It seems like this season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been the most self-referential, for better and for worse. In this penultimate episode, “Thunder Gun Express,” before the two-part season finale, the show becomes essentially the It’s Always Sunny’s version of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World except packed with references to episodes prior, and less laughs.
“Thunder Gun Express” finds The Gang pumped to see the newest blockbuster Thunder Gun because it’s apparently the greatest movie in America and because the main character “hangs dong.” When they find out that the president’s trip to Philadelphia is causing traffic problems, the five eventually end up splitting up in an each-man-for-himself effort to make it to the theater as the clock is literally ticking. Dennis attempts to fight the traffic while listening to tapes of girls he has been with, Charlie and Dee hit the sewers, Mac attempts to steal a motorcycle and heads back to the car, helmet in hand, and Frank steals a boat filled with tourists.
The episode is filled with the pasts of these characters. There is the first mention of The D.E.N.N.I.S. System since its discussion in the season five episode of the same name and Dennis’ creepy habit of taping girls that he’s had sex with. The most blatant and lazy referencing is Frank’s, well frank recitation of events past as he literally lists off moments that have happened in past seasons. This almost feels like the SNL skit “The Chris Farley Show,” where Farley would just list off moments that have happened and talk about how cool they were. The only great moment of personal reference is when Dee says that she hopes to not be late so they can all sit together, to which Dennis replies “if we get split up, we’ll just yell over everybody to each other till they get annoyed and switch,” which of course happens when they do get to the theater. Everyone makes it, except Frank, who gets arrested then calls in a bomb threat to stop the rest of the gang from enjoying the movie that he didn’t even have a ticket for.
The biggest problem with “Thunder Gun Express” is it basically just plays off the usual character aspects that the show always does without adding anything new to the mix. We get creepy Dennis moments, Mac’s problems with being fat, Charlie having no problem being in gross situations, Dee’s gigantic feet and Frank’s outlook of causing mayhem without any care for consequences.
It’s not that “Thunder Gun Express” is terrible; it just doesn’t really add anything new to the show and basically just reinforces facts that every other episode usually discusses anyway. There are some fun diversions, like the segment of Charlie and Dee in the sewer and Charlie’s naked plan to escape waves of water filled with excrement. But “Thunder Gun Express” feels like It’s Always Sunny trying to take the gang on an adventure, but they end up falling into their old ways, just in a new setting.