A great TV sitcom, like most any show, is one that evolves over time. Little character bits, things that were clearly just quick jokes in season one, become defining traits over the years, evolving the characters into icons. Norm from CHEERS. Kramer from SEINFELD. Andy from PARKS AND RECREATION. Each of them started off as rather flat characters, a little different sure, but pretty much one note. Over time, though, they grew into amazing characters. Two of them are archetypes of the sitcom format now, and in time, I think Andy will get there too.
Some characters, though, are probably never going to be repeated, even if they grow and become great. Some, like Dennis Reynolds from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, are just too far outside what normally works on TV that the idea of this type of character showing up in a sitcom again is very very VERY unlikely. Why?
Because Dennis Reynolds may be a serial killer.
I got into IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY late, maybe two years ago. They showed up on Netflix, and one week I binged the show. Watching it like that, the evolution of the characters is really shocking – the show starts off like a uncouth version of SEINFELD – a group of four friends (3 guys, 1 woman) finding themselves in somewhat believable situations. Sure, George Castanza never faked cancer like Charlie does in season one of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY, but we sure could see him doing something like that. Overall, season one is a fine, sometimes edgy sitcom. Your basics are all there – Charlie the loser, Mac the dummy, Dee the smartie, and Dennis the egomaniac.
In season two, when Danny DeVito joins the cast as Frank, the father of Dee and Dennis (who are twins) is where the show starts getting crazy. Hell, Frank even announces that the show’s going to get crazy when he explains why he’s leaving behind his safe life of being a rich guy to mess around with a bunch of goobers:
I don’t know how many years on this Earth I got left. I’m going to get real weird with it.
And with the weirdness of Frank, everyone starts getting weirder. Mac, who had previously shown a sexual interest in a transgendered woman, was now clearly hiding his homosexuality by falling deeper into his Christianity. Charlie switches from the loser to the loser who is also insane, illiterate, and possibly a super genius. Dee becomes the picked on loser who is actually the only person who could keep her life from falling apart if the guys would just leave her alone (though she does have that pesky crack addiction). And then there’s Dennis.
Dennis who records all of his sexual encounters, but keeps the camera focused primarily on his own face, Dennis who is unwilling to accept the idea that he ages, or that any woman wouldn’t find him attractive, Dennis, who calls himself a “golden god”, is a serial killer.
If Dennis is a killer, when did his killing start? It seems unlikely that Dennis was killing people in the first season. It is later, around season 3, where Dennis’ methodical ways come to be seen – in his car he keeps tools, including a flashlight, gloves, duct tape and zipties in a secret compartment.
Oh, and there’s this bit from an episode where the gang thinks Mac may be a serial killer:
That was the first major clue. For one thing, the episode sets up the idea that there is indeed a serial killer operating in the same circles as the gang. Then there’s Dennis’ whole thing about explaining to his sister how they’ll kill someone, then getting upset when he remembers that isn’t what they’re doing. In the episode, the gang actually figures out who the serial killer is – a guy named Gary. The thing is, could this kick off Dennis’ imagination? Could Dennis be picking up where Gary left off? It seems possible.
Dennis has something else none of the others in the gang have – a college degree. We don’t know what his major was, Dennis never mentions it – he’s far more interested in telling people about his minor – psychology. Dennis prides himself on reading people and tricking them to bend to his will. He is conniving, always plotting, always looking to prove his dominance over others, prove that he is smarter than everyone else. He teases what he does, never admitting to it in a way that could hurt him legally, but making it clear. In other words… he implies…
Sometimes though, he doesn’t imply. Sometimes, when Dennis finds himself overheated or in a rage, he lets things slip out. Sure, he’ll cover it up quick, but the truth has already been revealed.
Those moments are few and far between, though. Like many psychopaths, Dennis has learned to separate himself from annoying things like human connection or emotions. He’s learned to live without feelings…
So far we don’t have concrete evidence that Dennis Reynolds is a serial killer, but with at least three more seasons of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA coming our way, we’re sure to get more clues.
*Photos: IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, FX Networks