The setup poses a number of problems that would stick in my craw more in a lesser episode. Frank and Dee’s motivation for breaking up the union just as a means of lording Dennis’ alimony payments over him seems forced, seeing as it’s never come up before. More problematic is the idea that Marie Ponderosa would hookup with a McPoyle, or vice versa. The more time we spend with any of the guest characters, the more apparent it is that The Gang’s social maladjustment seems inherent to Philadelphia, but the McPoyles operate at another stratosphere of crazy compared to Maureen, who’s really just kinda clingy, and has a thing for cat sweaters.
Both problems are ignorable because of the payoff they provide. I’ll accept Dee and Frank’s conniving just so we can get everyone together at an event no member of the group has a natural in for, and a backwoods gathering of McPoyles is so utterly terrifying in concept, my quibbles over the details of how such a thing would come to be were pretty much eradicated once Liam and Ryan showed up (well, Maureen’s brother Bill being the only visible Pondersa family member present did still kinda stick out).
You can’t have a cabin in the woods-style story without an incestuous redneck family terrorizing it, and the McPoyles fit that bill to a T, having kept there bloodline pure for generations –which, incidentally, is what led to half of them getting wiped out by syphilis. Liam violating that purity by marrying an outsider forces Ryan to ally with Frank and Dee to stop the wedding, which adds a twisty murder mystery vibe to his scenes…until Ryan gives an incredibly suggestive apology to Liam on hand and knee.
The longer The Gang hangs around waiting for Dennis to get his legal documents signed by Maureen, the stranger the groom’s family starts to act, -and we’re talking strange even by McPoyle standards-. Already spooked by Frank getting bit by a bat, Charlie and Mac have no choice but to conclude there’s been a zombie outbreak, and that it’s time to get the hell out of there. After locking Dee in a meat freezer for showing symptoms of bat rabies, Frank and a visibly shaken Dennis join the pair, and we wind up back where we started.
The idea of having The Gang do their usual bickering and tangential musing in the middle of a zombie outbreak proves to be a great one, as additional references to other horror classics like The Exorcist get thrown in along with the usual tomfoolery, such as Charlie ploughing Dee’s car straight into a tree after convincing Mac he would remember how to drive as he went along. The use of flashbacks can feel stilted at times, with repeated footage catching us up on things that happened five minutes ago for us, but coming back to the interrogation room was a smart way to make the wedding seem more comedic than horrifying, like a ridiculous story that needed clarifying. And for crying out loud, Charlie does the entire Robert Shaw speech from Jaws, except with rats instead of sharks, so such minor faults seem pitiful by comparison.
The episode ends with a pair of revelations, the best being the explanation of why the McPoyles were acting so erratic and why Liam wound up with half his face chewed off. Maureen’s brother Bill spiking the milk bowl with bath salts might be the best use of drugs on the show since Dennis and Dee got hooked on crack, giving a reason for the strange goings on that’s both more and less insane than a legitimate zombie outbreak. Less interesting is Dennis admitting that he slept with the newly well-endowed Maureen, though again, the payoff is what sells it. Dennis banging Maureen was destined as soon as he saw her “enhanced” chest, but it’s worth it just to see Howerton soaked in flop sweat (in an episode that might set a record for most used) and to hear him complain that “the nipple placement is crazy.”
Again, there were structural problems you could point to as to how the plot plays out both in real time and as a flashback narrative, but they’re easy to ignore when the episode they’re a part of is this funny and fresh. “Maureen Ponderosa’s Wedding Massacre” makes a strong case for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia embracing new, adventurous ideas. We’ll have to see if the writers can cook up something this special once removed from the clip show and holiday special conceits, but with characters this unpredictable, getting weird might be the best thing that ever happened to the show.
- Stray Thoughts
-It’s been fun filling in for Alexander, but fear not! He’ll be back as the unofficial 6th member of The Gang next week.
-Viewers with better facial recognition software than I will notice that the bearded McPoyle shouting about a baby he had to eat (it was self-defence) is actually famed director Guillermo del Toro, who found a role for Charlie Day in his new Giant Robots vs. Giant Monsters movie, Pacific Rim.
-I actually do think a found-footage style episode would have potential. Hell, just do a straight up Paranormal Activity spoof set at the bar, it’d be worth it just to see Mac put on his priest uniform in order to perform an exorcism.
-I imagine a lot of thought went into deciding whether or not Ryan was actually doing to Liam what we’re led to believe he’s doing when he’s apologizing. The McPoyles have made such an impression over the years, it’s hard to believe this is only the sixth episode they’ve been in.