“Dennis’ Double Life” Defense & Explanations
In this post, I’ll attempt to explain/defend all of the controversial scenes in the Season 12 finale, “Dennis’ Double Life.” This write-up has helped me to appreciate the episode a lot better and it might help some people who have mixed feelings about the episode to view it in a different light.
NOTE: This is a mix of speculation and canon evidence.
Question 1: Why was Dennis a butt to Mac the entire episode, especially after he was so nice to him at the end of “The Gang Tends Bar”?
Answer 1: I will break this answer into three parts:
- Part 1: I got the vibe that Mandy surprised Dennis with the visit, which explains why Dennis had mere seconds to tell the Gang to pretend that he was someone else. With the flesh-and-blood reality of Brian Jr. on his mind, I don’t think he had the mental energy to consider Mac at all. (In “The Gang Tends Bar,” Brian Jr. wasn’t there, so Dennis didn’t feel that immediate/strong pressure. Also, Dennis was emotionally vulnerable and available after having told the Gang about his “big feelings,” so he was able to react better to Mac)
- Part 2: I’m not sure Dennis fully comprehends Mac’s feelings for him. I think he knows, to some degree, that Mac is attracted to him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he sees Mac’s attraction to him as a kind of strange “hero worship.” Dennis verbally confirmed that Mac is gay in “Mac Day,” but he constantly acts weirded out or confused when Mac does/says something that shows that he has feelings for him. For example, in “Mac & Dennis Move to the Suburbs,” Dennis thought it was weird that Mac would name their dog Dennis Jr. That reaction, of course, mirrors Dennis’ reaction to Mac’s reveal that he perfectly recreated their old apartment. I don’t think he was trying to hurt Mac. He just flat out does not understand why Mac would go through all the trouble.
- Dennis also doesn’t appear to understand his own feelings for Mac. He has asked Mac to “get off with him” (a “mostly sexual” manipulation game) and tried to get him to participate in a threesome with a male golf caddy in “Frank’s Back in Business,” admitted to Dee that he made his sex tapes for himself and Mac in “The Gang Group Dates,” stated that he has a thing with Mac where he picks out porn for them that he doesn’t want Charlie to join in on (“The Gang Spies Like U.S.”), and danced for Mac when he saw him avidly watching him in “PTSDee,” but he doesn’t see anything strange about this. It’s just par for the course in their relationship.
- If Dennis has trouble seeing his own feelings, then like hell is he going to fully see Mac’s feelings. And if he can’t see Mac’s feelings, he can’t deal with them properly.
- Part 3: In the back of Dennis’ mind, he was seriously considering leaving the Gang and being a father to his son. He knows that leaving the Gang is going to hurt him, so he emotionally pushed them away. When the Gang becomes “lesser” in his mind, it doesn’t hurt as much to leave them.
Summary: Dennis was stressed the heck out about Brian Jr. and didn’t have the energy to deal with his relationship with Mac.
Question 2: Were Mac’s feelings for Dennis treated as a joke?
Answer 2: Not necessarily. Even though Dennis likes to act like he’s the smartest member of the Gang, Mac is clearly more aware and accepting of the nature of their relationship than Dennis is. Mac was 100% fine with them pretending to be a couple and raising Brian Jr. (with or without Mandy), not because he’s super desperate and lovesick, but because, no matter what they call their relationship (lovers, partners, pretend, friends), they’d still be together. Mac just loves being with Dennis and wants to help solve Dennis’ problem, so, of course, that would be his plan. (And it’s actually a good plan.)
It hurts the empathetic audience members to see Mac treated the way he is by Dennis, but it’s normal Dennis behavior that Mac has accepted. Mac has survived his internalized homophobia, his father’s dislike of him, his mother’s indifference to him, and the Gang’s occasional dislike of him. Mac is stronger than we think he is. And if he gets tired of Dennis, he definitely has the strength to walk away from their relationship relatively unscathed.
Summary: Mac was pretty much having fun playing a character (he even wanted his character’s name to be Griffin) and hanging out with Dennis and Dennis was stressed the hell out about Brian Jr.
Question 3: Charlie wanted to have sex? With The Waitress?
Answer 3: Yes. In “Charlie Has Cancer,” Charlie was visibly disappointed when he realized that he missed the chance to possibly have sex with The Waitress. In “Who Pooped the Bed?” a drunk Waitress stated that she would get drunker and bang a random dude and Charlie asked her if it could be him. In "The High School Reunion Part 2: The Gang’s Revenge,” when a drunk Waitress told the Gang that she’d bang the next person who talked to her, Charlie opened his mouth and stepped forward, but Schmitty came out of nowhere and The Waitress went home with him.
Summary: I know some people headcanon Charlie as ace and/or sex-repulsed (I personally headcanon him as gray ace) and that’s fine, but Charlie has expressed interest in having sex with The Waitress in the show.
Question 4: Why did the Waitress have sex with Charlie?
Answer 4: Surprisingly, the possibility of that happening was set up in a previous episode. In "Charlie and Dee Find Love,” (which was written by RCG) the Waitress reacted in an arguably jealous manner towards Charlie’s then-girlfriend Ruby (“Who the hell is this, Charlie?!”). Also, at the end of the episode, the Waitress told Charlie that she needed him in her life and that she was thinking about reducing his restraining order. Admittedly, the Waitress’ strange behavior was after Frank accidentally put rat poison in her shampoo (which made her sick) and hit her with his car (which put her in a hospital), so she could have some kind of permanent brain damage.
In the beginning of the show, the Waitress wasn’t attracted to Charlie, but was concerned about his well-being sometimes. (In "The Gang Gives Back,” she tried to help Charlie with his alcoholism) It’s possible that after “Charlie and Dee Find Love,” the Waitress’ view of Charlie started to change. As the years went on, the Waitress’ problems started to get worse and worse, and, like Cricket (her male counterpart), she still found herself continually drawn to the Gang. Even though she still thinks Charlie’s a mess, a part of her might think that he’s all that she has left. (And that might, sadly, be true) And, if Charlie can help her to fulfill her dream of having a baby, maybe things can get better for her.
Something I noticed as well is that the Waitress never said she loved Charlie back. It’s possible that she still doesn’t love Charlie and never will, but sees him simply as a partner that can help her to take care of her child. (Also, in order to get Frank’s money, she needs to be partnered with Charlie)
Question 5: What’s the deal with The Waitress acting the way she did after having sex with Charlie?
Answer 5: We don’t know that much about The Waitress, but we do know that she sometimes does/thinks weird stuff like the rest of the Gang. (In "Mac Bangs Dennis’ Mom,” The Waitress slept with Frank, a man she’s not attracted to at all, in an attempt to get back at Dennis because she thought he was cheating on her with older women. In “Charlie and Dee Find Love,” it’s hinted at that The Waitress might be stalking Dennis because she has his phone number even though he changed it. In “The Gang Group Dates,” after years of Dennis’ mistreatment of her, The Waitress was still excited about possibly being Dennis’ girlfriend.) Also, even though she was kind of aggressive towards Charlie, all of her points were valid, some of Charlie’s responses were dumb, and her dislike of Charlie is totally understandable.
Question 6: What’s the deal with Charlie freaking out after finally getting The Waitress’ attention?
Answer 6: Surprisingly, the possibility of that happening was set up in a previous episode. In Season 9’s "Flowers for Charlie,” Frank paid The Waitress to hang out with Charlie because he was getting worried about him after he started taking “intelligence” pills for an experiment. When the Waitress began talking about her life, Charlie immediately started getting annoyed, started hearing a ringing in his head, and had to leave. We found out at the end of the episode that these pills were placebos. Basically, this was a strong hint that Charlie might be in love with the idea of The Waitress, not the actual person. So, even though he has been stalking The Waitress for 15 years, he might not really want to be with the real her. (The fact that he thought of The Waitress’ negative reactions as a “game between them” is another hint, of course)
Also, even though Charlie fantasized about raising multiple children with The Waitress in “The Gang Saves the Day” (which aired before “Flowers for Charlie”), it was still a fantasy. Charlie might fantasize about having a nice house, a wife, and children, but he still likes living in his unfancy and dangerous apartment and doesn’t handle stress well. There are huge conflicts that he doesn’t see.
Also, keep in mind that he came up with the plan only a few hours earlier and he mentioned that he wanted to get The Waitress pregnant so she would be tied to him for life. (clearly no thought about the actual baby and being a father)
So, with Charlie being Charlie and the reality of the situation crashing on him, he is starting to freak out.
Summary: Charlie freaking out is 100% in character.
Question 7: Why was Charlie a butt to Dee after having sex with The Waitress?
Answer 7: Charlie is an idiot and a misogynist, so he projected his issues with women and The Waitress onto Dee. Also, as Charlie mentioned, Dee possibly tried to have sex with him an additional time after “The Gang Misses the Boat” and he didn’t want that to happen again that night. So, overly-stressed and tired Charlie absentmindedly begged Dee not to be a whore numerous times before immediately falling asleep on top of her because even though he has issues with women, he feels comfortable with Dee.
Summary: Charlie and Dee’s relationship in a nutshell.
Question 8: Why did Dennis want to leave the Gang to take care of Brian Jr.?
Answer 8: I get the vibe that this might have been the first time that Dennis actually held Brian Jr. (or he hasn’t held him in a while?). Holding the child made him really understand that he is a living, breathing being he created and not just an obstacle to overcome to get back to his usual life. And then the child knew who he was, which made everything feel even more heavy. This is the first time in Dennis’ life that he’s been responsible for someone other than himself. He knows that if he stays with the Gang, he’ll feel guilty for whatever happens to the child. He’ll feel guilty that the child knew who he was but couldn’t see him. And the fact that the Gang doesn’t comprehend this at all (Mac, for example, excitedly told him “The plan worked!”) pushed him even further away from them and towards his child.
Question 9: Why didn’t the Gang seem to care when Dennis left?
Answer 9: The Gang has a great track record of unusual responses to deaths and departures.
In “Dennis and Dee’s Mom Is Dead,” Dennis reacted to his mother’s death by partying/hazing guys in his mom’s house and Dee and Frank seriously considered grave robbing her. In "The Gang Gets a New Member,” Mac and Dennis had no problem kicking Charlie out of the Gang and replacing him with Schmitty. In "The Gang Beats Boggs,” Mac’s only response to a drunk Dennis spontaneously leaving their plane was to write the number of beers he consumed on his forehead. In "The Gang Misses the Boat,” the Gang “broke up,” yet everyone just spent the episode doing their own thing. In "Frank Retires,” the rest of the Gang started cheering and clapping after Frank declared that he would be retiring from the Gang. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
It’s very likely that the rest of the Gang is still in shock/denial about Dennis leaving and they are expecting him to come back soon like everyone always does.
Since the highlight of the night was firing Dennis’ RPG, they decided to not let Dennis’ departure stop them. (It also doubled as a nice, fiery distraction)
As for blowing up the Range Rover? They think Dennis intentionally left it and it’s the perfect target to take out any frustrations they had/have with Dennis. (This is also one of the reasons Mac, who gave Dennis his cherished RPG, is the one blowing up the Range Rover, one of Dennis’ most prized possessions)
When Dennis comes back, they can excitedly tell him that they blew up the Range Rover and it was awesome.
Question 10: Why did Dennis leave the Range Rover?
Answer 10: Dennis wants to take care of his child, which is a good thing, but he is clearly going through a crisis and is not thinking clearly. He mentally/emotionally disconnected himself from the Gang (notice that he said “The bar’s done” and turned off the lights even though the rest of the Gang is still there and can run the bar) and left everything that reminds him of the Gang behind (which explains why the Range Rover is still there). He did not even think about packing, called a taxi, and headed straight to the airport to fly to Mandy and Brian Jr.’s location. This is one of the reasons the ending feels so “off.” It mirrors Dennis’ mindset.
Question 11: Why did Dennis name his child after Brian Lefevre?
Answer 11: This was probably Mandy’s idea and Dennis went along with it because he couldn’t think of anything else. He also probably wasn’t in the right headspace to complain since he wasn’t ready to have a child.