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It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "2020 A Year in Review" It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "2020 A Year in Review"

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The Gang Buys a Roller Rink/The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey (15×03/15×04)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "2020 A Year in Review"

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“The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” is an experimental episode of Always Sunny, flashing back to what basically amounts to an origin story for the gang. But does the gang really need an origin story?

Flashback origin stories (like prequels) are most successful when the information about the origin re-contextualizes something we know about the characters the story is exploring. An example where “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” succeeds is in the reveal that Charlie actually paid for most of the bar, as it re-frames our knowledge on exactly how Charlie became the rat-killer of the joint. Dennis and Mac completely screwed Charlie over, and while this isn’t necessarily a surprising revelation, it does lend us a new perspective to the supposed early partnership between the three. If you want to take it deeper, you can even say it explains Charlie’s hard dedication to the bar that the others don’t seem to have, as evidenced in “Charlie Work.”

Unfortunately, I feel this is the only reveal in “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” that really works. Dee truly earning her nickname as “Sweet Dee” in her younger years, only to be ruined by a bonk on the head doesn’t re-contextualize anything. We already know the gang played a huge role in turning Dee into who she is today through their constant mockery, so revealing that Charlie played a role into turning Dee into “Dee” doesn’t actually change the perspective much. Maybe one could argue that the point is to show how innocent mistakes can have drastic consequences, but in the context of this show, I don’t think that works.

And that’s the biggest issue with the episode. “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” goes out of its way to clean up Charlie, Dee, and Dennis so that we can see the contrast between their 1998 incarnations with their present day selve, and tries to show us exactly what went wrong in their lives to lead them there; but based on the history of the show and the meticulous characterization each main player has been given, we already know there isn’t one thing that lead them to their horrible selves. It was decades of abuse, neglect, self-aggrandizement, brainwashing, and more, mixed in with their own base instincts, and their awfulness continues to perpetuate through the dysfunctional circle they’ve trapped themselves in. Giving a single day explanation to everything doesn’t just feel wrong – it goes against the themes and continuity of the show.

And yet, I’m not sure I even buy that this is canon. The gang are proven unreliable narrators based on other episodes that feature flashbacks. Even when they think they’re telling the truth, their memories often betray them because they were drunk or too caught up in their own egos to realize they weren’t the center of attention they believed they were. For a show that cares so much about its own continuity, I find it hard to believe the writers ever make a “mistake” when it comes to continuity, even if they choose to disregard a previous piece of canon, I believe in most cases that is a conscious choice by them.

So I can’t criticize “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” for “ruining” the continuity of the series because I’m not sure I trust the memory we witness on screen. At the end of “2020: A Year in Review,” there was footage of the gang at the events they claimed to be part, which proved without a doubt that they were telling the truth in that episode. There are no such clarifying pieces of proof at the end of “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink,” so it’s definitely possible this episode is just an excuse to have some fun and experiment with these characters in a new way.

But if this is canon? I think it hurts the characters. I find it hard to believe the Dennis in this episode ever called himself a Golden God while in high school, or that Dee turned out as this sweet after being relentlessly bullied for her back brace (after all, we’ve already seen how much resentment she held onto from that time of her life). Those earlier details seem sort of meaningless if the gang only became the gang because of the singular night we witness here. I prefer some backstory to remain mysterious, even after 15 years, as the gang is infinitely more fascinating when they are the result of a million different things over the course of a lifetime and not a singular event that created them, because people are more complex than that, and frankly, so is Sunny.

I also didn’t find this episode too funny. Mac’s “mark my words” jokes don’t have a great payoff and are sort of easy jokes to plop in a flashback. Dennis watching Frank have sex issn’t anywhere near as funny as Dennis and Frank’s confusing conversation prior, and with Dennis’ view on Frank I find it hard to believe he would stay through the entire session. Mac dealing drugs might seem like it is in character, but his success with it really isn’t, as he’s always been a fake tough (even here with the broken gun!) and he definitely would have had his money stolen from him way earlier.

I did think it was fun to watch, though! Despite all my complaints, I enjoyed seeing this different spins on such recognizable characters, especially Charlie. It’s always fun to see him be competent.

“The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey,” presents such a perfect counter-example to “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” regarding character consistency that I find it hard to believe they were written back to back, but maybe that was the point?

The monkey plot line is alright. The guys trying to pick a vacation destination is some pretty classic Sunny, where a simple task turns into a huge project. Unfortunately we don’t actually get to see them arrive at their destination, so I feel like that plot line didn’t quite pay off because we sort of skip to the reveal. I think an extra scene here with them building the words to write on the board would have helped, even if the words were kept a secret to keep the final reveal intact. The monkey is fun, though.

Dee, on the other hand, has an excellent story that is so completely in line with her character that it hurts to think she’s only this way because she bonked her head. She shows both progress and regression as a person in such a smooth way, which is exactly what I want out of this season of Sunny. After being brutally insulted by the casting director, I expected Dee to either lose her **** with him or spiral into a depression, but instead she listens and learns. Dee! Dee listens and learns!!! Even though she doesn’t grow as a person ethically, not internalizing the insult is a huge step forward for the self-loathing Dee. It suggests that for once, maybe Dee doesn’t care what someone else thinks of her.

This also allows her to recognize that the young actor in her class does care heavily about what others think of her, and Dee sees this as an opportunity for, I don’t know, retribution? Revenge? Catharsis? She finally has someone she can influence and control and, after years of suffering the same fate herself, she knows exactly how to do it. Dee is old enough, and dare I say wise enough, to recognize her flaws; after all, she must recognize her own flaws if she’s going to manipulate those same flaws in someone else.

Which makes her final reversal absolutely magnificent. After getting the call from the director, Dee returns to the Dee of years past, because guess what – she finally got approval. She’s validated, and that validation immediately blinds her again. It’s a perfect display of growth and regression and comes about naturally in a way that is true to life.

The key is that Dee’s character doesn’t change almost at all. She’s still crude, rude, and has no idea what she’s talking about regarding acting. Her small growth is only in her reaction to the insult of her acting ability and her horrific plan to exploit a young actor for her own sick comfort. This is, dare I say, near peak Sunny, and I’m excited to see what Ireland brings us.

Other Thoughts:

  • The gang being so upset about the rink closing down before revealing they haven’t been there in over 20 years is very in character for them.
  • If anyone has an explanation for how the characterization in “The Gang Buys a Roller Rink” fits in with the existing continuity of these characters younger years, please share it.
  • I know the show isn’t medically accurate pretty much ever, but Dee hitting her head and shifting personalities is one of those things that has actually happened in real life, and yet still feels unrealistic within the show. Sometimes, just because it’s true to life, doesn’t mean it’s true to the show.
  • Danny DeVito looked great in the flashback. Almost exactly like Season 2 Frank.
  • I’m really excited to see what the show does with a bit of serialization. I know I wrote an article about needing more episodic TV, but a show 15 years into its run needs to experiment some and I think this is a good risk to take.
  • I wonder how much influence the marketing strategy had on “The Gang Replaces Dee with a Monkey’s” final reveal. Ireland was so heavily promoted in the show’s ads and that final reveal was somewhat built on the audience awareness of what the destination was going to be. I actually think it sort of worked? At least on me. I didn’t put it together that their vacation destination would be Ireland, even though it seems so obvious in hindsight, except there was NOTHING in show to tell me that – me feeling Ireland was the obvious answer was solely built on the marketing. Interesting to note.

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Death and Other Details

Who Was Murdered on Hulu’s ‘Death and Other Details’?

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Who Was Murdered on Hulu's 'Death and Other Details'?

If you loved Glass Onion or Death on the Nile, you’re going to love Hulu’s latest murder mystery series titled Death and Other Details.

The series aired its first two episodes on Jan. 16, immediately encouraging fans to see through the illusion, pay attention to the details, and start gathering the clues. 

8 Murder Mystery TV Shows to Watch and Solve

At the center of the story is Imogene Scott (played by God Friended Me’s Violent Beane), who is orphaned at a very young age when she witnesses her mother’s car blow up in the driveway of the Collier residence. 

The Colliers, who run the billion-dollar company Collier Mills and have two children of their own, Anna and Tripp, immediately take Imogene in following the accident and hire Rufus Cotesworth (Mandy Patinkin) to solve the murder.

Flash forward 18 years later, and everyone finds themselves aboard a luxurious cruise to celebrate Lawrence Collier’s retirement (with Anna hoping to take over the company). The reunion between Imogene and Rufus is testy at first considering she assumed he gave up on the case and split the moment the money ran out, however, she soon learns that the sole reason why Rufus took a job with the Chun family (a dynasty that the Colliers are hoping to make a lucrative deal with) was so that he could continue the investigation he started nearly two decades ago.

And the latest murder aboard the cruise ship—that of Keith Trubitsky of Indianapolis, Indiana (whose real identity was Dan Turner, friend and assistant to Rufus)—is somehow linked to Imogene’s mother’s death. Everyone was completely fooled by his alternate persona that they never suspected he was planted there to stir the pot and dig up dirt. 

As Rufus and Imogene vow to work together to unravel the mystery of both deaths, they’ll be forced to unearth the secrets of both the Collier and Chun families, who are desperate to keep them protected at all costs. 

The latest whodunit features a slew of suspects—from Imogene’s closest friends and confidants to a priest that’s dubbed a political connection marker, all the way to the staff and security working the luxury liner. 

Who Are the Chosen Traitors on Peacock’s Season 2 of ‘The Traitors’?

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Only Murders in the Building

Who Is Ben’s Killer on ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Season 3?

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Who Is Ben's Killer on 'Only Murders in the Building' Season 3?

Only Murders in the Building returned for its third season on August 8 on Hulu and wrapped up its run on October 2 by finally bringing to light Ben Glenroy’s (Paul Rudd) killer. 

It’s not the most riveting twist we’ve seen—that honor goes to the second season finale—however, the musical theater backdrop was a fun new setting to explore to prevent the season from becoming stale, and it delivered a cliffhanger that was nothing short of jaw-dropping. 

After hitting some rough patches, Mabel (Selena Gomez) Charles (Steve Martin), and Oliver (Martin Short) finally got their podcast back on track, thankfully, and their episode revealing the murderer was timed perfectly to opening night of the Broadway show. 

And fittingly, life imitated art, with the love of a mother willing to do anything, anything to protect her boy. 

When the trio confronted Donna, she confessed fully to poisoning Ben with a cookie doused with rat poison, though she made it clear that she wasn’t trying to kill him but it was hard to figure out how “many rats make up Ben.” Truly an iconic line. 

Of course, there was Ben’s actual death at the Arconia later that night, mere hours after coming back to life. When presented with the evidence—a handkerchief with a lipstick stain matching Donna’s that Ben was found holding when he plunged to his death—she also confessed to pushing him down the elevator shaft because she couldn’t “risk him performing the next night and ruining the show.”

It was almost too easy, and Mabel knew it; she was not convinced. She spent the rest of the play keeping her eyes open watching Donna, who they allowed to finish out the show as she had “stage 4 lung cancer and wasn’t a flight risk,” and eventually seeing an intense moment between Donna and her boy, Cliff. 

Who Is Ben's Killer on 'Only Murders in the Building' Season 3? Is It Donna & Cliff

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Mabel followed Cliff up to the little room above the stage where she finally pieced it all together, with Cliff owning up to his part in Ben’s death. 

Turns out, Ben got a call with his lab results after coming back to life during which he was informed that he ingested rat poison. 

Since he was fasting the night of the play, he didn’t think it was possible until he realized that Donna gave him a cookie right before the show knowing he couldn’t refuse it and basically encouraged him to eat it. 

As Ben solves his own attempted murder, Cliff panics because he doesn’t want to see his mom go to jail. 

Things get heated between Ben and Cliff, the latter of whom pushes the former in a moment of anger. 

As for the handkerchief, Donna would always kiss her son Cliff on the “lips” and on “the heart” before every show, meaning she’d kiss a handkerchief and tuck it into his chest pocket. And it’s how Ben ended up clutching one with her lipstick print. 

Cliff panics as the realization that he murdered Ben sets in, so he threatens to jump to his death. No one is able to stop him until Donna arrives, placing her hand in her baby boy’s to tell him everything’s going to be just fine. If they go down, they go down together—the mother-son duo is arrested for their respective roles in the death of Ben Glenroy, bringing to end another season of Only Murders in the Building

At the celebratory party shortly after, everyone is chatting about what’s next for them, with all three planning to make a trip out to Los Angeles.

Charles announces that he’s going to grab a 1966 Malbec so that they can all drink in celebration of opening night getting such rave reviews. 

But once he enters his apartment, a gunshot flies through the window and hits him… or what looks to be him. It’s soon revealed that the victim is Sazz, Charles’ double who was dressed just like him. She lays bleeding out on his kitchen floor, whimpering in pain.

Charles was likely the intended target… and it looks like this core trio won’t have to look too far to find their next case. The series always finds a way to keep it interesting. 

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The Bear

The Bear Season 2 Premiere Recap – Every Second Counts

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The Bear Season 2 Episode 1 Beef

The Bear returned to Hulu with a second season—and right off the bat, you can tell they’re going to have a little more fun with it. 

There’s still plenty of grit and dark humor to go around, but there’s also an air of lightheartedness that often comes with a second chance—and in this case, this is the second chance for Carmy and his team of chefs to turn things around and make an establishment they believe in and are proud of. 

The second chance seems like a good idea until they start hitting roadblock after roadblock with their new plans to revamp the beef sandwich shop into a world-class restaurant (Sydeny makes it clear she plans to earn a Michelin star!).

They thought they found the jackpot when they located Mikey’s stashed money, but they quickly learn just how much everything costs when you want to “let it rip” and start over. Not to mention there are plenty of legal pushbacks that they have to deal with, which is where Natalie, Carmy’s sister, who I’m assuming is pregnant—hence the “I wanted to throw up” and “timing is off” comments— comes into play. Carmy has the vision and the background, but he’s absolutely terrible at the money and time management side of things, and Natalie’s project management skills prove to be useful to keep them on track despite an ambitious re-opening timeline. 

Carmy also strikes a deal with Jimmy Cicero, much like his brother, managing to get an additional 500k out of him on top of the 300k that they found in sauce cans with the caveat that if they don’t turn a profit in 18 months, he gets the whole business. It’s a big risk to go all in, but Carmy sees no other way—plus if you have to, always bet on yourself. 

The first season showed us how difficult change can be, but this season is already plating the experiences of owning a restaurant as tougher than anyone could ever imagine. In addition to the ins and outs, you also have to compete with all the incredible places already out there at every corner. 

None of this deters Carmy, Sydney, or even Natalie, however, as they all find themselves back at the restaurant a few hours after leaving early for the day, and more motivated than ever. They know that in order to make this work, they have to kick it into high gear, or, as the writing on the calendar notes, “every second counts.”

We’re past the mourning Mikey phase, and now, The Bear is aiming to make him proud and give everyone a renowned sense of purpose and meaning, even if that entails pouring every inch of energy into making Chicago a must-dining destination. 

And with that comes a lot of heart, uneasiness, tender moments (like Sydney asking Tina to be her sous and Richie having an existential life crisis), and plenty of laughs that also cement The Bear as much-watch television. 

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