This Shameless review contains spoilers.
So Fiona is getting married! Again! I think that’s cause for celebration and cracking open the champagne… or at least a very nice and affordable bottle of Irish whiskey!
Yep, I am happy that after being unable to review last week, I came back in time for this joyous news. And this is joyous news isn’t it? After all, Sean has proven himself to be the first of Fiona’s beaus that I could actually see her being settled with. And I would hope the last few episodes made that explicit to Shameless viewers because of how awfully close it seemed to come to Dermot Mulroney leaving the show.
Some fans have understandably been recalcitrant toward Sean as a character, wondering if he’s any different from the other rotating men in the Shameless cast who appear and disappear like the changing of the seasons from Fiona’s life. Hell, this episode featured the return of poor, dumb, and terrible Gus. But I’ve always liked Emmy Rossum and Dermot Mulroney’s chemistry, and as a character, he brings an even-keeled sanity to Fiona’s craziness. She loves drama, and between being a heroin junkie (whether he’s on the smack or not) and a murderer, his zen-like temper still always keeps the thrill of potential chaos in the back of Fi’s head. So, in a twisted way, he’s the best of both worlds for her.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t get too used to Sean being around. This show thrives on the Gallaghers being in a perpetual shit show, and stability often means you’ve been written off the series (right, Mandy?). So, Sean’s days are likely still numbered. But his importance had to be highlighted after he gave up his car and his clothes to get Carl out of the thug life. Thus the prospect of him leaving Fi because of concerns about the safety of his son was a bombshell and a clever exit hatch for the writers—as opposed to the lazy idea of a drug relapse. Still, don’t necessarily expect them to reach the aisle. Hell, Gus did a season ago, but after tonight I think we’re free of him!
Indeed, it was a bit of a relief when Sean got the ring back for Gus, and not just because it brought Fiona out of hot water. Nay, this storyline needed to be wrapped up. It was a microcosm of Gus and Fi’s whole relationship. He seems like the nice dude, she then screws him over in a thoughtlessly cruel way (re: grandmother’s holocaust ring getting pawned) and he then reacts by becoming petty and vindictive, and tries to steal her house. It’s a nice reminder as to why it’s over, and offered a few good moments for Oscar Nunez to guest star as Fi’s bloodthirsty lawyer. Still, it’s time to wrap that narrative up. Shameless as a divorce court procedural is something no one wants to see.
Then again, I was never sure that I wanted to see Shameless go to a hippy commune, but that turned out to be an amusing new comedic distraction for William H. Macy to play in. It starts out on shaky ground given that Frank being wanted as a dead man in Chicago should mean the next time he shows up in the Southside (i.e. where the TV series takes place), he will wind up with 50 bullets in his head. This is not necessarily a situation to laugh off, thus I am curious to see if it will be handled more seriously in future episodes… but I doubt it. Nevertheless, this strange choice precipitated a diverting situation comedy where Frank is living with the hippies.
What is more dubious is the idea that Fiona would really let Debbie walk out that door and “raise her baby” in the wilderness with the oblivious. Putting a contract on Frank’s head for comic relief can be allowed a pass, but no matter how bitter things have become between Fiona and her hopelessly naïve sister, there is no way Fiona should allow Debbie to seemingly sever all contact with the clan until she is 18-years-old. And Debbie pretending she’s happy in this situation is just one more in a long line of moments this season that makes it really, really, really hard to still sympathize or root for Debbie as she digs her grave (and welfare fate) deeper and deeper.
At the very least while with the hippies, seeing Frank realize that he would be living outside in an Illinois winter was only topped in comedic potential by the fact that we might just have seen the last of Chuckie since the mini white supremacist got mauled by cougar. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer Donald Trump supporter.
Meanwhile, all three of the brothers Gallagher got subplots this episode, and two of them were quite strong. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Carl Gallagher’s arc is turning out to be the MVP subplot of season 6. While they have decided to make Debbie perhaps the most foolish Gallagher of all, Carl has enjoyed a genuinely cathartic and even moving storyline.
Ethan Cutkosky is still finding his footing as a young actor, but the writing has allowed him to take a center stage that has been surprisingly effective. During the early seasons of Shameless, the general sense was that Fiona’s fucked up life in trying to raise her siblings would serve as a lesson for the youngest Gallaghers, creating a series of life lessons for them as they got older. And honestly, many viewers (including myself) jumped to the conclusion that Debbie was the responsible one, and Carl was heading for a life a lot like… well how he has been depicted for much of the last two seasons.
But seeing both Carl save the house, and then choose on his own to get out of the lifestyle before he got so deep he’d be six feet under, was handled with unexpected delicacy by the writing room. Likewise, his sudden submission of his V-card is being done with a touch of something resembling modesty and thoughtfulness. Who knew?
It’s the polar opposite to Lip’s storyline this season, which has dwelled far too long on the damages of a dalliance that is harder to take more seriously than any other hook-up in Lip’s longstanding lothario ways. And now with the introduction of “Brina,” it feels like Shameless is going to rinse and repeat itself again in regards to Lip’s narrative beats.
What’s more intriguing is the return of Mandy Milkovich. It is a bit contrived that she’d call Ian instead of her criminal brothers to help dispose of a body, but beyond the usual Shameless hijinks, her return marked an interesting perspective. Like Ian, she has sold her body to get ahead in life. But unlike Ian or any other Gallagher, being allowed to leave the Southside has at least let the character build something of a life for herself that is a great distance away from the old neighborhood or even the University of Chicago. I am not happy to see what Mandy is doing, but it intentionally provides a semi-retort of the show’s cynicism while still infusing it with a sexually horrific element that keeps things in the fog.
It also might just be a boost of encouragement for Ian to not just sit in his Gallagher home and drinking coffee while the other characters scramble—and probably fail—to climb out of this. Is it finally time to pursue a life in firefighting?
Then again, after a good episode like this, maybe there is a reason they aren’t allowed a full escape. Not when the give-and-take between mobility and backsliding is so entertaining.