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Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul Come Knocking on Paddy's Door in It’s Always Sunny

In a reversal of roles, Aaron Paul makes Bryan Cranston his bitch in “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab.”
  • Aaron Paul, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Bryan Cranston in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Photo: FX)
    Aaron Paul, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Bryan Cranston in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Photo: FX)

    This week’s installment of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia features two star-studded cameos: Breaking Bad alumni Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. The June 28 episode, “Celebrity Booze: The Ultimate Cash Grab” opens with the gang watching the pair promote their real-life alcohol brand, Dos Hombres Mezcal, on TV. Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), and Mac (Rob McElhenney) initially dismiss it as a mere cash grab, since any idiot could take a bottle of booze and slap a star’s face on it to make a fortune. But as the trio mock the idea, they slowly talk themselves into starting their own celebrity brand.

    The episode’s humor lies in the gang’s very limited knowledge of the actors, whom they continuously refer to as the two guys from Malcolm in the Middle, despite Cranston being the only one to star in the show. (In reality, Paul auditioned for the part of Malcolm’s brother, Francis, but ultimately lost to Christopher Masterson.) While pitching the idea to Frank (Danny DeVito), Charlie mistakes Paul as Frankie Muniz’s character Malcolm, adding that “he’s all grown up now, so you might not recognize him.” It becomes a recurring bit throughout the episode, as Charlie later addresses the duo as “Mr. Malcolm” and “Mr. Middle.”

    Although there aren’t any explicit references to their work on Breaking Bad, the power imbalance between Cranston and Paul feels reminiscent of the one they had in Vince Gilligan’s series. Only, this time around, Paul is the one calling the shots, telling his partner what to do and where to stand. It’s an inverse of their relationship on Breaking Bad, in which Walt (Cranston) gradually assumed control over Jesse (Paul) in their illicit dealings.

    This role reversal also acts as a parallel to Mac and Dennis (dubbed MacDennis by fans), as their dynamic hinges upon Dennis’ manipulation and constant undermining of Mac’s ideas. While waiting in line for the Dos Hombres meet-and-greet, Mac and Dennis find themselves at odds: Mac envisions expanding their venture into a fashion and lifestyle brand, but Dennis insists on taking charge of the conversation and forbids Mac from speaking.

    However, Dennis’ plan takes a dive when he discovers that Cranston isn’t allowed to shake hands with people, as instructed by Paul. After the actors compliment Mac on his suit, he mentions that he’s “not supposed to talk,” which prompts a similar response from Cranston, who subtly side-eyes his partner. Their pitch plans fail when the Sunny duo are quickly rushed away after a brief photo opportunity. Dennis, determined to assign blame, points fingers at “Malcolm” for “throwing him a weird vibe.” Mac agrees and notes Paul’s aggressive behavior, quipping that “Malcolm’s not in the middle, he’s on top.”

    Paul’s dominance over Cranston is especially prominent in the latter half of the episode. Charlie — after accidentally vomiting up his nickel concoction all over the driver — commandeers the vehicle and takes the actors to Frank’s private plane. Once airborne, the gang ambush the duo with a surprise pitch meeting. Despite Paul warning Cranston not to do it — even calling him a “silly little bitch” in the process — he defies orders and decides to firmly shake Dennis’ hand. In that moment, he’s overcome with a sense of authority and commands everyone to take their seats.

    Cranston then launches into a dramatic monologue, calling into question Paul’s sense of control. He explains that it was a ploy on his part, playing up the role of the clueless partner to make Paul out to be an even larger villain. Cranston highlights the vulnerability that comes with Paul being the face of the brand, anticipating that “greedy celebrities” will soon become targets for public scrutiny and backlash. He provocatively concludes, “Who’s really in charge here?” Paul briefly appears disturbed, only for Cranston to reveal that his entire spectacle was nothing more than a demonstration fueled by his passion for acting. The gang, whose only frame of reference for Cranston’s work is still Malcolm in the Middle, is left astounded by his performance, with Charlie even suggesting that he should consider pursuing dramatic roles in the future.

    As expected, the group fails to secure the coveted endorsement, and the episode ultimately serves as a spoof of celebrity alcohol brands while emphasizing the characters’ perpetual incompetence in all things business related. Cranston and Paul’s presence add a delightful layer of chaos into the mix. It might not be Breaking Bad (or even Malcolm in the Middle!), but it’s always fun seeing outsiders interact with the gang.

    It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia airs Wednesdays at 10 PM ET on FXX and streams on Hulu the next day. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Dianna Shen is a TV Writer at Primetimer based in New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine and Decider, among other outlets.

    TOPICS: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, FXX, Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, Charlie Day, Danny DeVito, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney