A surprisingly large number of promotional photos have the Gang huddled together and legitimately enjoying each other's company.
A great example of why Charlie is widely considered the only good person in the group is in "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" when he listens to high schooler Sara's boy problems and takes her to prom where he steps aside for her original boyfriend to dance with her. He is consistently sweet and has no inclination to be with her romantically (unlike Dennis and Dee with their dates).
In "The Nightman Cometh" after the Waitress denied Charlie's marriage proposal, Frank was the only one who tried to comfort him. But of course it was then rendered null by one line.
Frank: It was a great musical Charlie. You did a great job. She ain't worth it. And by the way, I think that rape scene went really well.
There's a legitimate one at the very, very, very end of "A Very Sunny Christmas", which has the Gang finally all together for Christmas throwing rocks at trains, and a flashback to a young Charlie and Mac doing the same and being surprisingly sweet.
And also Frank's change of heart and the Gang's reaction to the gifts he gets them, especially Dennis' excitement. At least, until the experience is ruined when the presents are all stolen by Frank's old business partner.
In "Mac fights gay marriage", Mac tells the rest of the gang that Carmen (the trans woman who dated him in season one)got married and all of them show genuine happiness for her, even defending her when Mac starts making transphobic statements out of jealousy.
While the writers try to avoid showing any thing that can be considered heartwarming, the episode "Mac and Charlie: White Trash" ends with the Gang cooling off with a fire hydrant. There are no jokes, no mockery, no bickering, just a group of friends laughing and sharing a genuinely enjoyable time.
In "The Waitress is Getting Married," even though she acted like a horrendous bitch and humiliated the Waitress, when her fiancé, Brad, comes back to Dee's apartment and confesses he still is in love with her, the small silent smile on her face was just a little touching.
And, of course, Charlie gives the waitress's would-be fiancé, who had only been manipulating her as revenge for being turned down in high school, a gift: a box full of hornets.Awww...
He did look like he was going to have second thoughts, before he found out about the fiance's intentions.
However, keep in mind: Brad told Charlie he was going to to this scam with Dee next.
Charlie's reaction in "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats" when the Gang makes him a new rat stick is amazing, as is the whole plot of the episode, with the gang coming together to give Charlie a great birthday as thanks for him doing all the dirty work at the bar. And they still give him his gifts when they find out it's not even his birthday, but Frank's.
Throughout the episode, the group tries to give Charlie nice things, such as a trip to the movies or a day at the spa, but they fail due to Charlie's own idiocy. Though they're tempted to give up as they always do, Dee, Dennis, and Mac refuse to stop trying. Eventually, they sneak into Charlie's apartment and read his "dream book," a bizarre collection of odd pictures and misspelled words that contains the things he fantasizes about. At the end of the episode, they reveal that they painstakingly recreated these items, including a roast chicken wearing denim shorts, a bird with teeth glued on the beak, and three different types of "worm hat" (a hat made from worms, a hat that makes the wearer look like a worm, and a hat for a worm). Watching Charlie light up as he he finally sees his dreams come true is adorable.
When the Gang first starts reading the dream book, Dennis and Dee remark that it makes no sense and they should throw it away. Mac agrees, but then points out that they have to fight that instinct for Charlie's sake. It's the closest that he (or any of the group) ever comes to a lasting Heel Realization, and it's all for Charlie.
When Charlie gets the new rat stick, he's almost crying as he says "I don't know what to say 'cause no one's ever really, um..." He's too choked up to finish the thought, but it's heavily implied that this is the first time he's received gifts that mean something to him. An earlier episode even revealed that the "presents" he received each Christmas were largely random items given to him by the various men who came over that day to have sex with his mother. In short, the Gang are the only people (besides his mom) who have ever tried to understand Charlie and his bizarre quirks enough to do something like this.
The entirety of "Dee Gives Birth." From Dennis' genuine concern for Dee when she is in labor (even wanting to be in the room when she gives birth) to the looks on the Gang's face when Dee was getting rolled down the hallway, baby in hand. Set to a Kate Bush song no less. Later, they even laughed at one of her jokes. Who would have thought that this show could pull off a truly touching moment?
And at the end it turns out that Dee was actually the surrogate for Carmen and her husband Nick. While Dee states later on that she hated being pregnant, the fact that she helped this couple achieve their dreams of having a family is a very kindhearted gesture on her part.
After the credits, there's a picture of a baby, stating the episode is dedicated to Kaitlin Olsen and Rob McElhenney's real life son Axel who was born around that time.
Soon after they meet their real father, Bruce Mathis, Dee and Dennis actually look genuinely happy singing on stage with him at his charity performance.
In "The Gang Goes to Jersey Shore," when Charlie meets the Waitress and they spend the evening together. For a show like this, it's almost too heartwarming to believe. So obviously, it's subverted when the Waitress reveals she was on ecstasy that night, and shuns Charlie the next morning. However, it's Double Subverted when it's revealed Charlie honestly doesn't care that she was high, and enjoyed the night on its own merit. Aww....
In "The High School Reunion", when one of the Gang's old high school bullies tells everyone that Dennis was not really in the cool group back in high school since all he really did was hang out with Mac and Charlie all the time. It really shows that Dennis is friends with those two because he really likes them.
Not only that, but he spent so much time with them that it only allowed him to put in a token effort at being one of the popular kids. Dennis prioritized hanging out with his real friends over even attempting to be popular and stroking his ego, which, considering the size of Dennis' ego, is really saying something.
Mac's father, despite being sent back to jail because of his own son and then later having Charlie and Mac try to sabotage his parole hearing, tells Mac that no matter what his son has done to him, he will always love him.
"The Gang Dines Out" features a surprisingly heartfelt moment from Dennis of all people — who's sorely lacked for Pet the Dog moments in the preceding few seasons — when he publicly confesses that knowing Mac always had his back was a key to building self-confidence in his early years. Inevitably, Dennis fouls it up a little with a tale of sexual conquest better left undescribed here, but it's still a genuine expression of friendship, entirely free from his usual manipulative machinations.
The episode also boasts another extremely rare everybody-gets-along ending, like the aforementioned "Mac and Charlie: White Trash" and very few other episodes in the series. The waiter's downfall instantly mends the divide between Dennis & Mac and Charlie & Frank, and when they find out Dee arranged it by tying the waiter's shoelaces together, they respond with praise and welcoming of a kind that Dee virtually never receives from them. Of course, the joke is that by now, everyone else in the restaurant utterly despises the gang, so that the funniest outcome would be for them to be too absorbed in enjoying each others' company to notice or care. Even so, in its own misanthropic way, this is one of the few truly feel-good endings the show's ever run.
From way back in season 1 when Mac accidentally punches Carmen for sneaking up on him, two guys react in disgust to Mac hitting a lady. Mac tries to brush it off by saying that Carmen is actually a male-to-female transsexual. The bystanders still chase Mac down, because now they see Mac as a transphobic bully in addition to a woman beater.
Subverted in "The Gang Broke Dee". The Gang seems genuinely concerned about her and supportive of her new career, until it's revealed that it's just one big plan to show her things could be worse, because they found her mopey "broken" behavior annoying and wanted to get back at her for joking about suicide.
However, it seems like Dennis wanted Dee to be happier (and out of their hair), and thought that if she did go with the plan of trying to continue her new career, she would become more depressed and kill herself. Plus, he wasn't in on the plan to show her things could be worse, and even told her he loved her.Double Subverted?
"The Gang Tries Desperately to win an Award" has the Gang admitting that they don't need an award to feel special. They decide that an award doesn't matter as long as they like themselves.
The fact that the Gang has no problems with the fact that Mac is gay in "Mac Day" and are actually annoyed that he's denying his true sexuality is surprisingly tolerant of them.
Just knowing that this group of people who do horrible things to each other still do genuinely care for one another is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in itself.
Played With. Although while it is quite mean-spirited and cynical in the context of the situation, in the ending of "The Gang Squashes Their Beefs", the Gang end up agreeing that they shouldn't care about their relations with others because they still have each other.
Dee and Charlie bonding throughout "The Gang Misses the Boat." It's really nice to see that without the toxic influence of the rest of the gang that the two of them can actually encourage and support each other enough to get somewhere close to normal. The making out and probable sex may have ruined the relationship with awkwardness, but it was nice too.
The end of the episode counts too. The main plot sees the Gang, all frustrated with each other, try to split up, only to discover that without each other around, they're even worse (with the exception of Dee and Charlie, as seen above—but even they need the group to function). At the end, they all come back to Paddy's and decide that they want to go back to the way things were—each of their own volition, no less. Frank even agrees to pay to have Dennis's car pulled from the river, no questions asked. To cap the moment off, Frank reveals that he's been saving a "special surprise" for just such an occasion, runs out, and returns with the rum ham! The episode ends with the Gang cheering and devouring the alcohol-soaked meat. They be may absolutely horrible people, but God damn it, they're True Companions through and through.
When Charlie fainted in "Chardee Macdennis 2", both Dennis and Dee were there to see him recover and said that they were worried and glad he survived. This being Sunny, it is immediately ruined by the two telling Charlie that his team lost because he cried immediately when the Waitress started talking and they burn his team's flag while smashing the figures.
While it is more underplayed, there's no deny that Mac's father Luther genuinely loves his son and wants to make amends, as demonstrated in "Dennis Looks Like A Registered Sex Offender," Luther got arrested for violating his parole: he's not supposed to leave the state, but had purchased plane tickets for himself, Mac and Charlie to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. In "Mac And Charlie Dies Part 2", after getting out of jail again, Luther writes Mac a letter saying he still loves him even after Mac attempted to frame him for sexual harassment and that he's trying to learn to forgive Mac.
An easy-to-miss set detail, but one that says a lot: In later seasons, there is a picture of Ernie, the Recurring Extra whose actor died early in the show's run, hanging above the bar. It's both a nice tribute to the actor and a surprisingly touching gesture for the Gang to make In-Universe. Maybe there really was someone outside the five of them whom they all cared for.
"Being Frank" ends with our first look at Charlie and Frank playing Nightcrawlers.
There are few moments towards the end of "The Gang Goes To Hell Part 2", when the Gang are trapped together in a small room on sinking cruise ship that's slowly filling up with water:
Dennis sincerely telling Dee that he loves her before they both go under, even though she blows him off.
The final exchange between Mac and Charlie before they join the others under the water:
Charlie: I can't believe nobody came to save us. Shall we do this?
Mac: Let's go be with the Gang.
The entire Gang holding hands beneath the water as they wait to drown. It's undermined seconds later once they realize they're being rescued and start kicking the crap out of each other to reach the surface, but in the moment it's a genuinely sweet, heartfelt gesture that shows the five of them really do love each other in their own warped way.
"Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy" reveals that Charlie's mom is aware enough of his "reading language" that she can send letters that he can read (meaning they are pictures and gibberish text).
And then it turns out that the letter she sent Charlie, believed to be a letter saying Mac's mom is holding her captive, is actually a letter asking Charlie to be around more, since she misses him.
In "The Gang Goes to a Waterpark," Dennis takes a Little Miss Con Artist under his wing for a day after she successfully scams him. Throughout the day, he shows genuine interest in and support for her, albeit in her potential for crime. It's the only time over the whole series that Dennis likes a female character for herself, however warped a scenario it is.
In "Hero or Hate Crime?", Mac finally comes out as gay. While it's kind of ruined by the gang immediately stating that they hate him the second he leaves the room and swindling him out of his lottery winnings, they make it clear that they're happy for him and even put off on stealing his money for a day to let him enjoy his newfound comfort.
The look on his face when he finally decides to stay out is one of happiness and relief.
Oddly enough the group's acceptance of Mac coming out is quite possibly one of the few decent things they've ever done. It also showcases just how strong their friendship, albeit dysfunctional, really is.
The look of concern on everyone's faces when a piano was about to crush and kill Mac. Even if they all later say that they hate him, they still, in their own strange, bizarre way, care for him as they do each other. Charlie even immediately kicks Mac out of the way and Frank shouted to Mac to show he was in danger...sure, he shouted "faggot", but it's the thought that counts.
In its own twisted way, the end of "The Gang Tends Bar". Mac buys Dennis an RPG off of the dark web. Dennis, who had been angrier than usual because it's Valentine's Day, is so overjoyed he doesn't even care that the seller didn't include a rocket.
The Reveal that Frank got Jerry the tapeworm because he heard Charlie say he was flabby. Charlie clarifies that he said Frank smelled crabby, and that he likes Frank's crab smell.
"Dennis's Double Life": Dennis quits the Gang to be a father. He initially tried to get out of taking responsibility by scheming his way into alienating the mother and his son, but, at the very end, he decides he doesn't want his son to grow up with an absent father like he did and leaves for North Dakota.
There is a moment in "The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition" when Charlie starts freaking out and Dennis (with uncharacteristic sweetness) rubs Charlie's shoulders to calm him down and even gives him a hug.
Similarly in "The Gang Goes to Hell: Part 2", Dennis apparently came up with the "oi oi oi!" thing as a way to calm Charlie down when he's having a panic attack.
In a bizarre way, Frank's total willingness to bankroll all of the gang's schemes is somewhat sweet. He feels somewhat guilty about being away from his kids for so long (granted, he also wants to indulge his every baser impulse along the way), but he'll spend any amount of cash they want for whatever insane plan they have at the moment.
In "Hundred Dollar Baby," Frank, out of whatever small goodness he has in his heart, freely offers to train Dee in boxing when she wants to learn how to defend herself. Later, when Dee challenges the daughter of his old rival to a boxing match, Frank genuinely sounds concerned for her and tries to dissuade her from fighting.
In "Flowers for Charlie," Charlie believes he's becoming smarter after taking pills from some scientists. He becomes a huge jerk and treats the whole Gang like garbage. Despite this, the Gang still goes to the culmination of the project, where Charlie reveals his "invention" (a device to let cats talk to spiders), and the scientists themselves reveal it was all a sham. The pills only made Charlie think he was getting smarter, and the actual experiment was on the details of that process. Rather than get angry at Charlie for being such a Jerkass, though, Dennis, Mac, Frank, and Dee make jokes about the situation (and even laugh at one of Dee's!) while trash-talking the scientists, and Charlie happily joins in. The episode ends with the group, reunited without any bad feelings, leaving the auditorium to watch Police Academy together. Who knew that Status Quo Is God could be such a heartwarming trope?
"The Gang Gives Frank An Intervention": During the eponymous intervention, Charlie demands to know why Frank doesn't play Nightcrawlers with him anymore. A genuinely surprised Frank promises to play it with him more.
In "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods", it's revealed that Frank had arranged for Mac to finally get to meet Chase Utley at the Animal Rights banquet. It's undermined by the fact that Mac, Dee, and Frank are still lost in the woods while Dennis and Charlie are partying, but it's still nice to see that he remembered and genuinely wanted him to meet his hero.