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By Carl Stoffers · September 6, 2013
As season nine of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia opens, we find The Gang in their natural environment (the dilapidated Paddy’s Pub in South Philadelphia) and clearly demonstrating the dark and heinous nature of their personalities. There’s cruelty. There’s a lack of empathy. There’s a total lack of kindness. Sunny is definitely back.
In the premiere, “The Gang Broke Dee,” we find the crew’s favorite punching bag, Dee (Kaitlin Olson), in the midst of severe depression. She has given up on her pipe dream of an acting/stand up comedy career and has descended into a dark place where she smokes, drinks, and eats food out of a dumpster, à la Frank (Danny DeVito) and Charlie (Charlie Day).
As they try in vain to get a rise out of the clinically depressed Dee, the rest of The Gang, minus Dennis (Glenn Howerton) decides to stop breaking her down and start building her up. It’s a complete departure from their previous behavior, and it’s puzzling to the viewers as well as Dennis, who continues to shoot Dee down at every turn in order to control her, “as I always have, and always will.”
This is Dennis at his purest: a controlling, unfeeling sociopath who is incapable of placing anyone ahead of himself or, as we learned in a previous episode, experiencing feelings. It’s obvious that the only development that Dennis has undergone since the series premiered in 2005 is to become more mentally ill, and Sunny fans wouldn’t have it any other way. With each brief peek inside Dennis’ mind, we are thoroughly entertained, if not a little frightened, as there is clearly something simultaneously sinister and hysterical lurking.
Dee begins to develop a large following in the Philadelphia comedy scene, and Charlie, Mac (Rob McElhenney), and Frank decide to start a fan club for her. It’s another head-scratching move that leaves Dennis completely frustrated and the viewers wondering exactly what they’re up to. Anyone who has seen their share of Sunny knows that the trio of Mac, Frank, and Charlie aren’t supporting her simply to be good friends. Waiting to see their end game is a hook that keeps the viewer watching.
When Dee’s career really begins to take off, she immediately turns her back on Frank, Charlie, and Mac, as well as the manager who discovered her, showing the delightfully rotten side of the character that we get a glimpse of any time she has the slightest bit of success. She reaches the peak of her power after she crushes Dennis, who delivered an uncharacteristically heartfelt speech about loving and supporting her.
Finally, Dee is on top of the world, about to make an appearance on Conan. She’s left Dennis, Frank, Mac, Charlie, and all of the horrible experiences of Philadelphia and Paddy’s behind. It’s then that the writers (McElhenney, Howerton, and Day) decide to reveal the true nature of the entire episode, and it’s as cruel and soul-crushing as we’ve all learned to expect from Sunny.
This final plot-tying step, almost always consisting of someone getting his or her well-deserved comeuppance, is one of the hallmarks of the franchise, and leaves Sunny fans satisfied and wanting more. “The Gang Broke Dee” is no exception and definitely doesn’t disappoint.