Back in the second season, when Danny DeVito’s Frank was introduced, he was a savvy businessman who was focused more on money and business than running around the sewers of Philadelphia naked. Yet throughout the seasons, Frank has given up on his past, furthering his degradation over the years. But whenever It’s Always Sunny tries to go back to “normal Frank,” or at least look into his past, it never quite pulls it off. Take for example last year’s “Frank’s Brother,” which solely dealt with young Frank and is quite possibly the worst episode of the entire series. If Frank is swimming after rum ham or playing night crawlers with Charlie, he’s fine, but make him normal again and the episode falters, much like it does in “Frank’s Back in Business.”
Season eight has been a highly experimental season, bringing back obscure characters, taking plots from the past and recycling them and generally having a reverence for the past, delighting longtime fans. “Frank’s Back in Business” is less in-your-face with the season’s theme than past episodes have been, by just returning Frank to his original season two characteristics. But unfortunately, season two Frank just isn’t as fun to watch and frankly is a bit too predictable, which is a problem with the entire episode.
In “Frank’s Back in Business,” Frank is called by the heads of the company Atwater that he founded to save the business. Soon after, Dee, Dennis and Mac find a wallet in Paddy’s belonging to a Brian LeFevre. After finding three Phillies tickets inside, they go to the game to find out quickly that LeFevre is a high-roller, getting box seats and trying to be won over by two businessmen. Dennis uses this as an excuse to become LeFevre, because according to Dennis, wearing another man’s skin is the ultimate way to get off.
But before the first commercial break, it’s entirely too obvious how these two stories will converge. Considering this is a show that has had episodes about child beauty pageants that end with a dead hooker, or start about a garbage problem and end with Dee in blackface, “Frank’s Back in Business” doesn’t shock as much as it could. But the show gets the chance, as it would have been incredibly amusing to see part of the new Frank pop up in the old, or especially in the increasingly dark serial killer-like storyline of Dennis, but it never goes for it.
One of It’s Always Sunny’s biggest draws is also one of its biggest flaws, as we see in this episode. There’s rarely an episode where anything changes for these characters. In that aspect, It’s Always Sunny is much more like an animated sitcom than a live-action comedy. This can be used to the show’s advantage, but it also can make the endings of some episodes incredibly obvious. Old Frank isn’t nearly as fun as New Frank has been, but having him in a position of power could have made for some interesting follow-up episodes. But instead, the episode once again wipes the slate clean, having Frank sell the business and allow himself to return to the modern version. When everything returns to normal each week, it can sometimes make you wish for even a little bit of change to shake things up.
Frank gets some fun moments throughout the episode, but Glenn Howerton’s transformation is the real highlight of the night, as he pushes just how far he will go to get off in another man’s skin. It’s disturbing but hilarious. The episode also tries to bring another “Kitten Mittens”-level commercial for “Fight Milk,” the drink made by bodyguards, for bodyguards that will let you soar as high as the crow. It’s a enjoyable diversion near the episode’s end, but feels more like an idea that the show didn’t know how to use, so they just threw it in near the end.
It’s just disappointing that “Frank’s Back in Business” doesn’t really surprise. It’s not necessarily a bad episode, but rather just very bland, considering the dark turns the episode could have taken. It’s an episode that takes the obvious route instead of going for the depraved and screwed-up paths that It’s Always Sunny usually revels in.