It's Always Sunny In Philadephia Is Wasting Dee (& Spending Too Much Time On Mac)

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has rarely painted the world its protagonists inhabit as ... well, fair, to say the least. However, the series itself has — in the past — always been pretty good at portioning its screentime out into equal slices for each of its misanthropic main five. Until recently.

Sure, there have always been seasons where one character has pulled more narrative weight than another, whether that be Mac MacDonald's (Rob Mcelhenney) longform coming out story or Dennis Reynold's (Glenn Howerton) attempt at leaving the gang behind for a stab at domestic bliss under an assumed name. But over the past few installments, it feels as if the show's producers have no idea what to do with Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson). And that's becoming a bigger problem. 

While everyone else on the show has undergone epiphanies and major life changes, Dee has floundered, and the show has struggled to find a way to use her properly. The character has slipped into the background, not driving the show's plot nor adding any fresh quirks or layers to her personality. Meanwhile, "Always Sunny" has been spending a lot of time on Mac's foibles, and while his recent queer odyssey was lovely, the series has since been unable to land on anything interesting or concrete for him. He's been out there spinning his wheels, round and round. 16 seasons deep into the show, this is definitely an imbalance, and it's something that needs to be addressed.

Dee used to drive a big chunk of Always Sunny's plot

Once upon a time, the show knew how to balance Dee's storylines with those of the rest of the gang. With enthusiasm, we've followed her surrogate pregnancy, her failed comedy career, and her repeated attempts at finding love. Those events have occurred in tandem with Charlie Kelly's (Charlie Day) pursuit of the Waitress, Frank's (Danny DeVito) quest to be as outlandish as possible, Dennis' search for power and fame, and Mac's attempt at finding a father figure (while discarding the other father figures he's collected throughout the years).  

But ever since Season 14's "Dee Day," the character has generally faded into the background. Even episodes that are supposed to nominally be about her, like "Dee Sinks in a Bog," end up being more about Charlie, Frank, and Mac. Adding insult to injury, three of the show's five main characters have received intelligent plotlines which have given insight into their personalities, while Dee has been sitting on the sidelines.  To wit, the only real character development involves the revelation that Dee's crass, insecure, and nasty personality came from a head injury during "The Gang Buys a Roller Rink."

This is emblematic of the lack of character growth Dee has faced, which has resulted in her being used as a sight gag. She's often seen doing things like sporting a terrible short haircut, sinking in a bog, suffering from temporary facial paralysis, or standing around with her hand glued to a wall. This is funny enough, but the character could be doing so much more.

Mac's coming out story on Always Sunny was incredible - but they haven't figured out what to do with him since

One of the best storylines in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" history was, without question, Mac's coming out story. The process of bringing Mac out of the closet took seasons, was handled with a surprisingly judicious amount of sensitivity, and didn't detract from his ridiculous and sometimes less-than-lovely personality.

However, since "Mac Finds His Pride," which also provided Mac some closure with his prison-bound father, the character's since assumed way too much of the series' central narrative without providing new things. This would be fine if "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" had something funny for him to do, or a bold plotline that furthered the previous success they've had with the character, but instead his plot beats have been empty, repetitive, and taken entirely too much time. Mac's tales primarily revolve around his quest for a father figure, a journey which has taken many different forms since Season 14, and nothing he's done recently feels important, new, or funny. Some of these tales have been fleetingly amusing, such as his dogged pursuit of one-on-one time with Chas Utley, but others have been dull, or just plain retreads of old topics. 

Thankfully, recent episodes have explored his attempts at dating other guys, which will at least add some fresh fodder to the mix.

Other Always Sunny characters have been getting better stories

On the other hand, the show has been doing better by Charlie and Dennis. After years of trying, Charlie has actually managed to date The Waitress — leading to a relationship that causes Charlie to accuse her of stalking him –  and he also anchored two fun solo episodes, a film noir parody in "the Janitor Mops Twice," and "Charlie's Home Alone," where he works solo opposite himself, while the rest of the gang's watching the Eagles at the Superbowl. Aside from his foray into parenthood, Dennis has also grappled with his marriage to the late Maureen Ponderosa. While Dennis has suffered from weaker plot options — looking at you, Episode 4's attempt at reinventing the D.E.N.N.I.S. System — at least he doesn't feel like as much of an afterthought as Dee does in the larger scheme of things.

While Frank hasn't carried much of the show's plot before, at least he's gotten to do some unique things over the past few seasons, like represent America in a chess battle. Even Cricket (David Hornsby) has become the central focus of an entire semi-serious episode by now. All of this further demonstrates how badly Dee has been left behind, while the show takes its male characters to new heights.

Always Sunny needs to restore the balance

So how should the show solve its Dee problem? 

One of the easiest solutions to Season 16's Dee doldrums would be to give her a semi-serious plotline like Dennis or Mac's. Perhaps the baby she carried, all those years ago — who would now be an adolescent — could come to her, seeking advice. Maybe she could get another career breakthrough. Or perhaps she could find a new calling, and surprise the gang by actually being competent at it. The point is that the writers should actually try to give her something new and interesting to do, just like they do for the other characters.

Fortunately, Season 16 has already tried to counterbalance the series' sense of screen time by putting more group shenanigans into play. Though those group plots have generally broken down into typical configurations — putting Frank and Dee in one plot, while Mac, Charlie, and Dennis are in another — at least that evens out the screen time between the characters. It's only a tiny step toward giving viewers more Dee, but at least it's better than nothing at all.