“Our whole crew’s been hot lately. We’ve been trying to cool down, but you’re not making it any easier.”
From the moment last night’s sublime episode opened with Frank Reynolds sitting behind the news desk at a local Philadelphia TV station, one thing became obvious: this cannot end well for anyone except Frank. After a season opener that was uncommonly Dee-centric, this week’s episode returned to the more tried-and-true formula of splitting the gang up and giving equal focus to each faction.
Usually, this ends with each member of the gang accomplishing absolutely nothing and ending up more confused than when the episode began. That was not the case this week, and with an episode focused on guns, it should have been all too obvious who would gain the upper hand.
1. Frank Reynolds
Someone pointed out to me last week that, while Dennis may be a complete sociopath; Dee, a delusional narcissist; Mac, a prejudiced bigot; and Charlie, an unrepentant moron; Frank may actually be worse than all of them. He’s the oldest member of the gang, is a father to at least two of them (likely more) and joined the Paddy’s gang because he actually welcomes depravity. More than that, he spends at least a fair share of his time manipulating the others—and their weaknesses—for his own personal gain. Such was the case this week.
The eldest Reynolds began the show, cheesesteak in hand, by telling viewers of a local news broadcast—Mac, Dennis Charlie and Dee included—that, to protect themselves from criminal thugs, they should start arming themselves. His story about being held up (“So these punks—I didn’t know if they wanted money, or if they wanted something more sexual”) may or may not be true (after all, Frank does hang around in some seedy parts of town), but he clearly had an ulterior motive: plugging Gunther’s Guns. Why he was plugging wasn’t entirely apparent in the moment (Frank’s motives are often a mystery for brief moments before they become abundantly obvious), but it was a safe bet that his endorsement would have significance later on.
Frank popped up some more on various newscasts throughout the episode, always with his lawyer, Jack Kelley (Charlie’s creepy, hand-obsessed implied-pedophile uncle), in tow. Most of the time he was singing the praises of the Second Amendment and—for reasons likely only obvious to Frank—critiquing Al Gore (“The constitution guarantees our Second Amendment rights, and these liberals like Al Gore, are trying to take that away from us with this global-warming bullshit”). That and trying to keep Charlie’s uncle from turning the interviews into endorsements of child pornography as “art.”
But by the of the episode, Frank’s true—and remarkably lucid—motivations are made clear: he bought a ton of stock in Gunther’s and started a panic to profit from booming gun sails. Then, it seems, he took the money he made from the gun operation and used it to buy water filtration systems for his next paranoia hoax (you can probably figure out the rest). So yeah, basically just your basic Frank arc: defrauding an entire city, his own family and friends included, just to make a few bucks. Sounds about right.
2. Mac & Charlie Kelly
Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone in Philadelphia reacted as poorly to Frank’s interviews as the rest of the gang did. Though all four members of the gang were fired up (or “hot,” in gang-parlance) about the gun issue, they predictably disagreed about the appropriate solution (Mac: “[It's] a bummer, because I thought we were on the same page for once”). And not unlike the gas crisis or North Korean situation of previous episodes, they determined this was an issue they’d have to solve themselves. Mac and Charlie decide to do exactly what you’d think they’d do: endorse a “more guns for everyone” policy and volunteer themselves as “protectors” of a local middle school. Instead of using badges and radios, however, they’re outfitted with denim suits, bandanas and deadly weapons (a revolver for Charlie and a “saber” for Mac).
It goes about as well as can be expected. First, they terrorize the school principal (Dave Foley’s principal MacIntyre, fresh off his transfer from the high school where Charlie worked as a janitor in Season 6). Then, they steal a middle-schooler’s cell phone while brandishing their weapons. And finally, they gather a class of pre-teens in Paddy’s to teach them self-defense (Mac: “Safety is the name of the game. It’s all about safety”) with makeshift weapons, instead unleashing a Lord of the Flies/Hunger Games-type situation inside the bar. So you’ve pretty much got all your major Mac and Charlie food groups for the week: ignorance, property destruction, theft and child endangerment. Good thing Carmen and The Waitress weren’t around to see this one.
4. Dennis Reynolds
Dennis and Dee, believing themselves to be the “enlightened” ones of the group, come down on the anti-gun end of the spectrum and set out to prove just how easy it is to buy a gun capable of killing “massive amounts of people.” First they try the infamous Gunther’s Guns, but fail the background check (Dennis: “There have been incidents, sure—a few minor indiscretions, but I’m simply a person of interest in most of those cases. Being ‘wanted’ and being ‘wanted for questioning’ are two very different things”). Next they try a gun show, with even more discouraging results. Finally, Dennis and Dee try to buy a gun off the street, but simply end up spending $1,500 to have a dealer walk away from their car, assault rifle still in his hand.
Suffice it to say, things did not go well for the Reynolds twins, and by the end of the episode, they’ve become pro-gun, while Charlie and Mac have learned the dangers of weaponry. Of course, that doesn’t stop either faction from being suckered in by Frank’s latests hoax at the end of the episode.
5. Dee Reynolds
On her failed background check: “I burned her, yeah, but she was so annoying. She deserved it. She was wearing my stuff, she was copying me… Okay, I was copying her, it doesn’t matter.” (She only ranks below Dennis because, well, he’s Dennis. And at least one of his “felonious” incidents was bound to be arson-related.)