What’s so outstanding about “Charlie’s Catches A Leprechaun” is how everything makes perfect sense. Being It’s Always Sunny, and being the Gang, perfect sense means a destroyed truck, eight counts of kidnapping, a decimated bar, Charlie reenacting the torture scene from Reservoir Dogs, (adult) child abandonment, animal abuse, paint abuse, and innumerable acts of verbal cruelty. And while those are all, at various times, just part of a normal day for the Gang, this episode fits every action, no matter how depraved or how escalatingly absurd, into a clockwork marvel of dark comic mayhem so tight and focused I wanted to applaud.
Every character’s journey in “Charlie Catches A Leprechaun” just works. Dennis, ever obsessed with control and self-aggrandizement, sees his St. Patrick’s Day plan for a mobile Paddy’s Pub thwarted immediately in tiny, infuriating increments. Even trying to introduce his scheme to the rest of the Gang finds him prefacing the tablet computer presentation he’s prepared with a caveat indicating he knows he’s fighting a doomed battle (“Because of everyone’s ADD I’m gonna lose your attention in about three minutes”) while Charlie, Mac, and Dee, indeed, get sidetracked before he’s even properly begun, pestering him with queries about whether or not he should have an easel, or a projector. (“What are you gonna point with?”) Glenn Howerton’s coiled fury is always a thing of majesty, and this first scene lights the fuse in preparation for the Dennis Reynolds explosions to come. The episode ramps up Dennis’ frustration throughout, with everything that goes wrong with his highly illegal idea for a rolling bar in the back of a rattletrap old paddy wagon (“Paddy’s Wagon”) working to fuel the seething cauldron of egomaniacal rage within.
Everything from Dee’s inability to pour non-foamy beers (since the keg is being constantly shaken on the ride) to the fact that his wary first two customers are unwilling to follow his absurdly complicated, hip electronic payment method (involving a QR code, Facebook, and “a brief, 30-second advertisement”) which he can’t get to work anyway, and even that his hand-painted truck logo looks nothing like his computer mockup stokes the fires further and further until it finally erupts in one of the most blackly concentrated lines in Dennis history.
After ditching those first two increasingly baffled guys in the country at Frank’s gunpoint (taking their phones and wallets so they can’t just take a cab back to Philly and ruin his word-of-mouth) Dennis, Dee, and Frank pick up a pair of young women whose growing unease is only made worse by Dee’s newest St. Paddy’s Day character, a weathered crone with a black eye and poorly accented backstory of abuse and degradation. (“I can’t tell if you’re doing a thing now, or if this is just who you’ve become,” snaps Dennis, as her brogue devolves into pirate gibberish.) When the women begin to cry at Dennis’s desperate attempts to get the now-terrified pair to play along with his business model by taking revealing pictures for the Paddy’s Wagon website, one pleads, “I don’t want to be on your weird website!,” to which Dennis roars back:
If you don’t comply with me you’re gonna end up on the weird one!
Couple of things. One—Dennis clearly has a “weird” website we don’t want to know about. And two—Glenn Howerton’s depiction of Dennis Reynolds is one of the most astoundingly layered comic portraits of the thwarted male ego ever. Throughout “Charlie Catches A Leprechaun,” Howerton is as good as he’s ever been, his every line tracing the outline of a man whose greatest—if not only—need is to bend the world to his will. When the world—whether due to stupidity (his own or others’), the laws of man or the gods, or the lack of wifi connection in the back of a careening old police truck (he let Frank drive)—refuses to comply, Dennis’ towering madness is gloriously, horrifyingly funny.
Back at Paddy’s the Mac and Charlie show is just as perfectly calibrated, as Charlie’s annual quest to finally capture a St. Paddy’s Day leprechaun (hey, he already believes in ghouls) finds the duo one-upping themselves in a giddily hilarious race to see who’s dumber. As ever, the Gang passes the baton of sensibleness when confronted by a member doing or saying something especially ill-advised or awful, and Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day are at Olympic levels as Mac and Charlie take turns calling each other out on their individual craziness. Mac is aghast when Charlie—in preparation for both St. Paddy’s Day at Paddy’s and his leprechaun hunt—comes back with a can of green paint (to color the beer) that’s he’s clearly been drinking from. As the enthusiastically nodding Charlie assures him that he understands, Mac’s “I feel like you’re saying you get it, but you don’t get it” is the sort of blank-eyed incredulity McElhenney does so well, and Day matches him with his eagerness to gloss over things he half-understood in order to get on with setting his leprechaun traps. (His repeated “I kinda forgot where we landed on that” and “I hear ya” concerning not drinking paint, not trying to catch leprechauns, and the fact that he’s also brought a snake in a bag are prime Charlie, his one-track obsession distracting him even more than usual.)
So, when Charlie calls Mac down to the basement (Mac leaves a bucket for people to pay for drinks, citing the “Irish honor system”) and reveals that there is, indeed, a short man dressed as a leprechaun (veteran character actor Kevin Thompson) caught in one of Charlie’s baking-sheet glue traps, their ping-ponging battle of wits is pure comic bliss. Of course Mac knows that that guy is not a leprechaun (“Dude, I think you kidnapped a little person”) while Charlie is absolutely certain that he is (“I thought about that, ruled it out”). Yet, Charlie plants enough doubts (the door was locked, there’s a hose where they swear there’d been no hose) that Mac leaps immediately at the off-chance that there are further wishes to be granted. (“I wish to live forever!” “What are you doing! I wish you don’t, how about that?” “Why didn’t you say, ‘I wish I could live forever?’” “And live forever with you?”) And when their plan to use the hose and that snake to “rough him up, just a little bit” and ferret the truth out of the guy doesn’t work out (the snake is dead, and there’s not enough water pressure to do anything but dribble water on his head) it’s Charlie’s turn to be the skeptical one when Mac proposes that the whole “gold under the rainbow” idea means the treasure is hidden underneath a gay bar called The Rainbow. The running joke of Mac’s ill-closeted homosexuality should be old by now, but McElhenney’s performance won’t let it be, his repeated assertion that he’ll be searching The Rainbow “alone” a deftly funny manifestation of Mac’s need to keep up his hetero façade, only topped by his later repetition of “no questions” when explaining to the Gang why he’s returned from his quest covered in glitter and needing towels.
When left to his own devices, Charlie’s Michael Madsen impersonation is dark stuff—he really seems prepared to slit the duct taped guy’s throat with that straight razor—but Charlie’s childlike nature admits a lot of dangerous possibilities once his imagination really gets a hold of him. (Plus, he’s been drinking ”straight paint” all day, as Frank admonishes him.) The ending, too, with the Gang dumping the guy (it turns out he’d been pickpocketing Paddy’s patrons all night) on the same stretch of road Dennis, Dee, and Frank had been leaving their customers/victims uses Charlie perfectly, his vision of the supposed leprechaun flying away on a rainbow waved away by Dee’s admonition to stop drinking paint.
There’s a lot more to recommend “Charlie Catches A Leprechaun.” Frank ditching Dee and Dennis with the same gas cap trick a minute apart, so they end up staring at each other on that country road. Dee’s parade of enthusiastically stereotypical Irish costumes, and Kaitlin Olson’s crazy-eyed scream of rage at being abandoned. Mac’s attempt to ground the whole leprechaun idea by asking soberly, “Are you now or have you ever been a leprechaun?” The delayed reveal of Paddy’s Wagon’s third group of hostages, with the drunk Dennis, Dee, and Frank admitting that they’d forgotten to even try to sell them any beer before kidnapping them. ”Charlie Catches A Leprechaun” is as assured and funny a Sunny as the show’s pulled off in years.
- “If we want to make money, we need to honor ancient Irish traditions, like serving an irresponsible amount of booze to people who are genetically predisposed to having alcohol problems.”
- The controlled contempt of Howerton’s order to Dee (who’s broken out her Crazy Paddy character for the occasion) really nails down the line, “Dee, you’re gonna serve drinks in the back as a human being. A real one.”
- “Oh, thank makes sense, because he kept saying, ‘I’m a pickpocket! I’m a pickpocket! Stop hurting me, I’m not a leprechaun!’ and I just thought was, like, a metaphor for… I am a leprechaun.”