Mac Finds His Pride: An unexpectedly emotional and progressive season finale

Mac Finds His Pride

Rob McElhenney and professional dancer Kylie Shea in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Image: FXX

The latest season of the hit US show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (IASIP) was added to Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Now that everyone has had time to watch the season, I think it’s time we talk about that episode.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for season 13 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 

Now, that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows ‘The Gang,’ the narcissistic, self-centred, politically incorrect owners of a Philadelphia dive bar. I can imagine that for some, IASIP is a show that is quite hard to get into. The humour is extremely dark, often offensive, and the main characters are the worst people imaginable. There is a reason the show was originally meant to be titled ‘Jerks.’

The final episode of series 13, titled ‘Mac Finds His Pride’ starts off as a typical IASIP episode: the gang are trying to use Mac (series creator Rob McElhenney) as their token ‘gay’ to dance on the top of their gay pride float. This episode is the culmination of Mac’s thirteen series-long journey to ‘coming out.’ Unlike what you may imagine, the joke isn’t that Mac is in the closet (as bad as the gang are, they’re totally fine with Mac being gay and have been trying to get him to ‘come out’ since the beginning), it’s Mac’s homophobia.

Mac was raised Catholic by his criminal dad, Luther, who takes pleasure in belittling him (he called Mac Ronald McDonald as a joke), and his mother who never seems to care about him. All Mac wants to do is get his dad to love and respect him, and this is one of the themes in this episode. Due to Mac being raised so religious, he doesn’t want to accept that he’s gay and uses homophobia to mask it. The long-running joke of Mac’s homosexuality isn’t that he is gay, it’s a critique of bigotry and what sexual repression can do to a person.

Mac does come to accept the fact that he is gay, but as he states in this episode, he doesn’t feel very proud. Frank (Danny DeVito) has been tasked with convincing Mac to take part in the gay pride parade, and as an out of touch old man, Frank doesn’t “get it.” Frank tries to help Mac find his place as a gay man by bringing him to a BDSM club, and then a drag bar. Mac doesn’t judge the people he visits but shuns them because that’s not the gay man that he is. I’ll admit that these scenes just rehashed the joke that Frank is an out of touch old man — it wasn’t anything revolutionary.

Mac tries to explain how he feels through an analogy that he is dancing in a storm with god who is a “hot chick,” and Frank retorts that “the Catholics really f****d you up.”

Mac decides that to truly reflect who he is, he must come out to his father (who is in prison). When Mac tries to tell his dad, Luther assumes that Mac is announcing that he got a woman pregnant and is delighted at the idea of being a grandfather, while also belittling Mac at the same time. Mac cowers into his former repressed self, going along with his father’s assumption and then tries to really get a woman pregnant.

Up to this point, the episode has been fine, nothing special.  From this point on, however, the Sunny format was flipped on its head.

After some encouragement from Frank, because Mac can’t find the words to describe how he feels, he decides he needs to show how he feels. He goes to the prison to ‘come out’ to his dad through dance. I really didn’t know what to expect at this point, and when the dance started, I was confused.

McEhlhenney performs an extremely well-choreographed dance with professional dancer Kylie Shea, which depicts Mac keep trying to love the woman but can’t and has to keep pushing her away. The dance, and episode, culminates with Mac crying in her lap and her telling him it’s okay. Frank, the homophobic old man, is in tears and says ‘I get it.’

The best part of this scene for me is that while Mac is dancing, his father walks away, but Mac keeps on dancing. This is a huge moment for Mac’s character – he finally doesn’t care what his father thinks. It was such a beautiful moment to see Mac finally accept who he is after 15 years of denial and shame. There was no joke, no punchline, just raw emotion and pride. IASIP normally handles these themes through dark humour and satire, but here it just showed it as it is, and it couldn’t have worked any better. It was emotional, progressive, and tugged my heartstrings in a way I never would have expected IASIP to do.

This episode also really rooted out the fans of the show that didn’t understand that you’re meant to laugh at the gang’s ignorance, not agree with them. I have seen many comments on Twitter that said that IASIP pandered to the ‘gay agenda,’ or bowed down to ‘social justice warriors.’ If you believe that, then you really haven’t understood It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at all.

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