It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Finale Defines The Past, Present, And Future Of The Gang

It's all been leading to this. The gang from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" have dropped the penultimate and final episodes of their record-breaking fifteenth season, and they are some doozies

"Always Sunny" season 15 has been all about interrogating the past and the gang's total inability to mature, and its final two episodes bring those themes to a head. In the first, "Dee Sinks in a Bog," Charlie's (Charlie Day) two dads fight for his love, while Dee (Kaitlin Olson) runs into an old foe from her past that makes things very tough on her. In the second, "The Gang Carries a Corpse Up a Mountain," the myriad conflicts of this season are resolved in typical "Sunny" manner: with lots of yelling. Both are full of reveals that make the rest of the season even funnier, making this one of their most complex seasons yet. 

While callbacks to previous episodes and inside jokes are nothing new for the series, this is the first time an overarching plot has gone on for more than two episodes. The Ireland arc of "Sunny" is an incredible piece of television, so let's break down how things end on the Emerald Isle, and I'll recommend two more library episodes to help wash them down. Those recommendations will be a tiny bit different this week; since this two-parter is really one big story, I'll be recommending another two-parter to go with it. Buckle up, jabronis, it's finale time. 

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

The Gang Searches for Meaning

When we last saw the gang, they had split up a bit due to growing annoyed with one another on their Irish vacation. Mac (Rob McElhenney) has gone to try and join a seminary and become a Catholic priest, while Charlie has finally met his biological father, Shelley Kelly (Colm Meaney) and wants to get to know him better. Dee has a hot date with a doctor, which means Frank (Danny DeVito) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) are left on their own in the dilapidated castle Dennis rented. 

Frank enlists Dennis' help in trying to separate Charlie and Shelley, bringing them closer than they've ever been. Dennis even gives Frank a little kiss on his head, in one of the few genuine moments of affection ever shown between members of the gang. Dennis thanks Frank for making him the man he is ... though considering how sinister they both are, it's not really a good thing. It's kind of sweet, in a twisted way, given that all three of the people Frank thought were his children turned out to be someone else's. 

Mac thinks that he's bonding with his new priesthood buddy when things take a dark turn. On "The Always Sunny Podcast," McElhenney revealed that they had to change the plot of an early episode ("Charlie Got Molested"), which featured a pedophile priest. They changed the priest to a teacher, but now, 15 years later, they've finally come back around to the concept. Mac thinks that Brother Gus (Mark Prendergast) is another gay man, but instead discovers he's actually a pedophile. Mac is shaken, his last shot at identity tainted. Meanwhile, Dee gets stuck in a bog while looking for peat moss to burn in the castle to cover up the smells from Dennis' illness last episode. The Waitress (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) happens by and only agrees to help her if Dee can say her name. Of course, Dee cannot, and only eventually guesses the name while throwing out random ones. The Waitress ends up getting stuck in the bog instead, and Dee leaves her to her fate.

Frank and Dennis come up with an elaborate plan to host a "banquet of humiliation" for Charlie and Shelley, but Frank messes it up by putting poop in Shelley's soup. Charlie calls his bluff and forces Frank to eat one of the "special meatballs" himself. When he can't, Charlie tells them that he's staying in Ireland to make cheese with his dad, and they leave the castle. Dee, covered in mud, stops them, and Shelley believes that she is the banshee who appears before all Kelly men before they die. Things are looking grim for the gang, who have never been driven quite this far apart.

The Gang Almost Breaks Up

After the horrific events of the previous evening, it seems like the gang might split up for good. Charlie invites them all on a "hike" with his dad, and miraculously, they all show up. Frank has even brought extra supplies to try to prove his worth to Charlie, though it should be noted he has a contingency bottle of urine in case things turn sideways. Plans change quickly, however, when Charlie reveals that Shelley Kelly is dead, and he's enlisted the gang to help carry his dad up the mountain to fulfill a Kelly family funerary tradition. 

On the way up the mountain, some brutal truths about the trip are revealed: Dennis probably killed Dee's date when he showed up and Dee was stuck in the bog, Mac actually is Irish and the gang paid his mom to lie to him about it, and Frank caught mild COVID from Dennis and gave it to Shelley, who died gasping for air. Furious with one another, members of the gang peel off one by one and head back to Patty's Pub to wait for their flight back to Philly. In the end it's only Charlie and Frank, and Charlie tells Frank to leave him alone. 

Back at Patty's, the gang tell one another how they're going to never speak again when the Waitress, having escaped from the bog, shushes them. With a mutual enemy, the gang unleash on her, screaming about their right as Americans to be as loud as they want. "You are not in America!" the Waitress yells back, and Frank has the perfect response: "We are America, sweetheart! And we carry our country wherever we go! Because we love her, and when you love someone, you can't bear to leave 'em behind, not ever!" This rouses the gang into going back for Charlie, tearing over the beautiful Irish hillside in a huge American pickup truck.

What happens next is one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes in the series' history. Charlie, dragging the corpse of his dead deadbeat dad in the rain, breaks down and begins to sob. "You were supposed to carry me," he cries as he collapses in the mud, overwhelmed by grief. He grieves the father he never really had, he grieves the little boy he once was, and he grieves what could have been. Day's performance is heartbreaking. Charlie has always been the heart and soul of the gang, the one member who somehow keeps them all from being completely awful. His anguish is palpable, and he really doesn't deserve to be abandoned. Thankfully, he hasn't been, and Frank and the rest of the gang arrive to help him finish what they started. Though they aren't very good at being friends, or even decent human beings, the gang love and need one another. They deserve each other, and the finale's ending is a stellar reminder of that. 

Chaser: The Gang Goes to Hell

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" also closed out its eleventh season with a two-parter: "The Gang Goes to Hell" parts 1 and 2. In "The Gang Goes to Hell," Mac signs the gang up for a Caribbean cruise to try and get them to shake their bad habits by getting out of Philly. Instead, the trip makes their bad habits even worse. Dennis, who attempts to curb his lust, terrifies a young woman with his advances. Dee, unsuccessful at tempering her rage, punches a magician in the face. Mac is searching for his faith and instead complicates it by finally recognizing that he's a gay man. And Charlie and Frank? Well, they promise to try to be less weird and then end up drinking boat fuel.

The brilliance of "The Gang Goes to Hell" comes near the end of its second episode, when it looks like the gang are going to drown. The ship is sinking and they're all trapped in the brig together because of their bad behavior. At first, they're furious with one another, but soon realize that at least they get to die together. They all hold hands and sink to the bottom, strangely at peace for the first time possibly ever. Then the hatch opens, and they fight one another to escape. The moment is gone, and they're back to being just as horrible as they always were. Frank, Mac, Charlie, Dee, and Dennis will always bicker amongst themselves, but they'll also always stand united against a common foe: even one as inevitable as death. 

Much like this week's two episodes, "The Gang Goes to Hell" shows that the gang cannot change, and that instead they force the world around them to change instead. You can take "It's Always Sunny" out of Philadelphia, but they'll bring Philly with them wherever they go. 

The Gang Together, Strong

The gang's interconnected nature, whether you want to call it love or co-dependence, has turned into the main focus of this season. Season 14 ended with "Waiting for Big Mo," a riff on the Samuel Beckett play "Waiting for Godot," leaving many fans wondering if the gang behind the gang was still interested in continuing the series. The season ended with the characters questioning whether laser tag was fun anymore, and it was a brilliant allegory for the journey the series and its creators had made. 

With "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" season 15, they're letting the viewers know that they'll be around for as long as it's fun to work together, which might be forever. After all, McElhenney, Day, and Howerton don't just write "Sunny" together; they also host a weekly podcast about the series, and McElhenney and Day co-write the Apple+ series "Mythic Quest" with fellow "Sunny" writer Megan Ganz, who also produces the podcast. This crew clearly loves spending time with one another as much as the gang, though according to the podcast, there is plenty of bickering, too. 

There are many sitcoms about terrible people behaving badly, from "Seinfeld" and "Friends" to more subversive fare like "Workaholics," but what's helped "It's Always Sunny" stay relevant and hilarious for 15 seasons is the love that goes into making the show. They care about these characters as if they were real people, and give their plots far more consideration than most viewers will ever notice. By giving these characters pathos, the creators made us care as much as they do. FXX has greenlit the series through season 18, and I look forward to watching the gang fight the world (and each other) for many years to come.