It’s hard to believe It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is currently on its tenth(!) season, but here we are. And it’s sort of even harder to believe they are still pulling off all-timers, some of the most brutally laugh-out-loud hilarious episodes in the series’ entire run. This season has had a lot to love already– the cross-country drinking contest inspired by Wade Boggs, which took every opportunity possible to rip into the corruption within various major league sports associations… the online dating episode which saw Dee (briefly) blossom into a social media maven… it’s been an awesome run of very sharp, funny tales from this gang of degenerates.
But tonight’s “Charlie Work” really steps up the game. It is without a doubt one of the funniest, most clever and overall BEST episodes of Sunny I have ever seen. The premise is totally simple– we follow Charlie as he pulls out all the stops in his effort to get Paddy’s Pub to pass its yearly health inspection, while also hiding and assisting in the Gang’s latest scam (this one involving turning their bar into a steakhouse and returning intentionally tainted meat to recoup money while racking up a colossal amount of frequent flyer miles).
The episode weaves these two plotlines into one cohesive story in a masterful way, with Charlie as our fulcrum. We follow Charlie Day for the entire run time here– he’s without a doubt the show’s secret weapon, all manic energy and twisted logic… but also shockingly capable as a “field commander,” able to think on his feet and problem solve in ways the rest of the Gang would never even conceive of (if they even paid that much attention).
We’ve seen in many past great, Charlie-centric episodes, so that alone wouldn’t make “Charlie Work” as exceptional as it is. But it’s the tracking shot that starts halfway through the episode, carrying us through to the final moments, that infuses this week’s installment with an exciting energy that goes as above and beyond as Charlie’s genius and bizarre stunts to save his bar. I’m always a sucker for tracking shots, and the 12+ minute shot that makes up the back half of “Charlie Work” is both technically impressive and the perfect vehicle to convey the urgency of Charlie’s slapdash problem solving.
Running the course of the entire visit from the Health Inspector, start to finish, this sequence is masterfully arranged by director Matt Shakman, with the camera weaving in and out of every corner of Paddy’s, connecting the dots between characters’ actions (or lack thereof) as poor Charlie arranges and assembles like the world’s most feral composer. It’s awesome, a true feat to behold in terms of storytelling and technical prowess, and adds a wonderful energy to the madcap proceedings.
At least a few times each season, the Sunny crew does something which reminds me of why I love them so dearly. “Charlie Work” is what really did that for me in Season Ten. It’s an episode that mixes comedy and genuine tension perfectly while cleverly poking holes in Iñárritu’s Birdman gimmick. There’s so many layers to the comedy here, it feels like watching the world’s most dangerous high wire act… Or at least it would, if I could stop laughing long enough to process all of what just happened.
Check out “Charlie Work” on FXX tonight at 10PM EST.