It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 16 (2023) Review
THE Gang returns for their 16th season, and despite critics labelling the show as being past its prime, Always Sunny in Philadelphia continues to surprise audiences with its absurd humour and surprisingly consistent storytelling across its 18-year life span.
Fans may be disappointed that Season 16 follows the previous season's length of eight episodes, but unlike Season 15's divisive reception, this latest season brings The Gang back to their roots: wacky adventures and ego-driven schemes. Creators and co-stars Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney have certainly traded straightforward humour with meaningful character development in recent years. Previous finales have focused on different characters and their internal struggles in the past, whether it be Mac finding his pride in Season 14, Charlie coming to terms with life without a father in Season 15, or most recently, Season 16 showing the world just how Dennis' sociopathic tendencies sporadically are kept hidden when needed. All these finales represent the best of It's Always Sunny and why The Gang has remained consistently hilarious and heartfelt since their introduction in 2005.
The season kicked things into high gear with The Gang Inflates, an episode which served as a near-perfect debut for the new season of Sunny. Each character is given their own subplot and plenty of time to shine among the madness, with Dee, Dennis and Mac learning just how hard the economy can hit people, letting new viewers learn more about their personalities along the way, particularly Mac who is portrayed equal parts loveable and idiotic. Long time viewers are also treated with plot continuity as Frank discovers a secret about Charlie's apartment that had always remained a mystery, but just something you never thought about until it was brought to light in the episode's first act; a welcome surprise to be sure.
Episodes two and three follow The Gang on wildly different misadventures as they make their way through a series of unfortunate events. Despite containing small snippets of comedy, the episodes feel underwhelming and primarily serve as fan service for dedicated viewers as both episodes feature returning characters such as Mac and Charlie's mothers, Uncle Jack, and Philadelphia icons Chase Utley and Gritty.
Thankfully the season kicks things back into high gear with Frank vs. Russia, an episode that becomes one of the best modern episodes of Always Sunny ironically not because of Frank, but his ill-tempered son Dennis. Mac and Dee are struggling to find boyfriends as of late, so Dennis introduces the two to the S.I.N.N.E.D System, a full-proof plan designed to maintain relationships. This call back and inverse of the infamous D.E.N.N.I.S System proves that all you need is a bit of nostalgia to carry and episode, and even Frank's standard plot manages to progress the episode in a meaningful way that doesn't make it feel like a simple rehash.
Celebrity cameos from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul help keep viewers interested through their entertaining dynamic being similar to Mac and Dennis' in the following episode. But in the end, it is the final two episodes that help elevate Season 16 to be arguably the best modern season of Always Sunny. The Gang Goes Bowling sees the return of fan favourites The Waitress, Artemis, Gail the Snail and The McPoyles. These characters carry this battle of the sexes showcase as Dee finally gets the upper hand on her sociopathic brother in what ends up being an entertaining character showcase for all involved. And as previously mentioned, the finale leans into Dennis' sociopath side as it follows a day in the life of Dennis Reynolds and the many trials and tribulations he goes through, concluding with a masterful subversion that proves to be one of the best character analysis's the show has done...so far.
Season 16 may not be on par with the show's golden era of Season 5, but it comes incredibly close. Always Sunny remains one of the best comedies currently airing, hence why it has remained one of the longest running sitcoms in history. Despite small slumps in the middle, Season 16 serves as a fresh introduction for newcomers and delightful snapshot for veterans in what may just be their best outing since the seasons hit double-digits.