It’s hard to keep a show good for 13 seasons. There aren’t a whole lot of shows that have lasted that long and it’s harder to think of sitcoms that have lasted that long. There were reasons to be excited for season 13. After all, season 12 was so good. Staying good 12 seasons in is hard enough, but It’s Always Sunny had possibly its best season last year. So maybe they’d be able to keep that momentum. Though there was cause for concern. Glenn Howerton appeared to leave the show at the end of season 12, big news for a show dependent on its group dynamic.
Howerton didn’t actually leave for good, but he did take the lead on AP Bio. So Dennis Reynolds was missing from certain episodes. Also, Charlie Day was busy working on a new show of his own. Luckily, he didn’t act in The Cool Kids. So Charlie the character was still present. Though neither were present for much of the writing. I don’t want to bring this up for every episode, but it bears mentioning. They brought in new writers, and that’s the vibe of this season: That several outsiders wrote episodes. There’s another elephant in the room. I think the Sunny gang experienced more budget cuts because there were A LOT of bottle episodes. But how did the season fair? It was… hit and miss. It feels like for every good episode, there was a bad episode. Not to mention the gulf between the good episodes and the bad episodes feels much wider than any other season. But this list is set to rank the episodes from worst to best.
The Gang Beats Boggs: Ladies Edition
This episode practically gave its own warning that it was going to suck. Sequel episodes have been a running problem for a while with It’s Always Sunny. The first half of this season was replete with satires of women empowerment. The problem with this was that it felt confused in its goals and this episode was the crux of that problem. This episode is a less than subtle spoof of female-centric reboots. They even explicitly say so in the episode. That blatant lack of subtext is the overarching theme of this episode. In the end, the jokes about female reboots being inferior to the originals feels less self-deprecating and more like a cop-out. This is the first no-Dennis episode while Mac and Charlie only make a cameo. Giving Caitlin Olson credit, she TRIES to make it work, as does the Waitress. But stale rehashes and on-the-nose dialogue do neither of them any favors. Frank raining on the women’s parade is less funny than it sounds. I feel kind of bad being so harsh on a pro-woman episode in pro-women times, but I have to call them like I see them.
The Gang Does a Clip Show
Clip shows usually feel like a show admitting they don’t have enough money for a full season. However, nothing is ever that simple for the gang. Now parodying clip shows has been done before: Both Community and Clerks: The Animated Series did this. But the door is still open. Sadly, It’s Always Sunny seemed to do both a parody and a standard clip show. The first half played out like a regular clip show and it was pretty cringe-inducing. Out of context, most of the clips felt LESS funny. The second half of this episode was a little better when they started doing jokes about changing memories changing reality. It produced some pretty funny moments – including a famous spoof of Seinfeld. But there was still a forced vibe, hardly saving this episode.
The Gang Wins the Big Game
This was another episode that felt both lazy and ambitious at the same time. It was a gimmick episode with the gang (minus Dennis) attending last year’s Super Bowl. The real cast attended and even incorporated their cell phone footage of celebrating. This episode has a few amusing moments – such as Dee’s battle with pink eye. But it just felt underwritten. Not much to say about this undercooked mess. If there’s one positive, this episode was so blasé, it was the first bad episode not to annoy me. This was more forgettable than anything else.
Charlie's Home Alone
This is definitely not an episode for everyone. The episode lured us into thinking it was just going to be a beat-by-beat parody of Home Alone. But then it revealed itself as a borderline 30-minute Saw with Charlie getting caught in his own traps. I kind of admire this episode for being ambitious and attempting something completely different. Problem is this episode is not that funny. It’s quite gross. And disturbing. I respect this episode for being daring, but it’s not one I’d re-watch on purpose. Also it’s daisychained to a mediocre follow-up. I didn’t intend for a two-parter to be back-to-back, but that’s the way it turned out.
The Gang Solves the Bathroom Problem
And here’s where the actual good episodes begin. In the thick of so many bottle episodes, the crew proves they can still make a lot out of simple premises. Mac uses the women’s bathroom, which spawns a whole argument over which bathroom is appropriate. There are some really good gags about Charlie’s bizarre bathroom habits and even a few funny bits about Jimmy Buffet songs. While this is one of the good ones, it’s not perfect. Once again, the attempts at social commentary are a little too on-the-nose. They also snuck in some lame dad jokes. Seriously they made a pineapple on pizza joke. It’s a little discouraging hearing It’s Always Sunny make a joke I expect to hear on Last Man Standing.
The Gang Makes Paddy's Great Again
I feel like the previous episode had bigger laughs. But I’m giving this episode the edge for lack of bad. Continuing off the cliffhanger of season 12, this episode tried to answer how the gang would manage without Dennis. The answer seemed to lampoon adding token females to shows. I mentioned how the first half of the season was dominated by a satire of female empowerment. It felt like the show was trying to atone for over a decade of hyper-masculinity… or maybe it was parodying the attempt to cope. Yeah, the confused social commentary is what prevents this episode from elevating it to greatness. But the episode brings the funny. The “Dennis Doll” is easily the funniest part of the episode. But luckily, the real deal was back for good.
The Gang Escapes
Even if the season had its faults, it’s impressive that they still mustered four great episodes in one season. Full disclosure, I was lukewarm on this episode when I first saw it. I chalk it up to viewing the episode somewhat analytically after the previous episode. But thinking about it in hindsight, it was a winner. This episode continued in the tradition of “Let’s put the Gang in a funny situation and go from there.” Putting the gang in an escape room produced a lot of ideas with the guys’ inability to solve even the first puzzle. We also delve deeper into the rabbit hole that is Dennis Reynolds’s room. Dee gets to shine too – obsessing over wanting to do a character. Her motivation for doing the escape room was pretty funny too. Sometimes ideas lose steam as a story progresses, but this episode actually becomes funnier as it progresses and everything gets out of hand.
Mac Finds His Pride
Boy, they know how to end on a high note. This episode starts out funnily enough with Frank’s gross misunderstanding of gay culture. As well as Frank’s gross habits. If I had one nitpick, Mac feels a little too nice in this episode. But it works out with scenes such as Mac having difficulty explaining his homosexuality to his convict father. This might be a spoiler, but the ending has already made some news. Since we’ve seen this schtick before, it was fair to expect some gag show like Day Man Cometh. Instead, we get this serious and earnest dance sequence – well-choreographed too. It felt like a troll in the most beautiful way. And it made for one of the best episodes of the season.
Times Up for the Gang
As mentioned earlier, there was a lot of ham-fisted social commentary this season. In light of the “Me too” movement, It’s Always Sunny felt like the perfect show to tackle it. The characters had 13 years of sins to atone for and this episode was time to answer for them. This episode was a hilarious skewering of sexual harassment. It’s Always Sunny has always been good at splitting the difference of making us laugh at and with the characters. This episode hits the matter from all angles and the satire is pretty biting. They even throw in some sharp jokes about society’s perception of what counts as sexual harassment and how we treat victims. This episode is so funny I don’t want to give away of the funny bits. If you haven’t watched this one, do it!
The Gang Gets New Wheels
In many ways, it feels like most of the effort and budget went into this episode (And “Mac Finds His Pride”). I don’t think that’s the case, but when so many episodes (even the really good ones) are centered around one location, it’s hard to escape that impression. There’s a lot going on in this episode. Dennis buys a new car, which he feels makes him too average. Dee hangs out with a group of cougars. Mac and Charlie forfeit their new bikes to a group of young bullies. And Frank is trying to get his license. That may sound like a lot, but it actually works to the episode’s benefit. All of those scenarios lead to funny stuff, and the episode is fast-paced and never lingers on one thing too long. Not to mention, everything takes such bizarre and sometimes uncomfortable turns. And amazingly, everything manages to dovetail. This was It’s Always Sunny running on high gears and bringing their A-game.