After something like a decade of teases and okie-dokes, some somewhat subtle and some the equivalent of a flashing neon billboard hooked up to a foghorn, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia finally went ahead and did it. All the way. No turning back. (Probably, although who really knows with this show. Stranger things have happened. Scott Bakula played himself as a singing janitor a few weeks ago.) In the sixth episode of season twelve, “Hero or Hate Crime?” (and the spoilers are coming fast from here on out, so jump ship now if you want to avoid them), Mac came out of the closet. Mac is gay. There it is.
But before we get to that, a brief discussion about how we got there, because the episode as a whole was really something, and it would be a shame to brush all that aside to discuss its big reveal. A rundown: A two-dollar scratch-off lottery ticket blows out of Dee’s purse. It comes to rest on the sidewalk at Mac’s feet, because he and Charlie have stopped due to Charlie’s decision to step in dog crap, on purpose, for reasons that include a skunk and cologne and cigarettes. A piano breaks free from a rope and falls from the sky. Frank, seeing this, on a brief break from peeping up women’s skirts (“bird watching”), shouts a gay slur that start with “F” to get Mac’s attention. Charlie hears it and drop kicks Mac out of harm’s way with his poop-covered shoe. Everyone is safe. But who has the rightful claim to the ticket?
(Dennis makes a claim to it, too. His has to do with money given to Dee for the purpose of seducing a very young convenience store cashier. It involves a lengthy discussion of “making deposits” to prepare for “a hefty withdrawal,” and that second phrase is said in the classic Dennis Reynolds Implication voice. lt’s a whole thing. You should watch it.)
What follows is a twisting, turning episode that takes place almost entirely in a conference room as they cycle through arbiters. It’s always fun when the gang interacts with the law because it puts a spotlight on the differences between upright society and their amoral, lunatic behavior. This is that, but more. The arbiters’ faces as the five of them have a legitimately thoughtful discussion of free and hurtful speech — the Always Sunny version of thoughtful, which includes C-words and N-words and at least one other word I’m kind of shocked FXX let them say — were a priceless mix of shock and exasperation. And the end result of it all was that Frank and Mac would have to split the value of the ticket, because if Mac is straight, then the warning was an insult and not hate speech.
If this seems like the silliest possible way to bring about a major character revelation on a long-running series, there’s a good reason for that: It kind of is the silliest possible way to bring about a major character revelation on a long-running series. There was dog poop, and a falling piano, and the news that Dee might have Parkinson’s Disease was promptly discarded in a flurry of insults, because It’s Always Sunny is still It’s Always Sunny, over a decade after its premiere. And yet, there we were, in the closing moments of the show, hearing Mac finally announce that he’s gay, and sticking with it even after everyone told him he could recant if he wanted after he claimed the ticket. He looked so content and relieved. It was almost sweet, really.
(We go with “almost” here for a few reasons. One, because I am not entirely comfortable using the word “sweet” to describe this show, even if it is reasonably accurate in this situation. And two, because the revelation involved a dildo-thrusting bicycle seat that Mac invented. It’s the kind of thing that someone could take offense to, I imagine, and as a straight white guy I don’t think I’m fully qualified to say where the joke landed. Although the type of person who was already watching the show is probably also the type of person who isn’t easily offended. Let’s file it all under the South Park Rule for now, in part because that might be the only other basic cable comedy that can get away with using both the N- and C-words in a single 90 second span, and in part because South Park literally had an anally-penetrating bicycle-type transportation system in an episode a few years ago. There’s precedent here.)
And as Charlie Day revealed to Uproxx‘s Mike Ryan recently, the team behind the show –the episode was written by Day, Rob McElhenney, and Glenn Howerton — didn’t come to the decision lightly.
[I]n the end, what was better for society won out even over characters who never stop disappointing us. Day explains, “But I also think with what the sort of message is behind him making that decision, I think it actually does more sort of societal good to finally have Mac make that decision. So we decided, all right, let’s find a way to actually have that happen.”
So there you have it. We’ll see how it all plays out in the episodes that follow “Hero or Hate Crime?,” but the headline today is that Mac is gay now, officially, for good. For society. Because of a $10,000 scratcher that ended up netting him all of $14 after the costs of the arbitration, and possibly even less than that if he has to replace his now poop-encrusted “BEAST COAST” t-shirt.
Still. Worth it.