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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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Internet Reacts to ‘Prey,’ Hulu’s Most-Watched Movie

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Internet Reacts to Hulu's Hit Movie 'Prey'

Hulu’s new action-thriller, Prey, a prequel to Predator, has been deemed a breakout hit.

The film starring Roswell, New Mexico’s Amber Midthunder as Naru is set in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago, centuries prior to the 1987 original film. 

Naru is a fierce warrior who “has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains.”

When danger lurks nearby, she aims to protect her people from the prey that ends up being an evolved alien predator.

People have loved the film so much, that according to Variety, it’s Hulu’s most viewed project — among TV and movies — logging the most viewing hours ever in the first three days.

Disney opted to forgo a theatrical release, choosing a streaming release on August 5, but based on the reviews and comments from fans, they may want to rethink that strategy. Turns out, plenty of viewers would pay to watch it on the big-screen again… it was that good!

Here’s what the internet is saying about it:

https://twitter.com/bloodybluntspod/status/1555746536318832640?s=20&t=I8Q6M2O5PACyPujOLqcY8A

https://twitter.com/nightwaynes/status/1555756197755641856?s=20&t=I8Q6M2O5PACyPujOLqcY8A

https://twitter.com/DDNumeroUno/status/1555381320003358725?s=20&t=I8Q6M2O5PACyPujOLqcY8A

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Only Murders in the Building Review – The Tell (2×05)

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Only Murders in the Building Review The Tell Season 2 Episode 5

Oh, Oliver Putnam did not read the room on Only Murders in the Building Season 2 Episode 5. 

Murder mystery party games are my jam, but there’s a line that you simply cannot cross—accusing a party attendee of actual murder. 

This season’s mystery seems to be getting the best of our trio. We’re five episodes deep, and yet, they’ve somehow gotten away from any actual theories. It’s almost as if they never solved a mystery before in their lives. Are they simply too close to it this time? Closer than Charles dating the murderer?

Even their podcast groupies are onto the fact that they have a whole bunch of nothing after all this time investigating. 

And their work has gotten sloppy—they’re talking through theories out in the open for everyone to hear at what is possible a place the murderer frequents. They are being carless with facts. And they are openly revealing that they have absolutely no suspect in the whodunit by accusing Alice at the party. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s not one bone in my body that trusts Alice. I always thought she was an opportunist for pursuing Mabel, and after she basically admitted to being a poor man’s Anna Delvey in order to make a name for herself in the art world, I’m even more convinced of it. She knew that associating with Mabel would bring a lot of attention to herself and the gallery. There’s no doubt about her motives, though, it’s possible that at some point along the way, she actually fell in love. 

However, I’m with Oliver on the whole “you have a tell” thing. When confronted, Alice came clean about her fake identity, which made everyone, particularly Mabel, sympathetic to her cause. Of course, no one would suspect her of murder if she was just outed for being a fraud. But anyone who can blatantly lie to people like that about their upbringing is a master storyteller that can weave exceptional tales and, also, likely cover up murder. 

By making herself Oliver’s target, she has gained Mabel’s trust and created a rift, a fracture in the ecosystem of our amateur detectives. 

I’m hoping that they don’t count her out entirely because there was definitely something off about Alice from the moment we met her. And while I don’t ever want to agree with the lunatic Jan on anything, she does have a point about an artist staying close to her work.

With the heat off of Alice, she can now move in the shadows, and by gaining Mabel’s trust, she can always stay one step ahead of them because she’ll know what the plan is. It’s exactly why Jan remained so close to the case; she could steer it in the direction she wanted. 

On the other hand, it’s a bit too on the nose to have the killer be a romantic partner once again. It’s almost too predictable at this point. 

Admittedly, I’m truly disappointed with Charles for continuing to communicate with Jan. I understand that he’s lost and lonely, and no one has ever understood him the way Jan did—they had a genuine connection, aside from all the murder business— but there’s just no overlooking the crime she committed.

It would be one thing to talk to her for insight, but he’s falling into old patterns, which is a slippery slope.

Jan provides them with a look inside the mind of a killer, but this killer is intentionally framing them and they don’t seem to be the least bit interested into the why.

This season has provided backstories for both Charles and Oliver, so it’s fair to say that all these pieces likely fit into the overall puzzle. But for now, it’s unclear who.

Oliver’s backstory focused more on his ability to sniff out when someone is lying, and a lot of that had to do with his son Will.

It’s been nice to see the two of them patching things up and establishing a relationship, especially since they were so close when Will was younger, but it also underscored that the rockin’ ’70s party host had a bit of a blind spot when it came to the people he loved. 

While helping his son with a family tree project at school, Will did a DNA test and realized that half of his DNA was Greek and not Irish as he was led to believe.

When he confronted his father, Oliver put two and two together and realized that his wife had an affair with Teddy Dimas. And thus, Will was never Oliver’s son, he was the son of Oliver’s archnemesis. 

This gives a whole new meaning to Teddy’s “I’m going to f**** you, Oliver” threat from a few episodes prior!  Teddy has been messing with Oliver for years, but this is the biggest blow. 

How is it going to shape the story moving forward? And how does it fit into the murder mystery loosely holding the season together?

Teddy has plenty of reasons for wanting to frame Oliver, but I don’t think he’d do it by faking that the murder weapon was Mabel’s knitting needle. The paternity doesn’t seem to play any part in Bunny’s murder unless Bunny figured it out and threatened to expose the truth. If that’s the case, it’s possible that even Will’s mother and Oliver’s ex could be the killer!

Amid all the chaos, Mabel stumbled upon a clue while exploring the secret passageways (not so secret anymore), and the matchbook led them to a diner that Bunny frequented. Oliver befriended the waiter, Ivan, who pulled up the surveillance footage from a few days prior to her death. Unfortunately, it’s hard to figure out who the hooded figure might be, even if they do seemingly have a DNA blood sample on the matchbook. 

Is the killer connected to Oliver’s past? Charles’s past? Is Alice somehow involved? After all, she was the son of Sam and kept it a secret.

We’re digging deep into the relationships of Mabel, Oliver, and Charles to shape them as characters, and it turns out, they have a lot of deeply rooted isuses that could be exploited by anyone with nefarious intentions or a grudge. Could they all have a darkr side that we’ve never seen? Or are they the perfect victims to turn into suspects?

Are they too preoccupied with their own drama to give this case the attention it deserves?

Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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Maggie Season 1 Review – Nostalgia Meets the Future in This Psychic Rom-Com

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Maggie Season 1 Review - Nostalgia Meets the Future in This Fun Rom-Com

Hulu’s latest original series, Maggie, about a 30-something-year-old psychic is an unexpected treat.

The concept of seeing into the future isn’t entirely new to millennials, so it makes sense that the series is geared toward the demographic with nostalgic references and jokes that only people who lived through the ’90s and still think it’s the best decade would ever actually understand let alone appreciate.

The series taps into that millennial magic with its quirky blend of That’s So Raven, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch – with a sprinkle of Good Witch for good measure. Heck, even Sabrina Spellman’s former principal Willard Kraft (guest star Martin Mull) walks into Maggie’s storefront as Zach, a man looking for a reading to determine whether or not he should retire. It’s just one of many Easter eggs for millennials. 

Why? Because Maggie is an adult Disney show is Disney made show for adults.

And that’s precisely why you need to watch it.

Admittedly, the first episode feels slightly disjointed and a little too fast-paced, but that’s to be expected when you’re jumping into the thick of things without really knowing what to expect. By episode 2, you’re fully hooked into Maggie’s drama and captivated by the eccentric supporting cast, which also includes Chris Elliot from Schitt’s Creek in the role of the titular character’s father, Jack. This is no Schitt’s Creek, don’t be mistaken, but it’s an enjoyable and breezy watch from beginning to end with a charming nature that kicks things into PG-13 territory at times. 

Rebecca Rittenhouse ebbs and flows between an ethereal being and your normal girl next door. It’s never too much because — with visions or without them — she’s just a girl that can’t figure out her own life even when she has all the answers in the palm of her hands. 

Despite the visions giving audiences a glimpse at what’s to come, the mystery never fades as we quickly learn that the visions are devious little things that don’t always show the full picture… likely on purpose. 

And what we come to gather pretty quickly is that Maggie relies on them all too much. She’s so focused on the future, she forgets to live in the present or follow her heart since she always knows what’s going to happen next. And while that sounds great on the surface, there’s a reason us mere mortals don’t know what’s going to happen next — it’s the perfect breeding ground for self-sabotage.

Maggie does a lot of that throughout the 13-episode run. 

Her first misstep is when she ends things with Ben (David Del Rio) — a once sidekick on Beauty and the Baker that has quickly (and deservedly) ventured into heartthrob territory.  After their swoon-worthy meeting and one-night stand, their connection is undeniable and has the potential to become so much more. In fact, according to her vision, she could have gone all the way with Ben as he’s the one, the soulmate, and the man she actually sees herself having kids with.

Of course, that’s too easy, and Maggie’s picture-perfect life is destroyed within minutes when she gets a vision of him standing at the alter with another woman, which forces her to end things because “she knows how it will end anyway.” Except that she doesn’t.

Maggie Season 1 Review - Nostalgia Meets the Future in This Fun Rom-Com

Credit: Maggie/ Hulu

Much of Maggie’s visions do, in fact, come true. A few months later, Ben does move into the duplex her parents own, with his high school soulmate and on-and-off-again girlfriend, Jessie. But while Ben and Jessie are a cute couple — we even like Jessie! — it’s clear that things between them are still choppy, especially since Ben naturally gravitates toward Maggie at every opportunity. They never go there, but emotional cheating is emotional cheating. And those stolen glances between Ben and Maggie, I mean, there’s no denying it.

As nice as Jessie is, you can’t help but root for Ben and Maggie through all the ups and downs of the season, including when Maggie gives Daniel, a great guy on the surface, a shot. Even then, Ben seems to pick up on the fact that he’s just not right for her, and when it’s revealed that Daniel doesn’t believe in her superpowers, Ben is there to pick up the pieces with some cake. Why? Because he’s a man that knows the way to her heart. He knows her, sometimes better than she knows herself.

Also, let me segue really briefly into Daniel. He claims to love Maggie, but then tells her that their whole lives don’t have to revolve around her visions, which is fair, they don’t, but in that ask, he wants her to ignore and mute a core part of who she is instead of embracing it and finding a way to incorporate it into his life.  It’s one thing to encourage her to live life without constantly seeking approval from the future and coming from a place of love like Angel, but it’s another thing entirely to attempt to mansplain it, which is what Daniel did. He was dismissive of Maggie and her feelings. She deserves better; and seeing Daniel’s hesitancy to accept Maggie, while Ben didn’t even question her abilities further propels Ben into “the one” territory.

There are a few moments where Maggie acknowledges the depths of her feelings for Ben, including when she finally opens up to her mom about their brief yet meaningful fling, but those are rare and far and few in between. Mostly, she’s just doing what’s “expected of her,” and what she thinks she “should do,” which again, is where most of the problems stem from.

In fact, it’s why she loses her powers in the first place. While trying to help people, Maggie gets too caught up in seeing her own future while simultaneously denying what she was seeing based solely on fear.

Her mind eventually blocks out the visions to protect her from something bad, which ends up being Jessie finding out about Maggie’s hookup with Ben.

The problem here isn’t that they had a thing since it happened while Ben and Jessie were broken up, but it’s more about betrayal by all of the people she loved and trusted, including Ben. In a refreshing moment, Jessie also doesn’t put the full blame on Maggie, who is all too eager to take it anyway, but she acknowledges that part of the fallout is that Ben doesn’t seem convinced that he wants to pursue a future with her. After 14 years, he still doesn’t know what he wants and won’t commit to her fully. 

Maggie then figures that the only way to course-correct and possibly get her visions back is to help fix the problem she created. She pushes Ben towards Jessie by telling him that she’s his future. It seems logical since she saw them getting married in her vision, but she’s also ignoring all the other visions that very clearly allude to Ben and Maggie having a family together one day. She’s still sacrificing her happiness for others and meddling instead of just being honest and allowing her heart to dictate what happens next.

And that’s a steep price to pay.

It’s also clear that by not trusting her heart and using her visions to dictate her future, Maggie pushed Ben right back into Jessie’s arms creating this whole mess. When Ben finds himself at a crossroads, he has a heart-to-heart with Maggie where she suggests that maybe she’s his soulmate, but Maggie continues to push him toward Jessie thinking that she can just fix the problem by ignoring it. But the truth is, if you have to convince someone to be with their long-time girlfriend, it’s likely not the person they should be with. 

Maggie Season 1 Review - Nostalgia Meets the Future in This Fun Rom-Com

Credit: Maggie/ Hulu

Nevertheless, the final episode finds Ben and Jessie engaged. And when Maggie’s visions finally return, she gets some conflicting information as she sees both herself and Jessie standing at the altar with Ben. Initially, I thought that maybe Maggie’s visions were testing her and that Jessie was actually getting married to someone else, but now I’m thinking this is proof that nothing is set in stone. Your actions — today, yesterday, and tomorrow — have the power to change the future. 

What if upon meeting Ben, Maggie said “screw the visions” and kept a good thing going? Would that have changed the future and removed Jessie from the equation entirely? Or would they still end up in this situation only for Ben to realize that he’s been trying to make things work with the wrong woman?

Obviously, things are messy now considering the whole ring of it all, but if she truly loves Ben and can’t see her life without him, she owes it to herself, to him, and heck, even Jessie, to get in the middle and mess it all up.  This unconventional triangle is simply setting them up for more heartache down the line by not actually being honest. 

Plus, an engagement doesn’t just make all the problems disappear. Jessie and Ben simply glossed over their core issues because they wanted to make this work instead of getting down to the root of it all. What led to their previous breakups is bound to bubble up again, ring or not.

The supporting cast offers a bit of reprieve from the whole “will they or won’t they” trope.

Lou is a fun contrast to Maggie’s more methodical personality. She’s free-spirited and up for anything, but she also knows exactly how to ground Maggie when it’s needed. Her choice in men hasn’t always been the best (looking at you. John), but I’m hoping that Sam, a fellow pug owner that she meets at Dave and Amy’s wedding, might finally be the real deal. I felt for her when she talked about the degrading nature of online dating.  

Everyone on the show is fantastic, and while they started off as exaggerated characters, mostly Dave and Amy, they’ve really brought a wealth of personality to the series. Angel, however, takes the cake as the best support system a girl could ever have. He’s punny, confident, and most of all, full of knowledge that helps move the narrative along. 

Really clever shows tend to get the ax all too soon, but considering that cliffhanger demands answers, I hope we get a second season.

If only I had a crystal ball to make sure that Hulu lives in the moment and makes the right decision for Maggie’s future!

Did you watch the series?

We give it a B+! What grade would you give it? Let us know in the comments below! 

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