It seems that after the frenzied hilarity of the first three episodes and last week’s rather dark turn, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is taking a breather with a rather lackluster decade-spanning flashback fantasy. But given that this season has been strong right out of the gate, that’s perfectly OK.
Much like the other fantasy ep, “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell,” “Frank’s Brother” probably won’t end up on a lot of “best of” lists nor does it really warrant repeated viewings. Still, it’s not without its charm. However, most of that charm doesn’t come from any of the main characters, but from guest star Lance Reddick (LOST, Fringe), who is fantastic as Reggie, a peaceful black man who continually gets arrested just for being black. As Frank says (in an almost nostalgic way that really bugs Dee), “those were the days.”
The big problem with this episode is that it’s nearly all about Frank, relegating the gang – both as a group and as individuals –to the role of peanut gallery. When Frank’s estranged brother Gino (Jon Polito) unexpectedly arrives at the bar, the sparring siblings share the story of their former lives as jazz club owners and how they both fell in love with the same woman, a backup singer named ShaDynasty (something else entirely when you don’t capitalize that D). And while the flashbacks have their fun moments (the bad “young man” wigs, Frank’s coke binge and just about everything Reggie does), the storytelling format ultimately saps the show of its primary strength: the interplay among Frank, Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee. Not that the other four don’t interject some great comments. For instance, I couldn’t stop laughing when Frank called ShaDynasty a “negress…or whatever the proper word was,” and Charlie indignantly responded, “Well, it’s not that!” As we all know from the very first “Sunny” episode, Charlie is a master of race relations.
Another problem here is that the resolution to the reason for Gino’s visit – he believes that Frank has been contacting ShaDynasty in an attempt to win her back – is pretty predictable. It’s no surprise that ShaDynasty’s true “one and only” is neither of the Reynolds boys, but Reggie, who’s only been separated from his ladylove because Frank and Gino kept getting him arrested. It is kind of amusing that neither ShaDynasty nor Reggie in reality look anything like their fantasy selves, a detail that doesn’t go unnoticed by Dennis, who says what pretty much everyone is thinking: “Whoa, everyone’s a lot fatter than I was expecting them to be.” And Reggie getting arrested yet again provides a bit of amusing social commentary, as Dee remarks that these days might not be so different from “those days.”
So overall, there were some good sight gags and funny quotes, but this certainly wasn’t what I would call a stellar episode. But like I said before, that’s perfectly OK. “Sunny” gets to phone it in once in a while. And it could always be worse. It could always be “Whitney.”
• If there isn’t already a bar named Shadynasty’s, there will be at least one now.
• Best quote: “I guess that don’t leave me with no choice but to be a mature ass adult about this sh!t!”
• More quotes:
Dennis (discovering that Gino is alive): “You said he had his guts sucked out of his a$$hole by a hot tub drain.”
Mac: "My attention span’s very short.”
Charlie: “It’s appealing to the romantic in me.”
Frank: “I guess black can crack.”