You wouldn’t expect Frank Reynolds to utter some of the most poignant dialogue in an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, especially because the word “poignant” simply does not belong in the vocabulary of discussing this show. That was true, at least, until the Season 13 finale, “Mac Finds His Pride,” which concluded with a 5-minute sequence where Rob McElhenney‘s Mac performs an exquisitely and emotionally choreographed routine to visually express what it has been like coming out as a gay man and finding his place in that world.
Let’s back up. For most of the episode (and this season in general), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia felt tonally like it has for the past 12 seasons. That’s not a bad thing; the show has continued to be successful in doing its thing really, really well for a long time now. I tuned out for awhile, but returned this season feeling like I hadn’t really missed anything. Most of “Mac Finds His Pride” also felt the same; it included some gags we’ve seen before (Frank bleeding, Cricket being Cricket, Dee getting angry, Mac being afraid to come out to his terrifying father), and that was fine. However, once Mac went to the prison to come out to his father by showing, not telling, the series did something that is among the top TV moments of the year, and certainly of the show’s overall run.
That sounds hyperbolic, but once you’ve watched McElhenney’s performance you’ll understand. It’s astonishing. It also answered a question we didn’t know we had: Mac got ripped for this performance. It wasn’t just for a visual laugh like Fat Mac; there was a real narrative purpose to it. And that’s the other thing — nothing about that final dance was a joke. Yes, it was a little funny to see the wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks from the inmates who watched the dance and didn’t know what to make of it. But they were ultimately moved, because it was more moving than anything.
It’s worth noting that Vulture has a great piece that chronicles how the dance came about, diving into the long road to what we ultimately saw onscreen, including how McElhenney teamed with professional ballerina Kylie Shea, and ended up using Sigur Rós’s “Varúð” as the ethereal, emotive background. The AV Club also has a really lovely breakdown of how the episode pivots from being typical Sunny humor to something so deep and arresting, including how both Frank and Mac’s dad say they never really “got” Mac — which makes Frank’s final words in the episode that much more powerful.
The dedication McElhenney had for this performance shows; it’s something you want to watch over and over again. There is such a raw power to it, especially when he breaks down mid-dance and is later cradled and told “It’s ok.” To see this adonis-like figure crumple down into such a vulnerable position and be held like that … on It’s Always Sunny, of all shows! It was an incredible moment of television. Check it out below: