Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Fan Theory: Dennis Killed Brian LeFevre

*Be Advised* The following post contains some graphic material, including references to sexual violence and murder.

For more than ten years now, FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has pushed the boundaries of comedy, network sensibilities, and good taste in general. When Sunny first came on the air, the network billed it as "Seinfeld on crack," taking the four utterly repugnant main characters and their rampant drug use, violence, and general debauchery and putting it center stage. And of all the maniacs that have stood behind the bar in Paddy's Pub, none are quite so frightening as the self-titled Golden God himself, Dennis Reynolds.

Longtime fans of the show are by now all too familiar with Dennis's constant brushes with sexual depravity, and his occasional forays into outright psychopathic behavior. For years this was simply one of those thematic undertones peppered throughout each season like breadcrumbs, similar to Mac's repressed homosexuality and the sexual tension between Charlie and Dee. Fans have often speculated on just how far Dennis may have taken this off screen, and upon a recent re-watch of the series I believe I've discovered the first actual murder that he committed. The victim? Brian LeFevre.

Before examining this theory, however, lets briefly go over Dennis's history and the lead up to why I believe that he killed Mr. LeFevre.

The Implication:

This charming little scene actually tells us quite a bit about Dennis's character, and it does so on a couple of different levels. First and most obvious is what we see on the surface. Dennis exhibits some disturbing behavior here, revealing a plan to get women alone in the middle of the ocean and making them afraid for their own safety for the express purpose of pressuring them into sex. This isn't the only time that Dennis would use fear to get women into his bed either. In the season 10 episode The Gang Group Dates Dennis blames his low rating on a dating website on the women feeling "too safe." Later in that same episodes he flies into a paranoid rage in a crowded restaurant and starts pointing at women and screaming "I'll rate you, I'll rate you!" He does this in such a way that the word "rate" sounds strikingly similar to the word "rape." When explaining the first "N" in the D.E.N.N.I.S. system, he's shown calling a woman up and threatening her life with a voice disguiser, so that he can get into her apartment under the guise of protecting her.

What I find to be of even greater significance here, however, is his word choice in the above video. "The implication," in addition to being a strategy that he employs to get women, also perfectly describes the way that hints are dropped about Dennis's character over the course of the series. These are at first subtle in early seasons, such as the season six episode The Gang Gets Lost in the Woods, when Charlie compares Dennis's methodical nature to that of a serial killer, which Dennis takes as a compliment, or the season three episode Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender (the title of which speaks for itself). However as the show progresses we are more and more directly shown that Dennis may be capable of real violence, culminating in the season 10 episode Psycho Pete Returns, where Dennis is diagnosed by a psychiatric doctor as (according to Dee) an "actual psychopath."

Part of the reason for this is likely chalked up to the show's general descent into chaos, airing material that pushes the envelope a bit more with each season. However, it also fits in with Dennis's character to slowly and methodically work his way up to something. We see this in the season seven episode Thundergun Epxress, where Mac criticizes how long it takes Dennis to sleep with women (we also see this on one of his sex tapes in the season eight episode Charlie Rules the World), and in the season ten episode Ass Kicker's United: Mac and Charlie Join a Cult, where he describes manipulation as a process that takes years of patience. It makes sense then, that Dennis's progression from fantasy to actual murder would be a slow process that happens over the course of several years. Take, for example, the following clip which contains two scenes from seasons seven and eight respectively, and see how he slowly progresses from fantasy to reality.

Dennis and Skin:

As far back as season three, Dennis has shown himself to have a disturbing infatuation with skin, both human and otherwise. The most disturbing example of this is in the video below, from the season ten episode Psycho Pete Returns, where he threatens to skin Dee and turn her into a lampshade. In the season eleven episode Frank Falls Out the Window, Dee confronts Dennis on his dream of being a veterinarian, saying that she thinks he only wants to become a vet so that he can "keep the skins." The conversation quickly devolves into a screaming match when she follows this up by telling him that he's going bald, but not before Dennis admits that he is indeed very fascinated by skins.

One of the earliest references to Dennis's obsession with skin, which I think a lot of people miss, is in the season three episode The Aluminum Monster vs Fatty Magoo. In a brief scene towards the end of the episode, a number of parallels are drawn between Dennis and Buffalo Bill, a serial killer from the movie Silence of the Lambs that wears the skins of his victims.

  • Both men are naked and applying lipstick in front of a mirror.
  • Both men are about to dress up as women.
  • Both men are listening to a song from the 80s about love.
  • Both men are softly whispering affirmations of self-confidence about how sexually attractive they are.
Additionally, Buffalo Bill, according to Hannibal Lecter, wants to wear the skin of his victims to become another person. This, along with Dennis's infatuation with human skin, will be very important in Dennis's possible murder of Mr. LeFevre. But before we get to the reasoning behind Dennis's killing fantasies, let's go back to where they may have started...

Gary the Serial Killer:

Dennis starts out in the beginning of the series as an overly vain womanizer with a frat boy's mentality toward sex. It's only in mid and latter seasons that we are given hints that he may in fact be dangerous. When wondering about the reasons for this, I found myself thinking of a story I heard about a thirteenth century serial killer named Gilles de Rais. De Rais was a French nobleman and the right hand man to Joan of Arc, and by all account a virtuous individual (at least with regards to the way that the gentry viewed virtue in the middle ages). He became one of history's most notorious monsters quite by accident, after a group of con artists masquerading as alchemists convinced him to murder a child while experimenting with necromancy. De Rais discovered from this that he enjoyed killing, and went on to become one of histories earliest recorded serial murderers. If Dennis is the Gilles de Rais of our scenario, then his alchemist would be Dee's former neighbor, Gary.

We first meet Gary in the season three episode, Mac is a Serial Killer, where the Gang suspects Mac of a series of murders that we later find out were committed by Gary when the Gang discovers "about fifteen severed heads" in his freezer. Though Gary is only around for the one episode, after which he is most likely either in prison or dead after Frank attacks him with the chainsaw, I think that the experience had a very profound effect on Dennis in a number of ways.

For one, during the episode itself Dennis and Dee try to "get inside the mind" of the serial killer in order to find out who it is and clear Mac's name. They manage to do this by purchasing (stealing) murder weapons, dressing up as a painter and psycho clown, and going out to stalk a victim. In addition to coming up with a surprisingly feasible backstory and methodology for his killer, Dennis becomes extremely excited about the idea of strangling and dismembering the Waitress. He then gets overtly disappointed when Dee says that they can't really kill her.

We see the episode with Gary referenced most recently in the season eleven episode, Chardee Macdennis 2: Electric Boogaloo, where Dennis sculpts a woman's head in a freezer when prompted to mold something that represents "love." His excuse is that "it represents the preservation of love for ever and ever" (this is important for the section regarding Dennis's psychotic break).

Some have speculated, based on this last fact, that Dennis may have been the real serial killer all along, and that he framed Gary. Personally I don't think this is likely. The whole misunderstanding with Mac and Gary happened because Dennis pointed out that Mac came home late the previous night, causing Frank to suspect that Mac was the killer based on him being out while the most recent murder was taking place. This means that Dennis was home while the murder was happening because he knew that Mac wasn't. I also find it hard to believe that Dennis could have been so easily dispatched by the Waitress with a can of pepper spray if he'd already killed up to fifteen women.

More likely, I think, is the idea that Dennis was inspired by Gary. Almost all serial killers start out fantasizing, and when that doesn't do it anymore, they graduate to the real thing. I think Dennis got such a high off the stalk and planning that he and Dee did to fake-kill the Waitress that he kept running with it, crafting more and more elaborate fantasies, such as storing zip ties and plastic wrap in his car, and describing to Mac what they could potentially do with women trapped out on the open ocean. He did this for five seasons until the opportunity arose for him to kill his first real victim: Brian LeFevre.

Brian LeFevre:

In the season eight episode, Frank's Back in Business, the Gang finds the wallet of a man named Brian LeFevre. After boosting the cash, credit cards, and baseball tickets found inside, Dennis, Mac, and Dee soon find themselves in a luxury box with a pair of business executives that are in town to court Brian LeFevre. Dennis takes this as an opportunity to become Brian LeFevre, posing as him for the rest of the week. Dennis also invited Mac and Dee to "get off" with him by taking part in the charade. Some, as it turns out, were willing to take this farther than others...

Dennis describes the experience of "getting off" as the thrill of becoming another person by "getting inside of their skin." The wording of this, "getting inside their skin," recalls to mind Dennis's previously mentioned fetish. Considering this, when we find out at the end that the real Brian LeFevre was murdered right outside Paddy's Pub, it isn't that much of a stretch to suspect that Dennis may have had something to do with it. With this in mind, consider Dennis's reaction to hearing Charlie and Mac recap LeFevre's death.

As Charlie and Mac are describing the circumstances of the real LeFevre's death, Dennis becomes progressively more and more aroused, finally "climaxing" when they show his severed finger (which Charlie cut off in the morgue). This is very similar to the way in which real serial killers gratify themselves when reliving their crimes (also the reason that many of them take trophies, such as the severed finger). Furthermore, his choice of Dee as a companion reflects what may have been his original fantasy, when the two of them stalked the waitress in Mac is a Serial Killer.

Now all of this is plausible, but still probably seems like a stretch. However, the show does drop one MASSIVE clue as to Dennis being the real murderer. When describing how the police believe that the murder went down, Charlie says that the real Brian LeFevre was stabbed to death by "a crackhead." Now you may hear this and assume that there's no real mystery to LeFevre's death and that it was a simple mugging. But let's not forget, Dennis is a crackhead. He became addicted to crack all the way back in the season two episode, Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare, and he's had multiple relapses in Frank's Pretty Woman and Frank Falls Out the Window. While I don't necessarily think that Charlie knows or suspects that Dennis killed LeFevre, I do believe that the show is dropping a hint that points in Dennis's direction.

Dennis's Psychotic Break:

Usually when a serial killer first begins killing, or resumes killing after a period of inactivity, something happens that sets them off; a death in the family, getting fired, getting divorced, something of that nature. In this situation, the event that sets Dennis off is as traumatizing as any of those.

In the episode Charlie's Mom Has Cancer, which takes place immediately before the one with LeFevre's demise, Dennis is stuck in a sort of melancholy slump. He admits to Mac that he's distressed over his inability to "feel things" emotionally. Over the course of the episode he tries a number of remedies, including attending Mac's church and seeing a holistic healer named Doctor Jynx. Unfortunately none of this works, and Dennis resigns himself to feeling nothing, admitting that the church is running a scam and that Doctor Jynx is a "sorcerer" with the name of a monkey. At the end of the episode, however, in what can only be described as a horrific twist of irony, Dennis does manage to unearth his feelings. This happens when Frank tricks him into digging up his dead mother as a means of getting revenge against Dee for insulting him and stealing his money.

When the casket lid opens and Barbara's corpse is revealed, Dennis bursts into tears and starts hysterically sobbing, clutching Dee and screaming "I feel too much!" and "my mommy's a skeleton!"

This would explain Dennis's desire to slip into someone else's skin, as the flood of negative emotions that overwhelmed him upon seeing his mother's dead body made it too painful to be "Dennis Reynolds." The sight of Barbara's body without skin probably also triggered his obsession with human flesh, which ties into his psychotic impulses. This likely brought on some self-loathing, given that his mother is one of the few people that Dennis could be said to love, further contributing to his urge to become someone else. So when he saw LeFevre stumbling around behind Paddy's looking for his wallet, it was too great an opportunity to miss.


In the episode immediately after the one featuring Brian LeFevre, Charlie Rules the World, we see some interesting behavior from Dennis. Throughout the episode he expresses frustrations with the Gang's lack of drive to go out and "live life." He wants to experience things on a more visceral level while the others are burying themselves in social media and online video games. He comes off as manic and overly cheerful, in a somewhat aggressive way. He wants to go out dancing, as if celebrating something, and winds up doing shots until he projectile vomits at the table. Later in the episode he spends some time alone in an isolation tank and comes to the conclusion that he's a god, and the episode ends with him deleting everyone else's game characters because they "irritated him."

Though not entirely new behavior on Dennis's part, he does seem to take his divinity to a more literal level in this episode, whereas in the past he referred to himself as a "golden god" in more of a metaphorical sense. When viewed in the context of our present theory, that he in fact committed his first murder in the previous episode, Dennis's progressing god complex can be viewed as more than simple narcissism, but as the self-aggrandizing mentality of a budding serial killer. 

Conclusions and Summation of Evidence:

For those without the time to waste reading this whole article, I'll sum things up here. Consider this the TLDR section.
  1. Dennis is a diagnosed sociopath that harbors an unhealthy infatuation with human skin.
  2. Dennis is addicted to Crack Cocaine.
  3. Brian LeFevre is killed by "a crackhead" behind Paddy's Pub.
  4. Dennis becomes sexually aroused by impersonating LeFevre, and describes the experience as "climbing into another person's skin."
  5. In the episode directly before the one with LeFevre, Dennis is desperate to feel some sort of emotion, and has a psychotic break at the end when he sees his mother's skeleton.
  6. In the episode directly after the one with LeFevre, Dennis wants to celebrate and go out dancing and in the end has a revelation that he's a god.
  7. Dennis has, in the past, engaged in murder fantasies similar to the way he acted with Dee while impersonating LeFevre.


  1. You forgot about his car which contains a secret compartment full of "tools" which include duct tape, zip ties, and other terrifying instruments used for kidnapping and or murder.

    1. That was included if you read the fucking article, you jabroni.

    2. Dude I gotta stop you there, because you keep using this word jabroni....and its AWESOME

  2. He didn't forget. There is a clip of that exact thing.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. What about when they went to the Jersey Shore and Dennis seemed terrified after they murdered the doctor

    1. Happened at the beginning of Season 7, Lefarve was mid Season 8.

    2. I would say he was probably terrified because HE himself was also in danger of being murdered by the Dust-head (or perhaps in a panic over his possible culpability if these lunatics had gotten caught), not because he actually had a problem with the murder itself.

    3. he was high on angel dust himself too, his response was probably influenced by that as well

    4. Dennis is a control freak. It probably shook him to his core to confront how little control he actually has even over his own life. If anything I'd say that event might have pushed him closer to the brink of becoming a murderer in order to feel in control again.

  5. this is awesome. i love how you just casually mention frank may have killed someone with a chainsaw.

  6. Very well thought out. I'm impressed.

  7. I just thought of something... the author refers to Dennis' original fantasy being killing (the waitress) together with Dee. Where would that need stem from??? DONNIE. He and Dee killed and ate him in the womb!

    1. Holy shit, Elizabeth Saenz, you bloody genius! Let me build a lampshade of your skin...

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. This is absolutely fascinating. I also have an unhealthy obsession with Dennis Reynolds and to read about his dark side in an in-depth way is very satisfying. I would love to see a breakdown like this, a real character study, on all of the Sunny characters. Thank you for this.

  9. I think this is great and close but I would like to submit some more things for consideration. Denis definitely seems obsessed with women and I think we can assume he is killing them. Brian LeFevre's wife is supposed to be with him. She has a ticket and the folks at the company are expecting Prudence to be there. I would suggest that he either quickly killed Brian or more likely he saw a crack head kill Brian, had already been talking to Prudence and knew they were from Canada and nobody would be looking for them, at least for a while. Maybe he even took the wallet off the dead body and dropped it in the bar to be "found". He would be able to push it to the limit and become Brian and he then took Prudence and held her, perhaps raped and then killed her. Maybe he has bought a boat in secret. We know that he has been collecting money for a few years from Frank that he thinks is going to Frankitio (Frank retires). He could have used this to obtain said boat to bring her out in the water, and either skin her for luggage/lamps or chopped her head off to keep it in a freezer. The smell of the luggage/lamp (Psycho Pete Returns)might be undetectable on the water. Or perhaps he is using the money to rent a spot in a warehouse or apartment where he takes women that he will hold and then kill and keep their head in the freezer. Said space would have a mantel where he keeps pieces of the women as well, as part of his collection.(Psycho Pete Returns)

  10. Good article! Another time was when Dennis is getting rejected for the umpteen time in "The Gang Group Dates"; when the girl turns around to leave the table, he gets enraged then pretends to stab her as she walks away...

  11. I also notice a profound statement on the episode directly after the murder took place. At the very end of the episode Dennis says this " it doesn't have to be some big deal every time, some time thing just .. end. And I found that he may be using that line of thought as a way of justifying the crime to himself.

  12. the more seasons pass, the more I come to see Dennis Reynolds as a broke Patrick Bateman lol. "I could even add you to my collection!"

  13. the more seasons pass, the more I come to see Dennis Reynolds as a broke Patrick Bateman lol. "I could even add you to my collection!"

  14. How about this for a theory... Charlie's musical is actually about Dennis's life.

    Charlie wants the waitress to fall in love with him. He knows that the waitress fell for Dennis. Charlie is trying to point out that Dennis is evil.

    The troll (played by Frank) is actually the librarian that took Dennis'a virginity. The nightman is actually Dennis, showing that he is evil.

    1. Charlie's musical was clearly about Charlie being molested by Uncle Jack when he was a kid. He is the dayman, Uncle Jack is the nightman, and the troll is quite literally Frank, since he is probably Charlie's real father, always finding ways to get money (troll toll), and they live together. Anything involving Dennis I would say is a stretch

  15. I've always thought the beginning of his downward slide into killing was Dee ripping off the head of his stuffed elephant.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I'm sooooo glad I stumbled upon this post!! This theory is absolutely amazing, you wrote it very well, and I am 100% on board for it. As I kept reading along I was mumbling to myself how the current point connected to some other episode or scene--and then that would get mentioned pretty much immediately!

    The only thing I've thought of that I didn't see mentioned here (tho I don't have the ability to watch videos, so it's possible I just missed it) is that moment in 'The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis'. I suppose it may just qualify as 'breadcrumbs', but it was such a graphic fantasy straight from Dennis' mouth that I was surprised not to see it mentioned!

    Remember, the gang sans Dee invade that home that Frank has just bought at a foreclosure auction to find that the family--a couple and their two young children--is still residing there. Dennis voices this hypothetical scenario (which I think is safe to interpret as a fantasy he comes up with on the spot):

    "No, of course we shouldn't bash these people up! Look, ok... Absolutely we could cave the husband's skull in here. Yes, we could take the wife down to the basement and have a frenzied free-for-all with her. We could tie the kids up in their little rooms upstairs--"

    After which, Mac (being the follower that he is lol) cuts him off to clarify that in this horrific scenario they would actually have to kill the kids.

    Ok, sure, this is more creepiness from Dennis which, at its surface level, seems par for the course. but I actually think it's a tad more fucked up than that because, while it's possible I'm just forgetting something, I can't think of any other times Dennis has expressed something as dark and detailed as *this* in front of people outside of the gang. He puts a good amount of effort into appearing affable and, most importantly, normal to people he's just met--though I guess there are times he ignores that, too. But to propose all of this despite these potential victims being right there, two of them being kids(!!), almost makes it seem like... Well, almost makes it seem like it was a real proposal lol

    Anyway, anyway. I love this character analysis and fan theory. Dennis is maybe my favorite fictional character of all time specifically because there's so many complex layers of darkness to him. And as someone who spends an unhealthy amount of time reading up on serial killers, what you've written here passes allll the tests lol. I'd love to read your thoughts on season 11 and 12's revelations regarding him being raped in his youth (and that it really *was* traumatizing for him) and his history of killing crows, along with his decision to try to leave his old life behind and start a life that holds no resemblance to how he's been living all the past seasons.

    (Annnnd upon re-reading this, I realize that fantasy of his sort of supports the 'Dennis killed Brian *and* Prudence' idea in the comments above!)

    1. I think the killing crows thing could b and allusion to Jeffrey Dahmer, what do u think?

  17. Dennis isn't a diagnosed sociopath, he's diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Different thing.

  18. I've been watching the show again and something stuck out to me about this theory. Season 8 has the trilogy of episodes chronicling Dennis' loss of emotion, psychotic break, his murder, and his taking over of Brian's life, but something I noticed this most recent watch was that the episode right before this trilogy is the episode "The Gang Gets Analyzed", and in that episode Dennis says something like "It's like the thrill of being at the executioner switch but knowing you'll never pull it, but you could, and I might, and I probably will" as he stares into the camera. Then the trilogy of episodes happening so it seems like Dennis knew what was coming.

  19. Damn, this seems totally plausible. The whole "Dennis might be a serial killer" meme has been played for dark comedy over many seasons now. But for the most part it seemed accepted as canon that he only wanted "the illusion of power", but in reality would not go to the effort of *actually* murdering people.

    But seeing how this particular trilogy of episodes connect in the way you lay out... it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dennis was actually the one who killed Lefevre.

    Although a possible alternative explanation is that Lefevre indeed got killed by some crackhead. But because of the timing of Dennis' recent psychotic break (and being the opportunistic schemer he is), Dennis may have latched onto this man's death as a chance to act out the logical continuation of his serial killer fantasy-- but without actually having been the one to 'pull the trigger' in the first place. In this sense, he can get the ultimate "illusion of power" without the responsibility of murdering a man without getting caught.

    He can still "get off" by simply acting AS IF he killed Lefevre and "taking his skin" (metaphorically, through identity theft, rather than literally taking the skin). And in the following episode, his desire to "live life to the fullest" and celebrate could simply be his satisfaction at having brought his power fantasy to its logical conclusion-- even though he never actually committed the murder that kicked off the whole chain of events.

    But this is the genius of Always Sunny-- there's just enough ambiguity that multiple explanations could all be true and false at the same time. It's like "Shrodinger's Serial Killer" or something-- if the 'box' is never opened, then Dennis Reynolds will forever remain both a serial killer and NOT a serial killer. Once the box is opened, then the outcome becomes fixed, and the show would lose some of the layered dark humour at its (rotted) core lol.

  20. Yeah, Dennis pretty much did it. I see no evidence to say he didn't.