It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Latest Episodes Are More Potent Than Monkey Beer

Last week, I questioned if the gang from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" can ever change, and this week, the series gave us a definitive answer. In another double drop of episodes on FXX and FX on Hulu, the "Sunny" gang released episode 3, "The Gang Buys a Roller Rink," and episode 4, "The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey." The first of this week's episodes goes back in time to the 1990s, when college-aged Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Charlie (Charlie Day) worked at a local roller rink and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) both seemed to have bright futures ahead of them. The second sets up the gang's upcoming trip to Ireland, heavily referenced in the marketing for this season. 

Both episodes draw on the series' long-running history and recurring gags, while "The Gang Buys a Roller Rink" actually offers new insight into the origins of the gang as we know them. They're brutal indictments of the gang's behavior, while also offering explanations as to why they've become such monstrous individuals. Part of the genius of the series is the way in which it makes these utter dumpster fires of human beings into characters we care about and want to watch from week to week. Both of this week's episodes are stronger shots than a barrel of monkey beer, but I've picked some refreshing "chaser" episodes from the series back catalog to help these bad boys go down a little more smoothly. 

Spoilers ahead for season 15 of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

The Gang Skates Like It's 1995

While we've witnessed the gang age and never grow up over the past 14 seasons, we rarely get glimpses of them before they were a co-dependent group of alcoholic maniacs. Charlie and Mac grew up in the same neighborhood, and we know the whole gang went to the same high school, but a lot of their past is a mystery. 

In "The Gang Buys a Roller Rink," Charlie and Mac work at the local roller rink, and Mac deals pot in the parking lot, while Dennis and Dee are surprisingly clean-cut and upbeat. "Sweet Dee," as they've always called her, is actually incredibly sweet, preaching positivity and mentioning that the characters on "Seinfeld" are too mean to one another. Dennis wants to be a businessman, like his father, Frank (Danny DeVito), and he soon learns that dear old dad's business practices are actually incredibly shady when he discovers Frank is having sex with sex workers on the clock. Mind you, this is back when Dennis still thought Frank was his father, and his mother and Frank were still married. When Frank joined the series in the second season, it kicked the gang's cruel chemistry into overdrive and gave Dennis and Dee more reason to be really screwed-up people. 

In a silly bit of prequelizing, we learn that Dee was in fact once a lovely person, but after Charlie loosened the nuts on Dee's skates in an attempt to help her skate better, she hit her head and came up swearing. Something broke inside of Sweet Dee that day, and her knock on the head shook some serious nastiness loose. The gang have been responsible for the downfall of plenty of other people, including former Catholic-priest-turned-mutilated-vagrant Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) and Dennis' possibly-murdered ex-wife, Maureen Ponderosa (Catherine Reitman). Knowing that they are partially responsible for the mental and emotional dissolution of one of their own is a new layer of awful to untangle, even if it was an accident. 

At the end of the episode, Charlie and Mac think that the roller rink is going to close, and they offer to buy it. Instead, they discover that a bar down the street is for sale, and we watch as they get their first look at Paddy's Pub. They step inside and the years change, but the bar looks exactly the same. In fact, Charlie's even wearing the exact same sweatshirt. Despite their plans to make the bar their own and turn it into something they could really be proud of, it looks exactly the same as the day they first stepped inside. It's proof that the gang truly cannot change, no matter how much they might want to. 

Chaser: It's a Very Sunny Christmas

There are very few episodes that give us a glimpse at the early days of the gang, but "It's a Very Sunny Christmas" is one of those special rare episodes. It's the day before Christmas in 2010, and Charlie and Mac are having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. Dennis and Dee are angry because Frank continues to troll them by buying their dream gifts for himself, a trick we learn he's been pulling on his "kids" since they were little. There are old home movies of Dee and Dennis opening empty boxes to Frank yelling "fakeout!" and Mac's family stealing their presents from beneath someone else's tree. 

Remembering his happy childhood Christmases, Charlie takes Mac to his mom's place only to discover that his mom was selling sex to groups of men dressed as Santa (and one elf). In an attempt to teach Frank about his own awfulness, Dennis and Dee cook up a "Christmas Carol" inspired scheme with the ghosts of his past. Instead, they only encourage Frank to behave more foolishly and he eventually wrecks the fancy Lamborghini he's been driving to annoy Dennis. 

The episode digs deep into the warped childhoods of the younger members of the gang and hints at Frank's involvement being the thing that hurts them the most. Sure, they're all moderately immoral idiots who make their judgments based on pop culture instead of anything resembling facts, but Frank basically just throws gasoline on their collective dumpster fire. He encourages them to be as depraved as he is because it's probably lonely being the only person boiling denim under bridges. 

In order to keep the gang around, Frank funds them, but in doing so he enables their worst instincts. None of the gang's parents are role models, save maybe Dennis and Dee's real dad, a philanthropist who wants nothing to do with them. The MacDonalds, the Reynolds, and Mrs. Kelly all forced their own neuroses and psychotic behavior on their children, who ended up being juvenile, immature adults. Now that Dennis is a father, there's the potential for another generation to be sucked into the cycle of meanness and misfortune. 

The Gang is Bested by a CGI Monkey

Episode 4 brings us back to the present, where the male members of the gang have decided that Dee has got to go. This isn't the first time they've ditched Dee. In fact, it's a pretty regular occurrence, but for once she really doesn't mind. Dee is dealing with her own demon: menopause. 

Devastated that her attempt at an acting career is over, she goes in for one last audition, skipping 15 other actresses in line to scream at the casting directors. She begs them to cast her so that all of her money spent on acting classes will mean something, and the casting director shares a brutal truth: the only person those lessons benefited was Dee's acting teacher. Dee sets off to become an acting teacher herself, figuring that it doesn't matter if she cheats her students out of money, because the same was done to her. She has a brief moment of clarity where she realizes that she could actually have an impact on her students and do some good instead of repeating the cycle, but then she gets a phone call that makes her decide to shut down her acting school for good.

Meanwhile, the guys have replaced Dee with a monkey. 

Frank got the monkey, which is trained to pour and serve beer, and he does an impressive job taking Dee's place. Free to sit and chat, the guys start pounding back "monkey beers," which they believe taste better simply because they were poured by the monkey. They try to figure out where they want to go on vacation now that the monkey can do their jobs for them, getting progressively drunker as they go. Soon, they wake up covered in monkey scratches, the bar trashed, and the register empty. Turns out the monkey was dumping whiskey in their beer and robbed them for everything they had. 

That's right, the gang was outsmarted by a monkey. 

They do eventually come up with a place to travel to, however: "Monkey beer island of green and fight." Once they determine that monkey beer is whiskey beer, and Dee comes storming into the bar to exclaim she managed to get an acting role in Ireland due to her casting stunt, it becomes perfectly clear that the gang is headed to the Emerald Isle. 

Chaser: Flowers for Charlie

There's a specific hierarchy to Paddy's, with Dee and Charlie both fighting to stay off the bottom. While they sort of managed to replace Dee with a monkey, they once learned that there is no replacing Charlie. In the season 9 episode "Flowers for Charlie," Charlie participates in a science experiment that he believes will make him a genius. While he's off learning Mandarin and writing scientific papers, the rest of the gang are left to deal with the "Charlie work," and that includes catching a rogue rat that's made its way into the upstairs of the bar. Much like the monkey, the rat outsmarts the gang, who end up with Dee's hand stuck to a glue trap in the wall and the whole crew high from huffing gasoline. 

Once again, instead of using their brains, the gang decided to give in to their debased urges to get high or drunk, and they were outwitted by a creature that should be much lower than them on the food chain.

The other half of the episode follows Charlie, who is so convinced that he's become smarter from "brain pills" that he even finds The Waitress, the woman of his dreams, to be a simpleton. Much like Dee wrapped up in her own obsessive narrative about fame, Charlie was so desperate to be intelligent that he bought into a bogus idea completely. Charlie's practically illiterate and has huffed enough glue to kill most of his brain cells, but he was willing to believe for a moment that he could be smart, much like Dee has believed over the years that she will catch her big break. 

In addition to being unable to change, the gang are also delusional and expect the world to change for them.

The Gang Will Always Lose

The most important takeaway from all four of these episodes is that the gang never wins. Sometimes it looks like they come out on top, like when they poisoned a group of frat guys in "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry," but can you call poisoning your opponents instead of playing against them a real victory? 

Regardless of what they get involved in, the gang always manages to screw it up. They live in their own little world, where reality is a TV genre and their beliefs somehow hold a higher value than everyone else's. The gang's rottenness, whether it's their delusions of grandeur, their lack of inhibition, or just their basic stupidity, will always sink them in the end. That's why we can laugh at them instead of hating them, and why "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" continues to be one of the most brilliant comedies on television.

Catch "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on Wednesdays on FXX or the next day streaming on FX on Hulu.