This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 6 Episode 4
Despite a title like “Going Once, Going Twice,” the ending to tonight’s episode of Shameless left me genuinely floored from its high-bidding closer. In an hour that felt like a throwback to Shameless’ earlier and gloriously nasty days—what with stories of underage cancer pimping, self-immolation, and the pawning of other families’ heirlooms—it was a bit of a shock to see reality hit the Gallaghers in the face like a bucket of Southside runoff. They did lose the house.
After years of the brood always skating by and not facing real world repercussions, I did not expect tonight to be any different. Which makes the effect all the more shamelessly satisfying.
The whole episode was built around Fiona nonchalantly dealing with a little thing like a 72-hour foreclosure. And given how apathetic the Gallaghers were toward homeless ruin, it was easy to share in their ambivalence. If the combined family has a devil may care attitude, then nothing bad can truly happen, right?
Indeed, much of the episode riffed on entertaining B-stories that came to fruition. I’ve largely ignored that Kev and Veronica are spending much of season 6 dealing with Yanis, a neighboring brute who wants to go to war with first the lesbian couple and now a “the lawyer’s family” from down the street. While the grim detour has actually been fairly amusing with Kev’s conscience continuing to come into contact with the stonewall that would be Yanis’ murderous fist, I actually expected him to never let down his guard enough with an admission.
Yet, there was genuine catharsis earned by Kev when he confessed his sins to Yanis about mistakenly cutting his brake line, and Steve Howey plays it exactly right as legitimate agony, making the circumstances all the more bizarrely amusing. Nobody watching really cares about Yanis or his crippled legs, even as he pitifully begs for Kev to watch The Voice with him. Thus Kev’s anguish is as darkly humorous as when Yanis lights himself on fire while trying to light a molotov cocktail. In fact, it’s kind of hilarious and one of the better gags of the night. And you wouldn’t normally think that is the case when a wheelchair-bound man is set aflame.
What is more damning for Kev is the fact that his Alibi bar went from being the trendiest spot for hipsters on the Southside to just being another faux-cool tapas restaurant. The irony of these man-buns actually caring about authenticity speaks for itself, yet the only thing Kev and V can do now to keep people in the door is by offering topless women. The thus seems to be will the Alibi return to its filthy roots or will Kev and V go completely hipster and turn the Alibi into a “Speakeasy?” (Which is douchebag for “bar.”)
I’m kind of curious to see how gentrified Kev and Veronica can become, but given the tenor of the show, I doubt the writers will allow these supporting characters to own an establishment raking in so much money that they can charge $15 a drink. But hey, maybe that will be a nice contrast as the Gallaghers continue their downward slide?
Yep, everything mentioned up to this point has been a distraction from the main gist of the episode, which is what will the Gallaghers do next? For Lip, the immediate future is primarily him finding a way to maintain his own Mrs. Robinson, even as the seeds of the relationship’s undoing have been set. It’s legitimately fascinating to see what a show like Shameless thinks of academia since it sums up the culture as verbal knife fights in hotel ballrooms. Still, this romantic narrative has just about run its course.
While Lip has had a number of mentors thus far, including Amanda’s father and the first tough University of Chicago prof that inspired him to go to school and then disappeared, this one seems primarily to be about fulfilling the sexual fantasy components of Shameless. And while that is harmless enough since one way or another, we’ll be watching Lip’s sexual conquests that have been a staple of the series since season 1, this particular narrative has no future. And this week’s hour intimated as much.
The shock value of Lip sleeping with a married woman is over, and there are other ways to depict Lip maturing in the college world besides the self-confessed rehashes of The Graduate plot.
If this relationship is to continue to be a focus in season 6, I’d much prefer it return to previously joked about ideas from this year’s premiere: what if she is grooming Lip to kill her husband? Trading in Mrs. Robinson for Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson would be fun. Of course, I don’t want Lip to go through with it, but it’d be new ground for a series like Shameless to traverse…
Other new ground that I actually enjoy seeing Shameless toy with is that of Ian becoming a firefighter. I’d like to say I predicted last week he’d head in that direction, and it’s a far more intriguing storyline for him than continuing to freak out at siblings for getting him an unglamorous job. Granted, whether Ian will ever wear the tight leather—for the highly unlikely all “Fire Island” firefighting division—remains to be seen since it will require at least getting a GED before anything else, it gives his storyline purpose, which it hasn’t really had since season 4.
However, the rest of the episode seemed to be about the ruination of the Gallaghers. Right off the bat, Chucky returning is never a good sign, because that kid is a herald for the potential return of Sami, the one character nobody should want to see return. Besides, he adds nothing to the narrative other than making Fi’s life even more hellacious since she has one more mouth to feed. Well that, plus Carl’s empty threats to inflict harm on the little vegetable.
Carl himself is getting in deep enough in the criminal lifestyle to earn money for a car or saving the house. And this allowed Fi her first (and likely only) opportunity to comment on Carl’s choices since she refused to take his drug money. But that is hardly putting a firm narrative hand on this life’s journey.
Instead, we have a rather sweet love story about him trying to woo a girl. Yet Carl is anything but sweet. At the very least, he isn’t delusional, however…
Aye, Debbie took Fi’s tough love from last week and shrugged it off. Saddled with Frank as her support system, she continues to embrace her current bit of lunacy with fantasies about saving up to afford her own place from part-time employment. But Frank does her one better by trying to pimp his 15-year-old daughter off on first a 90-something pervert and then the still married middle class dad of a terminally ill wife.
This is horrendously low of Frank and the one storyline element that feels at home with Shameless’ earliest seasons. It’s just bizarre and nasty enough to be a perfectly in-character scheme for Frank, and has the creep factor turned up to 100 as Debs dreams about mothering girls who are only a few years younger than her, because their father is totally not bad looking and like has a slide and swing set in his backyard!
Debbie has always had the ability to do irrational things, but watching her go down the Frank Gallagher road of scheming is as unsettling to see as any day-in-the-life moments with the Milkovich clan. I never bought that she was wholly nuts, but Shameless is taking her to a creepy and horrifying place, which might be the only bit of Gallagher-based gallows humor left to relieve fans from the main plot—it also won’t be ending anytime soon if that look of joy on her face at the doctor’s checkup is any indication.
Seriously though, what is going to happen if all of the siblings get broken up? It was teased earlier in season 3 when Frank snitched on his kids to Child Services. But now, Fi cannot seem to provide them a home. And at the moment, it looks like their house is on route to being renovated into a charming little Bed and Breakfast.
And I think it will stick (for now) since Fi is entertaining the idea of living a serious relationship with Sean. Considering how well that went with Gus and the bland, middle class brothers from season 4, I have my doubts that this will be a match made in heaven. But even with the revelation that Sean murdered someone as a junkie, and is himself still a recovering junkie, I hope this goes differently.
The truth is that Shameless is probably closer to the end than it is the beginning, and while some fans are less keen on Dermot Mulroney’s recurring character, I appreciate the contrast and focus he brings to Fi’s life. He is not nearly the madman or pathological liar that Steve/Jimmy was. And his drug issues, ironically, give the flavor of “excitement” and unpredictability that Fiona seems to crave. But mostly, he is a pretty laidback and reliably steady rock that calms Fiona’s hurricane lifestyle.
Nonetheless, I expect bad mojo to be coming from this destination on Fiona’s part. Debs and Carl have never been in worse shape, and while she doesn’t even mention Liam, I doubt a kid with potential learning disabilities (also Fiona’s fault) will be quite the adoption prize he was a few seasons ago. Instead, the family could spend the rest of the season falling apart.
Luckily, this probably still won’t be where the season finally ends. Somehow, I expect the rest of season 6 to be about Fiona using her new line of credit to buy a new house with a new set of life priorities.
Could you see the Gallaghers in a new home? And is it time to wave the Southside goodbye? We’ll find out just how far down this evicted rabbit hole Shameless will go when moving day comes next week! In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the feeling of the series still pulling the rug out from under me six years in.