by: Douglas Grant
The show came back with a bang last night. The season premier had every character behaving true to form. Some of us wondered how far the producers were going to take the idea of the alternative cast, with Haley Joel Osmont playing Mac and Andrew Dice Clay taking over the role of Frank Reynolds, just to name a few. But alas, this was apparently just schtick reserved solely for the promos.
Going into it I was hoping that a comedy that takes continuity so seriously would reacquaint us with some old recurring characters, and in this regard the writers did not disappoint. First up we had the lawyer, as brazen as ever and looking to exploit the self-interest of the gang at every turn. We also saw the return of Matthew “Rickety Cricket” Mara, the one-time Catholic priest who’s fallen into destitution. In past seasons we’ve seen Cricket have his throat cut and suffer a gunshot wound, but now he’s marked for life with a gruesome scar running down the left side of his face, the unfortunate result of a “skirmish with a stray chocolate lab”. Claiming to have risen within the ranks of the animal shelter to achieve the prestige of dog executioner, Mac and Charlie quickly find out that he is merely a dog janitor, fit only for cleaning the dog shit out of the cages. Fans were pleased to see Mac donning his black duster, the long-coat he once wore to emulate the intrigue and appeal of Lorenzo Lamas, but is now utilized for the purposes of intimidation. But perhaps the biggest surprise for fans was the return of Pop-Pop, Dennis and Sweet Dee’s Nazi grandfather who is comatose and ready to have the plug pulled on his life support at any moment. We haven’t seen Pop-Pop since season one, and since then we’ve learned that Frank has been taking over caring for him on weekly basis, letting his hygiene go hell and old take-out food fester at his bedside.
Mac’s not fat anymore, and he sees his “sudden and unfortunate weight-loss” as putting the security of the bar at great risk. Mac’s been “tacking on mass” for years now, and without that extra weight to throw around he sees his ability to effectively serve as head of security to be compromised. Hence his new goggle-like shades, perfect for “ocular pat-downs” that will allow him to “determine a subject’s threat level without him being able to feel [his] retinal assessment.” Mac’s taking himself as seriously as ever, as we all must when we have an important job to do. That’s why when he and Charlie are deciding who should play them in the movie based on their Indiana Jones style adventure in pursuit of Nazi relics, he favors Ryan Gosling over Mark Wahlberg to play him, because apparently only Gosling can match his level of intensity.
It didn’t seem to fit that Dennis and Sweet Dee should ponder the moral ambivalence of pulling the plug on Pop-Pop. The siblings weren’t exactly close with their grandfather. Also, he was a Nazi. But then we learn that it isn’t actually the taking of a life that bothers them in the slightest, it’s the psychological repercussions of the act that troubles them. They’re worried about how this will affect them in the long run. And that’s when we realize that the writers have kept consistency with the characters.
Charlie can’t seem to wrap his brain around the fact that a biopic based on his and Mac’s exploits—in keeping with historical accuracy—would be unable to feature a cameo from a time traveling Hitler from the past. Moreover, he loses sight of the fact that he and Mac are tracking down Hitler’s painting of the German shepherd for the fortune and glory; He wants that painting back on his wall.
Frank’s role in the episode isn’t as dominant, but when he reaches out to Mac on the phone while burning matches on the soles of Pop-Pop’s feet, we see the back-stabbing Frank that we all love. Keeping in step with his usual back-room dealings, he recognizes that Charlie’s stupidity has become a threat to the whole operation, and with subtlety suggests that Mac is going to “have to take him out of the picture.”
The episode is left open-ended. Dennis and Dee do pull the plug on Pop-Pop, but the man’s a fighter, and he keeps right on breathing. They may revisit his character in the future, even if he is brain dead. So there is hope for the return of the McPoyles this season. The episode is promising in that it shows us that we may be seeing some of our favorite character’s from the past resurfacing.