Print&Features Editor Jess Parker hails Season 16 as a return to form for its ensemble cast of ‘uniquely awful characters’

Print & Features Editor and MA Film and Television: Research and Production student.

American FX sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been on air since 2005, releasing its 16th season during the summer of 2023. The long-running cult favourite follows a familiar structure to its previous iterations, with each episode revolving around an isolated case of ‘The Gang’ getting into some form of ridiculous situation. 

‘The Gang’ consists of Charlie Day (Charlie Kelly), Mac McDonald (Rob McElhenney), Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton), Dea Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito). The season consists of eight episodes: ‘The Gang Inflates’, ‘Frank Shoots Every Member of the Gang’, ‘The Gang Gets Cursed’, ‘Frank vs. Russia’, ‘Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab’, ‘Risk E. Rat’s Pizza and Amusement Center’, ‘The Gang Goes Bowling’, and ‘Dennis Takes a Mental Health Day’.  

As with every series of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the lead ensemble is what makes it. Through improvised bits and cleverly staged sequences, ‘The Gang’ are truly what makes the show. 

‘The Gang’ are what truly makes the show

Opposed to season 15’s decision to present a through-line plot across its final four episodes, season 16 decides to return to the show’s original contained episode format. Due to this reversion, the show feels as though it has returned to its beginnings by reintroducing a structure that it knows long-time fans will positively respond to. 

Season 16 also benefits from re-localising its episodes. The vast majority revolve, once again, around Paddy’s Pub. It is a breath of fresh air seeing ‘The Gang’ return to their natural environment. In essence, season 16 truly feels like Sunny again. The characters are able to thrive by showing the nitty-gritty of who their characters have always been, in the suffocating squalor of their grimy Irish Pub. 

Although viewers can be fairly certain that each episode will end up with a strangely unpleasant yet fairly neatly wrapped up conclusion, this is not a tiresome result, even after nearly 20 years on air. 

These endings are often viscerally grim, featuring any and all bodily liquids that you could think of, yet they still retain a sense of surprising satisfaction that ‘The Gang’ somehow come out of it okay. Perhaps, it helps that ‘The Gang’ is made up of a host of characters that are quite frankly the worst people imaginable. 

Gloriously gross and wonderfully irritating

The new season’s most notable episode is its finale, ‘Dennis Takes a Mental Health Day’. Focusing on perhaps the most unhinged Always Sunny lead, the episode sees Dennis as he finds that he suffers from high blood pressure. He decides to take a day away from ‘The Gang’ to reset and recharge; however, his day quickly spirals into an unstoppable domino effect of unfortunate events that ultimately result in a familiar bout of Dennis’ signature fury. 

Arguably, Dennis may be the most complex character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, displaying a vast array of unusual and concerning character traits that cement him as the most unhinged of the bunch. From his “Golden God” alter-ego to his alluded-to serial killer past, seeing Dennis finally attempt to find peace is a simple yet incredibly entertaining plot point for long-time watchers to wrap up the season with.  

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 16 is a truly welcome return to form. After the still enjoyable, yet minorly disappointing, ending saga of season 15, season 16 appears to have been produced through an awareness of what works best. The series is gloriously gross and wonderfully irritating, highlighting the very best of Always Sunny’s uniquely awful characters.  

Rating: 4/5 

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