It’s now safe to say that Sunny has reached that stage of confidence in their characters that a show like Eastbound & Down has (or maybe I’m looking for a substitute now that that season has ended…withdrawals?). They’re different shows, of course, and Sunny’s always known its strength is in the bizarre dynamic of the group, but I think it plays safe for the most part, and whenever it takes chances it does so with the situation, so that by the end everyone remains unchanged—hey, they have a great show on a cable network; if it ain’t broke…
I have no doubt that The Gang will stay the same after “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” yeah, but it played with some character development, and the results were sweet. The setup is that Charlie is in the midst of a philosophical crisis after wiping out several generations of rats in the basement, so The Gang decides to toss the poor bastard a bone (it is, as Frank notes, his birthday) and throw a surprise party.
Frank compiles a list of things Charlie might like, based on his recent pal-ing around with This Guy Duncan from Under the Bridge, who’s into “this whole Hawaiian underground shit.” Dee’s not interested, that is, until Frank lays out the day’s plan, which involves his trip to the spa (thanks to these coupons I got in the mail) with Charlie while the rest of The Gang outfits the bar in whatever regalia “underground Hawaiian shit” entails.
Frank calls Dee out on her cynicism, explaining that a surprise party is one of life’s best gifts, but that odd bit of selflessness on Frank’s part goes ignored until Dennis, caught up in charitable frenzy, suggests Dee go with Charlie. It works, and Dee surreptitiously invites Charlie to a Spa Day (not a “Spaghetti Day,” as he interprets it). I’m not going to do justice to this by dryly summarizing it, so from here on, I’ll just summarize the summary and note a few highlights:
Mac buys Dennis a shirt; Frank pits two pig dealers together; Dee and Charlie at a movie; Charlie sneaks in spaghetti (hankering); “A keg exploded and a piece of metal blew off and hit Dennis right in the dick”; “Dee didn’t take you to the spa? That cynical bitch”; Frank, once again, gets naked; Gang goes to Duncan’s place; “Pregnant”; Sunny drops the N bomb; “Puss-bucket”: haven’t heard that insult since Ghostbusters II: Nice; Frank and Charlie at a spa: strange dongs; Charlie’s Dream Book.
And that’s about three-fourths of it.
Writing all that makes me realize how pointless it is to spoil every joke. There’s a lot, and this episode has “Internet meme” written all over it.
The real punchline is that Frank set everyone else up to prepare for his birthday and make them feel good about doing something good for someone else. Which gets back to my original point about character development. Dee stays the same, but I was surprised to see Dennis and Mac’s hearts shine in this episode. I never would have expected them to go all out and try being good friends to Charlie (recreating many of the strange and terrible images in his Dream Book among their kindly acts)—granted it’s all provoked by Frank, but nonetheless there’s a deep sweetness and affection for one another here that’s uncharacteristically Sunny albeit presented in nihilistic Sunny terms. It’s not the funniest scene, but Mac buying Dennis a shirt showed a likewise deep affection and a maturity that needs to be followed up and made me realize how good these guys are. Sunny’s a flagrantly, consistently funny show, but until this episode I wouldn’t say it has a good understanding of humanity—its casual nihilism is treated like a one-night stand in each installment—it doesn’t, but when you step back with this one, you see some kids with a lot of potential; they’ve accomplished a lot, and they’re ready to go up a step.
And I gotta mention the remote-controlled raccoon. Merchandise that, Sunny, merchandise the Hell outta that shit. That and denim chicken.