I feel like this was an It’s Alway Sunny episode that is probably going to be divisive; some will love the change in format and scenery, others will feel like they tried to futz with what makes the show great only to have the experiment fail. Just to be clear, I am firmly in the latter category.
After Frank’s long lost brother Gino appears at Paddy’s to accuse Frank of trying to steal his woman, the majority of the episode is told in flashback, recalling a happier time when Frank had hair, integration was at hand and a beautiful doo-wop back-up singer by the name of Shadynasty appeared to rip the brothers’ relationship apart. Well, I’m going to go ahead and say it: I wish the gang had been in the story. I didn’t enjoy watching them just sit around and make occasion remarks about Frank’s tale. The issue with this episode as a whole, as I see it, is that without the gang really engaged, there’s no reason for the audience to be either. There just wasn’t any of that manic energy or sense of risk that makes every other episode so great. Even last week, when the gang had to try to pull off a baby funeral, there was an air of significance to it. Something was riding on that little baby coffin filled with dead dog parts. Not so this episode, and it showed.
As we are shown Frank’s blossoming love affair with Shadynasty, pronounced Sha-dynasty, I had to wonder: why, of all comedic choices, did they make Shadynasty a normal person? I know we’re supposed to see young Frank as some kind of semblance of an attractive person that a human woman might fall in love with, but he’s still 5’0” and gobbles down half-eaten pork chops from the garbage. Why would you make Shadynasty a regular beautiful lady, when virtually everyone else in this episode, on this show even, is either a monster, or a loser about to fall prey to a monster, or both? I kept waiting for them to reveal that Shadynasty was some sort of little person fetishist, or for her coke habit to spiral into absurd gruesomeness, or anything. Any explanation, really, would have been welcome. I guess they sort of try to explain why she chose Gino (he has a lot of cocaine!), but that seemed unbelievable without getting to actually see how much she loved cocaine. She seemed to like it only a moderate amount! And it still doesn’t explain why she would be with Frank! We needed that explanation, in my opinion, because a larger rationale would have helped produce jokes. Personally, I just didn’t laugh that much at this episode. As visually fun as this episode was to watch, “It’s the ‘70s now” and “We’re in Colombia now” and “Frank’s dating a black woman” just are not in and of themselves concepts to hang your hat on.
One of the episode highlights was Reggie, the too-nice-for-his-own-good Black Panther, beaten and imprisoned, then later shot by Frank during another misunderstanding. Upon seeing his ex Shadynasty with Frank, he politely rages, “Then I guess that don’t leave me with no choice but to be a mature-ass adult about this shit.” Frank’s coke-dusted trip to Colombia to hide out after his crime was also amazing, between watching him mangle that poor papaya, pack his nose with coke and for a split second, turn into the Devil.
Unfortunately, the lack of commit in and to this week’s episode was so palpable, by the time the gang got to the airport in time to find Shadynasty running off with the very much alive and not incarcerated Reggie, the writers had basically thrown in the towel. First of all, the gang’s reaction to the older, heavier Shadynasty was insane. That woman could have been 80 years old and weighted 400 lbs, and still be too good looking to date either Frank or Gino, who are written and styled to be grease-covered goblins. And the parting joke of the show? “I guess black does crack!” Was someone literally asleep when they wrote that? That is some laziness-boarding-on-narcolepsy right there.
Additionally, after getting Reggie imprisoned and shooting him, the laws of comedy dictate that whatever happens next has to be bigger and more extreme. Maybe Frank and Gino could have mistakenly thought Reggie had an underwear bomb, which lead to him being Tasered and hauled away by an air marshal. Then possibly the episode would have felt like it had a climax. But to have Reggie calmly carted away with a worried Shadynasty pulling her luggage behind them, then have the gang wander away unaffected? That was just not the Sunny I know. I don’t know what was going on in that writers’ room, but after the three gems we’ve seen so far this season, I am surprised that this one wasn’t as great. Looks like we’ll have to wait for next week to top that little boy’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy” production number.