If there’s one thing that is undeniably true of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—other than the fact that it’s the most consistently funny comedy series of the millennium (while inexplicably going entirely unrecognized by Emmy voters)— it’s that it is perhaps the most depraved show on television. Simply put, every single character is devoid of any redeeming qualities. In fact, Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Dee and Frank are individuals so horrible and debauched that they have eluded proper analysis for years. After eight seasons and 93 episodes, it has been well-established that these are, with little question, some of the worst people we have ever seen on a television screen.
For a show like Always Sunny (Wednesdays at 10 PM on FXX), a traditional recap simply won’t suffice. The point of each episode is not for characters to develop or for plot lines to be furthered. The point is for each character to be as debauched—and downright hilarious—as humanly (though in this instance that term is used broadly) possible. So without further ado, we introduce the most appropriate way of breaking down an episode of the best comedy on television, the Depravity Rankings:
1. Dennis Reynolds
So here’s the thing. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for anyone to top Dennis on this list. Dennis Reynolds—in addition to being television’s greatest sociopath (yes, even ahead of Dexter Morgan, who at least occasionally displays human emotion)—is somehow the worst person on Always Sunny virtually every week. He’s unfathomably cruel, a complete narcissist and, if all implications are to be believed, a rapist. And yet somehow, Glenn Howerton (along with the ever-brilliant writing staff) manages to make him a character that viewers enjoy and root for every week.
This week was no exception. Dee was the lowest we’ve ever seen her—drinking, smoking, shoveling “trash cake” into her mouth—but instead of helping her, Dennis decided it would be the ideal time to finally rid himself of the burdensome Dee. The way he’s going to do this, of course, is by finding her a man (“Not a smart man, not a handsome man, but an average man—if not below average man—to take you off our hands forever”). And naturally, he pursues this effort in the creepiest, most loathsome manner possible. But when Dee seems to find wild success without Dennis’ help, he quickly becomes desperate and pleads with Dee to forgive him for all his wrongs (a moment eerily reminiscent—even down to the camera angle—of the “Inspire Hope” moment from the fantastic Season 5 “D.E.N.N.I.S. System” episode). When the other members of the gang reveal their elaborate hoax, it’s Dennis who descends into deranged, deserved madness.
2. (tied) Charlie Kelly, Frank Reynolds, Mac
The three other male members of the Always Sunny gang take a different approach with Dee’s depression, deciding that they need to build her back up again because, according to Frank, “it’s no fun if you don’t fight back.” They’re also abundantly aware that without Dee around to take the brunt of Dennis’ sadistic ridicule and disdain, he would target them instead. So after quickly dismissing the notion that they might actually feel partly responsibly for Dee’s current state, they decide that being able to perform her standup comedy routine without gagging might improve her mood (Charlie: “You’re right in that sweet spot between suicidal and like actually dead—you know, most comedians, they thrive there”).
Thanks to their elaborate plan, Dee spends the latter half of the episode believing that her comedy routine, which relies primarily on “funny noises,” is actually turning her into the stand-up star she’s always dreamed of becoming. Of course, she’s entirely wrong, and instead of traveling to L.A. to appear on the Conan Show, she is taken on a private jet that circles Philadelphia for six hours before she ends up right back at Paddy’s where Charlie, Frank and Mac reveal their gag (thereby explaining Frank’s choice for Dee’s catchphrase: “I’m Sweet Dee and the joke’s on me”). The plan is obviously incredibly cruel, but it gets the gang what they want: Sweet Dee is fighting back again—and destroying as much of the bar as she can in the episode’s closing seconds as “Auld Lang Syne” plays over the credits.
5. Dee Reynolds
One could likely write an entire dissertation about whether Sweet Dee is deserving of the abuse that is constantly heaped upon her. The gang’s lone female member is a constant target for ridicule (whether for her bird-like features, her lack of comedic timing or her inability to keep a “good” man), but she consistently proves herself to be no less depraved than Dennis, Mac, Charlie and Frank. She’s mean, she’s arrogant and she possesses an astonishingly low level of self-awareness. This week was no exception.
Though she begins the episode mired in a deep depression, Dee quickly reverts to her old pattern of behavior once she catches a whiff of success, lording her superiority over the rest of the gang and everyone else who crosses her path (“I don’t care that you only have one mic. Dee Reynolds does not use mics that other so-called comedians have spit into, so get another one”). But because this is Always Sunny and nothing good has ever happened to any character on the show without it almost immediately being taken away, there’s little question that Dee’s in for a rude awakening. It’s hard to argue that anyone should be forced to endure such a cruel hoax, but if anyone’s deserving, it’s Sweet Dee.