for most of the episode their Pee-Wee Herman quest to get their bike back isn’t that compelling. Frank learning to say “lit” and showing woods porn to an obnoxious teenager is, well…obnoxious. Even Dee’s brain getting infected by her new Range Rover status and dropping Dennisisms like “I am a Golden Goddess you idiot. Savage. Idiots!” is somehow not nearly as funny as it should be.
“The Gang Gets New Wheels” just fundamentally doesn’t work. And then…. and then Mac punches a child full on in the face, violently knocking a tooth out of the tiny lad’s mouth.
It’s Always Sunny has not changed much stylistically as time goes on and the show gets access to newer, better resources. This season, however, it’s clear that Day, McElhenney, Howerton, and the rest of the crew are ready to get more physical. Last week’s episode, “Time’s Up for the Gang,” featured what was objectively an all-time great sight gag when our newly buff friend Ronald McDonald, quite literally grabbed Dee by the pussy and lifted her high into the air (“I felt so light! Like Thumbalina!” she excitedly chirps afterward). That’s the kind of shockingly sudden sight gag that this highly verbal show could use more of. Now in the waning minutes of “The Gang Gets New Wheels,” the show goes back to the physical gag well and does so beautifully.
Mac and Charlie beat the shit out of these kids. Oh man, they get them good. Throughout the episode, Mac and Charlie are routinely stymied by the question “What are you gonna do about it?” That’s what Shawn DeMont (an always-welcome Tyler Labine) said to them when he stole both of their bikes as kids.
“Damn it, dude. It’s the perfect line. Just no coming back from it,” Charlie says
Charlie and Mac couldn’t respond to that back then because DeMont was bigger than they were. They can’t respond yet again when Shawn’s kids steal Mac’s bike because DeMont is still bigger than them. Here’s the thing though…the kids aren’t bigger than adult Mac and Charlie.
Mac and Charlie bunch these children half to death. They throw them into car windows. They drop kick them. They do virtually everything thing one human being can do to another to cause harm. It’s widely inappropriate, unexpected, and just completely hilarious.
“I think I killed a kid!” Charlie says to Dennis as he rescues them.
“Yeah, I think the kid’s dead,” Mac gasps.
“The Gang Gets New Wheels” is rather lifeless and inert for most of its running time and something about that massive children battle knocks it back to its senses. The denouements that follow in Dennis, Frank, and Dee’s storylines don’t completely justify the boring chuffa that came before them but still all blend together nicely.
Dee, for one, finds a completely different way to abuse children. Becoming a Range Rover owner for less than a day (she has to give the car back once Frank passes his driver’s test) has turned Dee into a Dennis-like monster. She is at first ecstatic to be invited into the world of these ladies of leisure and then in a matter of minutes come to think of herself as much better than them.
After the smallest slight imaginable (“you don’t have to worry about these sorts of things because you’ve never been married!”), Dee sets her sights on stealing Karen’s boytoy husband. But this being Dee, she hilariously misses the mark and sleeps with Karen’s awful son, Aidan. Yes, all things considered, it’s incredibly problematic that Dee essentially commits statutory rape in this episode. Should the genders be flipped here we would all be rightfully horrified – and we certainly should be now. But…Dee having the mind of the child somehow makes it a touch more palatable. Or perhaps that’s what I’m just telling myself to justify the fact that I found this funny. Either way, this reveal helps draw at least one big laugh for the conclusions of both the Frank and Dee storylines that seemed destined for abject failure.
Frank has the toughest storyline to rescue tonight. Granted, he does get the first big belly laugh of the episode when it’s revealed that his driver’s license is so expired it still has Danny DeVito’s Taxi era headshot. His adventures with Aidan don’t really go anywhere interesting and Aidan is mostly just insufferable. Frank would have been better served spending all of his time in that classroom, giving his thoughts in excruciating detail about what races are bad at driving.
Again, Frank’s ultimate ending, in which he and Dee are bloodied in a car crash because he wrongly assumed an Asian driver wouldn’t follow the rules of the road, doesn’t vindicate what came before it. It is undeniably funny though and part of the ending’s hilarious final mosaic, with Dennis at the center.
It’s not particularly fun to see Dennis lose his mojo. Dennis’ dialogue when John mistakes his economical Prius for his Uber works really, really hard to convince the audience that Dennis’s latest psychosis has a logical root cause. It doesn’t work though. Dennis’s newfound appreciation for economic decisions somehow leads to be becoming an entirely average fantasy baseball playing bro. None of this is particularly compelling or funny, save for maybe Dennis’ horrific attempt at picking up the only woman at the party at Frank’s urging. (“Yeah, I’ve got a twin. She farts a shit ton, man.”)
Save for maybe Mac and Charlie, “The Gang Gets New Wheels” asks each of its main characters to flex different comedic muscles than what you’re used to. Dee isn’t the Golden Goddess. She’s a bird! Dennis isn’t economical…he’s the Golden God! I get the inclination to experiment. It just doesn’t fully work for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s too much all at once. Or maybe it’s that the rest of the episode resembles a typical Sunny episode too closely so that it doesn’t register that the characters are coming from different perspectives.
Regardless of what doesn’t work, however, it’s almost worth it just to see the blinding speed in which Dennis returns to his old self when reunited with a Range Rover.
“Be gone from me you soy boy beta cuck! The transaction is complete!” Dennis screams at his old friend, John.
“The Gang Gets New Wheels” almost goes out of his way at the beginning to tease the audience. Dennis promises that he’ll tell his friends what’s really going on with his new family and whether he’ll still be around for them. Naturally, the Gang doesn’t care so we’re never really entreated to actual answers about Dennis’ continued involvement in the Gang’s schemes. The episode then introduces the Range Rover plot as almost a troll. You wanted to know what the future holds for this show? First, let’s delve a little more into this Range Rover mythology.
That approach ultimately doesn’t work because it’s just not funny enough. Respect the troll, hate the execution. At least hate the execution until the final five minutes. If only the entire episode consisted of Mac and Charlie beating up a crew of children, Dee banging a teenager, Frank getting in a car crash, and the whole crew riding home in a new (old) Range Rover, listening to Rick Astley without a care in the world.