Shameless: Carl’s First Sentencing Review

Carl has his first sentencing hearing. Oh, they grow up so fast, don't they? We cover that and more in this review...

On tonight’s episode of Shameless, we saw two traits of the show mingle quickly—one at their very best and one at their most contrived. Indeed, while so much of the hour worked very well, it is the latter that begins the episode and that demands immediate attention.

We need to talk about Sammi. The eldest “Gallagher” daughter has outlived her usefulness for every one of our central characters, and it is time for her to go. Past due, really.

The episode begins, quite fittingly, with Fiona taking off her wedding ring. What seemed less fitting, however, was Sammi being there to whisper venom in her ear—not that Sammi doesn’t have the right to be pissed. After all, Carl did get her son sent up the river, but to quote Fi, “It’s not like Chucky was destined for great things.”

And no matter how justified Sammi’s anger might be, her presence in the Gallagher household is not. Already, she has pulled a gun on a family member in front of Lip. Now, she has made sure Carl went down in a bad way to juvenile hall. Sure, it was kind of inevitable that Carl would end up there, but the Gallaghers ain’t snitches, especially on one another. The fact that Sammi is even using the Gallagher as a dirty word means she has no reason left to be in this home.

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So why is she there, and why hasn’t Fiona gone nuclear on Sammi yet? They’ve kicked Frank out for lesser things (albeit, Frank actually is quite responsible for this too, albeit nobody knows this), and they didn’t know who Sammi was a year ago in the series’ timeline.

The only reason that Sammi is still around after this episode seems to be that she is stirring the pot and creating a lot of conflict. But it reaches the point where a story crosses the line from being a dramatic one to just being melodramatic. This episode should have begun with Fiona, Lip, and Ian dragging Sammi, kicking and screaming if necessary, out the front door and slamming it shut. If she is still living there by the end of next week, the series is going to start becoming something beyond shameless, it will also be incredulous.

Luckily, this is still quickly supplanted for the main arc of the night, which is exactly what the title says: Carl’s first sentencing. Again, Carl ending up here was likely only a matter of time, and he handles it in the only way he knows how: like a smug little shit. While Carl’s choice to not snitch was wise since his boss would have had other folks on the outside that could have swung by the Gallagher clan, the way he did it promised the maximum sentence. Then again, in a certain utilitarian sense (or like Frank Gallagher), one must admire Carl for embracing his evocation. Juvie is the closest Carl will ever get to his form of “college,” just as he can look forward to 30 to 35 as being his “golden years.” Still, I had to smile when he got his do-rag.

And in Sammi’s defense as an actual character, her admission that Chucky is going to have to learn how to “please” guards and other prisoners while shameless, particularly with the lawyer right there, was hardly funny. In fact, it might be one of the most uncomfortable scenes in the entire series as a mother explains to her mentally handicapped son what rape is going to be like. She also gives him a head start on his new life by marking him with a forehead brand that will keep him on this path. Honestly, like Carl, Chucky was headed for this crash with Sammi’s parenting skills anyways.

However, while this was the “A-plot,” the one that really worked beautifully tonight was Frank helping his 32-year-old doctor embrace her imminently ending mortality. Bianca and Frank’s relationship made the episode much more profoundly meaningful than Carl’s inevitable absence. And I say this as someone who cringed at their first encounter this week, fearing that Shameless would live up to its name here and do something as predictable as when Lip first eyeballed the tight blouse of his newest professor.

Instead, Bianca is played with genuine pathos and an endearing amount of awkwardness by Bojana Novakovic when she begins crashing into Frank styled self-destruction. Given the sudden near-death sentence of stage three pancreatic cancer at only 32-years-old, Bianca realizes that living a studious life has done nothing for her since it is all about to end, and she hasn’t even tried her first joint. Frank is only too game to help guide her into vice and bad decisions in a way that is refreshingly only in regards to booze and weed.

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Of course, Frank is doing this just to leach off Bianca’s wallet for his own buzzes and highs, but it occurred to me that this is what Frank would love from any of his children: an unapologetically self-destructive streak where they pay for his highs while passing out by Lake Michigan with him. It must be a shame for him that they don’t all get cancer too.

This nice story about giving in to the futility is contrasted by Lip accepting the benefits of the “straight and narrow,” such as being given charity by another alumni to finish his college degree. But this is still a collegiate life on Shameless, so straight and narrow includes stumbling into a naughty professor’s open marriage. But the best part of his storyline this week was Lip and Ian finally sharing a brotherly moment after two seasons of silence.

Also, one marriage that is open to all sorts of trouble is that of Kev and V since he’s wandered a great distance from home. As it turns out, his infidelities were only just beginning last week when he met co-ed with daddy issues. He follows that up by becoming a gentleman “rape walker.” By helping co-eds who are getting drunk at all times of day, he also is becoming rather unbelievably the most desired man on campus.

This leads to an admittedly hilarious scene where a group of college guys confront him about not only taking all the girls away, but by giving them all too many orgasms. Witnessing Kev modestly brag about his sexual prowess, as well as that of Veronica’s, is the first humorous moment that he has had in probably half a season. And considering the kind of clown that Kev is on this show, it says something about the state of his marriage.

I imagine that he will try to make a go of it again next week with Veronica, but when he admits his numerous liaisons, V is not going to be too pleased. And suddenly, this is starting to feel like Ross and “we were on a break” Rachel.

Still, the strongest aspects of this episode remain with Frank teaching Bianca about unbridled hedonism (and even learning himself about compassion), Carl is getting taught about squealing by his new incarcerated tutors, and even Sammi is apparently teaching Chucky about Aryanism.

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But if Sammi doesn’t learn what the outside of the Gallagher door looks like next week, there are going to be problems.

Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:

“You really a doctor? Do the world a favor and Kevorkian his ass.” – Veronica talking about Frank

“Every day’s an opportunity you don’t get back. So, don’t blow it working.” – Frank

“I know what you were hoping to hear: if your honor would lose 20 pounds, I would consider tapping that.” – Carl

“Any chance that he’ll get scared straight?” / “Hell no!” – Fiona and everyone else.

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3.5 out of 5