Tonight’s Shameless is entitled “Hope Springs Eternal,” yet the only silver lining I can see around this most dark Gallagher storm is that we could have finally bottomed out. But still, I think we all know Shameless better than that.
It is pretty remarkable that eight episodes ago, Fiona was telling her family that the poverty line was in sight. Now, as a convicted felon with a GPS ankle bracelet tracking her movements so tightly that she can’t take out the trash, the only line in sight is the one to her own front sidewalk…a line that everyone else is dying to cross, if only to get away from her.
When her parole officer makes her first visit, the older sister who would be den mother does almost everything right by cleaning up the house, including those of her youngest siblings’ rooms (much to their hatred), straightening the living room, and even baking some out-of-the-tube chocolate chip cookies. But this lady isn’t here to be friends, and rudely bursts Fi’s dreams of getting a job by first saying that she’ll be housebound for probably two weeks, and then ordering Fiona to piss into a cup in front of her. Nevertheless, this may be the highlight of Fiona’s week, because by the next day, her entire family has flown the coup after she got drunk and burned dinner, leaving her to beg a scornful Lip to bring her kids home over a phone call while she sleeps in Liam’s bed.
This season has been a fascinating descent for the oldest (official) Gallagher daughter, who in spite of her own extremely questionable taste in men, has been nothing but utterly responsible for her “kids.” I am of still two minds about how this downward spiral was precipitated. Being a child of a broken home, nothing feels as fitting to Fiona as the Southside chaos she grew up in. Ergo, her torpedoing a relationship with a boss so nice that he actually would pay her bail after she slept with her brother was kind of a foregone conclusion. The frenzied passion for an escape back into poverty she displayed by jumping Robbie is wholly plausible, yet Fiona bringing that madness home by leaving cocaine within reach of children is still something I grapple with.
Then again, the shot of Fiona realizing Robbie’s “addict” accusation was correct continues to haunt the rest of the show just as much as the character. When she looks at Frank dying in her brothers’ bedroom, the shudder running through Emmy Rossum’s heartbreakingly expressive eyes felt all too genuine. Quite likely, this is not the bottom for Fiona; it is her first step in embracing a near Shakespearian level of tragedy by becoming the true heir to Frank’s legacy: a ruined life found at the real bottom of an addiction (many more likely soon to appear). Veronica warns Fiona that the kids are growing up and won’t need her anymore; Debbie, for all her teenage angst of rebelling against her mother figure, is also right on the money for observing that Fi fears being alone. Only now does Fiona seem to comprehend that other than Liam, the child whose life she inadvertently destroyed, all her “kids” will soon be gone, along with any chance of the middle class, which was snatched away the moment she pleaded guilty. It feels inevitable that future seasons will be Fiona becoming the type of daughter Frank actually wanted.
And if Fi is ready to take the departing Frank’s mantle, the perpetually absent Monica may live on through Ian. As I’ve said in previous reviews, Ian always seemed like the most responsible of the Gallagher children, and the one most likely to make it out of that neighborhood, despite Lip’s intellectual advantage. I have been so wrong. At first glance, “Hope Springs Eternal” would indicate that Ian’s life too has bottomed out. After miserably failing his supposed chance to “be his own man” in the military, Ian appears mightily satisfied with the lifestyle of a Boy’s Town twink without a high school education. Sure, he finally goes home this week, but he does not return because he wants to know what happened to Liam or to confront his family about his decisions. No, he’s kicked out by Mickey’s wife, who at nine months pregnant will not be the third wheel in her own marriage. But once home, Ian still seems “off,” despite finally not being on drugs. The way he fakes upbeat laughter to an unnerved Fiona, and then dodges Carl’s questions about serving in the military by downplaying his decisions all indicate someone who isn’t running away from life like his cowardly father, but instead just doesn’t give a shit. Monica, the one Gallagher who took care of him off-screen in previous episodes, would be proud.
The real silver lining is that Ian and Mickey finally reach a (temporary) détente in their warring. Ian will not run off again if Mickey agrees to suck his dick whenever Ian wants. Mickey obliges for now, and even accompanies Ian to the swankiest of parties thrown within Chicago’s more affluent gay community. It is actually uncharacteristically romantic with the way Mickey pushes off junk-grabbing gray gays from Ian’s person. And when Ian gets Mickey to make out with him in public (in an admittedly gay bar) before spending the night at the aforementioned party, you can almost root for them to succeed. Except, Mickey’s roots are too deep in a home that literally is about to have a bundle of joy that will claim him as the father. Again, the ruination of this semi-charmed subplot is encroaching right around the edges of the frame, but for now, it is refreshing to see a Gallagher finding a happy ending.
Lip also got one this week, if only in the most cynical terms. It turns out that being either an over-caring big brother (or super-young father) is a huge turn-on at the University of Chicago, because Liam acts as baby bait for one of the gorgeous co-eds when he’s serving breakfast. Later, it even earns him (to no one’s surprise) a late-night blowjob from his roommate’s girlfriend, who has admired him for keeping Liam over several episodes now. When he brings Carl in too for a night, it is just too much not to resist, even with a 12-year-old boy watching the action right next to her and the boyfriend asleep across the room. Honestly, if Lip doesn’t want Carl to experience chaos, taking him to a dorm that looks like an unofficial Greek house is not the best idea. However, this is about more than the kids’ safety. Lip is entirely justified to again call Fiona out on her shit for letting dinner burn, but the last thing Carl needs to be doing is drinking out of a solo cup with fellow freshmen—albeit, it may be the first time Carl ever realized college is worth pursuing. Thus, when Lip brings Liam back to Fiona in the show’s final scene, it is a much needed olive branch for the sister whose sheer joy Rossum again sells with fantastic ease. And yet, just as Lip gets over his passive aggression for Fi, it is when I think he may need to be watching her the most.
At least on the brightest side, Frank was able to stand in for Fi when he goes to school to hear why Carl was suspended for bullying. It is another comedic triumph for Frank, just as that final curtain seems to near. Also, in the one major development, Kev and V had their first baby through Veronica’s mama! And she’s keeping the kid too; they’re down to two (good for V, bad for Kev).
Otherwise, the plot did not seem to move as much, but the titular deep breath contrasting with the prevailing bad mojo created an episode that was hypnotically captivating to watch. In particular stood the scene where Fiona said goodnight to a house full of empty bedrooms for children gone–and parents too. When she said goodnight to “Frank and Monica” in the master bedroom, fleetingly we could witness the young girl forced to take on the responsibility of a parent in the abscence of her own, making her steady decline all the more fateful. It has me at least waiting with my own baited breath for it to all come undone once more in the final four episodes of the year.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:
FRANK: Bullying is a vital part of every ecosystem, it teaches kids resilience. The world is a rough place; bullying is like getting inoculated. It’s a vaccine! And you little shits, you got to learn to stay away from people like my son. That’s what you learn when you get punched in the face by a bully! How you think Steve Jobs turned out so great? Bullies. And I guarantee you junior here will be getting the hottest chicks when he’s 30, because he got bullied today. What, you want to hit the peak now? My kid will be picking roadside garbage up in an orange jump suit in 10 years, and your kid in med school, curing cancer, and getting laid. You’re welcome!
CARL: What if I want to cure cancer?
FRANK: You’ll be lucky if you don’t get Gonorrhea from your cellmate. Spoken with love, son.