The first time you watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the sheer wickedness of its five principle characters (“the gang”) may go over your head. There’s no denying that they are, to put it bluntly, scummy people whom you’d never want to know in real life. However, the true extent of their evil is oftentimes masked by the crass, over-the-top comedy that defines the show. Whether it be car theft, arson, the kidnapping of their enemies, or running a sweatshop in the basement of their bar, nothing is sacred to the gang. They embody the worst aspects of humankind and set perfect examples of everything one shouldn’t be. But who among them is the worst?
5. Charlie Kelly
While Charlie is by no means a saint, decades of alcoholism have rendered him simply too dimwitted to be as cunningly evil as the rest of the gang. Even his most depraved actions are usually rooted in a desire to do right, coupled with a complete misunderstanding of what is right. For example, he stalks the waitress (his unrequited love interest) because he believes that this is a normal expression of affection. His violent assault on a mall Santa was triggered by paranoid delusions about said Santa sleeping with his mother. At his core, Charlie is merely a hopeless romantic who, unlike his friends, finds joy in the simple things: give him his milksteak and jellybeans, and he’s satisfied.
4. Ronald “Mac” McDonald
Of every member of the gang, Mac’s character has evolved the most throughout the years. While his homosexuality was once only subtly hinted at, he has since emerged as a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. (His coming-out episode “Mac Finds His Pride” is undoubtedly the show’s most genuinely heartwarming moment.) Still, he struggles to find balance between his newfound identity and his deeply ingrained Catholicism.
This internal struggle, however, is no excuse for his behavior. From his consistent backstabbing to secretly feeding his roommate Dennis the remains of a dog, Mac’s debauchery knows no bounds. You may wonder why he is not higher on this list. Well, like Charlie, he is simply too stupid to fully comprehend right and wrong. He is the most easily exploited character on the show, falling victim to the manipulation tactics of the three characters we’ll be discussing next. Rarely are the gang’s most depraved schemes his idea, though he is always more than willing to participate.
3. Dee Reynolds
Due to her friends’ blatant misogyny, Dee is almost always the butt of the gang’s jokes. One might feel sympathy towards her if she herself were not a proud narcissist. When Dee finds out that the waitress is getting married, she attempts to sabotage the wedding out of jealousy. When she finds out that the man she’s been chatting with online is in a wheelchair, she immediately passes him off to her friend. Then, upon finding out that he actually can walk, she vigorously attempts to steal him back. In what is perhaps her most deplorable scheme, she seduces Matthew Mara (aka “Rickety Cricket”) out of the priesthood simply to prove to the gang that she can. This is the catalyst for Mara’s demise, which gradually progresses throughout the series. And in spite of the lives she’s ruined, Dee does not feel a morsel of guilt. Instead, she perceives herself as entitled to more, still salty about her failed dream of becoming a movie star.
2. Dennis Reynolds
Many fans may argue that Dennis should be #1 on this list, and that is an understandable position to hold. Like his sister Dee, he is a master manipulator, perhaps best exemplified in the episode “The D.E.N.N.I.S. System,” in which he details to the gang the “system of seduction” that he uses when dating. Its steps include:
- Demonstrate value
- Engage physically
- Nurture dependence
- Neglect emotionally
- Inspire hope
- Separate entirely
Clearly, Dennis takes pleasure in the pain he causes others, and this is not limited to his dating life. Of everyone in the gang, Dennis is the most willing to stab his so-called friends in the back. He holds the threat of sleeping with the waitress over Charlie’s head. He tricks Mac into joining a cult of his own creation. Perhaps if Dennis had the same amount of wealth as his father, he would have the resources to be the most evil in the gang. Speaking of his father…
1. Frank Reynolds
Where does one even start with Frank? Considering that he’s Dennis and Dee’s (non-biological) father, it’s easy to see where their lack of a moral compass came from. He is the gang’s supreme degenerate, lacking even a fragment of empathy or shame. And with inexhaustible wealth, his options for evil are virtually limitless. Throughout the series, we see him waterboard his daughter, pimp out his son, hijack a boat full of tourists, impersonate a police officer as a means of abusing citizens, and much, much more. Allusions to his past reveal that he once ran a sweatshop with deathly working conditions. He is without a doubt television’s greatest personification of Marquis de Sade’s depraved philosophy of freedom unrestrained by morality. And one can’t help but wonder how many people like him actually exist in the real world.
If there is any lesson to be gained from watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it’s don’t be like the gang, especially Frank.