How the Gang Got Their Groove Back

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The latest episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Time’s Up for the Gang”, is likely to become the fan favorite of this season. The rocky start of episodes one and two set a poor tone for the show’s 13th season, and while last week’s female reboot of “The Gang Beats Boggs'“ was amusing, it could have been sharper.

If this season has proven anything it’s that a lack of Dennis in any capacity sinks the show, especially the lackluster premiere, which save for its ending had one of the worst plots of any It’s Always Sunny episode. Now that Dennis and the gang are back together in “Time’s Up for the Gang” things go invariably better. The gang is a team, and in this episode they finally get back to the core humors of the characters. The story is smart and top-notch satire, but Sunny has always been as funny as its cast, and here they are up to snuff.

Dennis in particular steals the show with the next evolution of his D.E.N.N.I.S. system, which makes for one of the funniest endings to a Sunny episode in years. But Dennis isn’t the only one who seems to have gotten back in touch with his character; Mac, Dee, and Charlie are all at their weirdest, especially Dee, who is classically stripped of the upper hand she is given at the start of the episode. Her plight is finally being heard, the endless harassment will end after others can condemn the guys for their vile behavior until she realizes she herself is a predator. It’s funnier than ever, and a well worn story arc for Sunny. Charlie’s recently forgotten outlandish habits make a welcome return, mostly in the form of his Waitress obsession which is as convoluted as ever (in a very good way). Even Frank, who sits out a majority of the episode, makes his appearances count with sexual outbursts and frantic calls to Nevada. In many ways, it feels like the old writers are back for this episode. Megan Ganz, former associate editor for The Onion takes the sole writing credit here, but I can’t help but think that Howerton and McElhenney had a hand in this one more than the last three episodes.

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Each episode this season has had a great story idea, but a glaring lack of classic character moments. “Time’s Up for the Gang” is the first episode of season 13 that is worthy of the series. The drag of over a decade spent working on the same show was telling in season 12, but even that had gems. At the least, it retained the unspoken humor of the group dynamic that was established from the beginning. In season 13, the show has lost that as the core actors took breaks and went on to other shows or projects. Yet they all return, even Dennis, to a show that has been the best comedy on television since it began in 2005, for a season that loses the comedy. In “Time’s Up for the Gang” they appear to have gotten it back. Let’s hope it’s not a fluke.