Dennis loves Dee~
I’ve watched a lot of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
This can be blamed on Charlie Day and Wiener Soldier in equal parts. (Well, maybe closer to 70/30, but it’s because of her I have a Charlie Day problem in the first place, so it’s really all her fault.) The first time I watched it through I was far too interested in Charlie Day’s face to pay attention to much else, but despite that, I found myself relating to Dennis Reynolds. This might be a terrible thing to admit, because who wants to relate to a potential murderer with the tendency to manipulate women into having sex with him? But serial killer proclivities and questionable sexual ethics aside, I do. Like Dennis, I’m incredibly vain without any real reason to be. Like Dennis, I’m lazy and have little interest in doing things that don’t serve my own purposes. Like Dennis, I have a desperate, almost painful need to be liked despite these horrible personality flaws. Like Dennis, I’m in love with my twin sister.
Wait, no, not that one. I don’t even have a twin sister and I if I did, I don’t think I could possibly be as in love with her as Dennis is with Dee Reynolds.
Because I was so interested in everything Charlie Day did the first time around, I didn’t really notice Dennis being completely in love with his sister. I don’t think I noticed it the second time around either, I was still too involved with Charlie. But then I read something online about Dennis and Dee’s relationship being particularly incestuous and I found myself thinking, “…really? I’ve definitely never noticed that.”
So then, because any excuse to rewatch an entire series that makes me feel both wonderful and horrible at the same time is definitely a good one, I watched it all over again. And again. And AGAIN. And not only did I learn a lot of things about Dennis this time around (a very problematic relationship with food, for one, which is clearly wrapped up in his vanity and his desperate need to be liked) I saw what people were talking about.
Dennis is in love with his sister.
Dennis Reynolds is in love with his sister.
I mean, seriously, there’s really no way to deny it. THAT SHIT IS CANON. Dennis is a manipulative creep with sociopathic tendencies (Remember when he told Mac he was excited to have feelings again? YEAH.) but when he does have feelings, who does he cling to? Dee. Immediately, it’s Dee. When he feels too much, he grabs Dee while screaming. When he’s scared or desperate or, you know, hooked on crack, it’s Dee that he drags along with him because he doesn’t trust her, but he trusts her to be there for him more than he trusts anyone else. When he’s scheming, it’s Dee he turns to, not only because he can easily manipulate her into doing whatever he wants, but because it’s always been Dee. I mean, their parents are CLEARLY INSANE. Their father tricked them into digging up their mother’s grave because they told him he was getting old. The problems in the Reynolds family are deep and far reaching, but with parents like that, who wouldn’t cling to their slightly more sane sibling?
There are a lot of examples of how much Dennis needs to keep Dee under his thumb, most notably in season 9, in the episode The Gang Broke Dee. Frank, Mac and Charlie orchestrate an alarmingly huge prank to trick Dee into thinking her stand up comedy routines are finally a success and that she’s finally going to get away from them. Dennis, who wasn’t invited to be part of the joke, doesn’t realize that his sister isn’t really being taken away from him by success and so he desperately attempts to sabotage her at every turn. Not only does he attempt to ruin her possibility at success, Dennis wants to control her in every way. At a comedy show, he shows up with a man to set Dee up with, saying, “Guy’s got no self esteem, just like Dee, so they’re perfect for each other. After she bombs tonight, I’ll put them together, thereby controlling the situation, and her, as I always have and I always will.”
Later in this same episode, as Dee boards a private jet, Dennis runs to her, saying he’s been searching for the perfect man for her when all along he’s been right under his nose. Him. He’s her perfect man.
A lot of this is about control and a lot can be read as Dennis attempting to ride Dee’s coattails to some kind of fame of his own, but when this episode is watched at the end of a very long run of episodes, it’s hard not to see that Dennis, in his weird, twisted way, really loves his sister. He loves her so much and needs her so desperately that the idea of being separated from her through success or even just another man is too much for him to handle. The entire episode is about the rest of the gang thinking they’re breaking Dee, but the truth is that they’re breaking Dennis. The very thought of his sister not being around actually BREAKS HIM. Dennis without Dee is just a broken shell of a human being. I mean… okay, Dennis with Dee is just a broken shell of a human being, too, but at least he has something in his life as long as he has Dee.
They don’t like each other, make no mistake. These are siblings who are disgusted by each other, who think the other is an atrocious failure at life, but they love each other and need each other to the point where the idea of not being together is enough to break them. Or it’s enough to break Dennis, anyway. Because the thing is, Dee could get along without him. Probably. She’d try, anyway, and she’d probably end up right back in Paddy’s Pub, claiming that fame was boring and dating attractive actors isn’t the life she wants to lead, all the while just being unable to be away from Dennis for that long. But for all that episode is about breaking Dee, it’s Dennis who’s really broken in the end.
He needs his sister. He likes to claim independence and leadership. He likes to pretend he has the entire gang under his thumb, especially his sister, but the truth is that she controls him without even knowing it. BECAUSE HE’S IN LOVE WITH HER.