Shameless: Like Father, Like Daughter Review

Frank is at his most cunning this week in a plot so creepy that we know it could only be Shameless.

Despite its slightly more deliberate pace, this is the first truly Shameless episode of the new season, and the one that lays on the table why these characters are so very much Gallaghers. Sure, it’s the one where Frank convinces his estranged first daughter (who does not know that she’s talking to her dad) to give him part of her liver after several romantic dates, but the title is not really about that. This week is the proof-positive terminal diagnosis that so many of his children, even the tragically responsible Fiona, are really of his own cloth. It’s cynical, bleak, and oh so Shameless. The main focal point of “Like Father, Like Daughter” is to revel in how creepily manipulative Frank Gallagher is. Equal parts boozing Hunter S. Thompson and predatory Ted Bundy, Frank zeroes in on his daughter Sammi and his previously unknown grandson Chucky to slime his way into their lives and (more importantly) their livers. Frank is dying, and he knows that Fiona or any other adult kin would sooner watch him gasp a slow, painful demise on the couch (or preferably the piss-stained sidewalk across the street) than part with their organs for him. In fact, anyone who knows him would prefer that, particularly a daughter he abandoned some 30 years prior. Ergo, Frank reveals his brilliant cunning when necessary by attempting to seduce his erstwhile daughter. Sammi, having likely grown up in even more extreme poverty than the rest of the Gallaghers, has not turned out a lot better than Frank. She lives in a trailer with a heavyset son that’s likely suffering from at least one type of personality disorder, and she also has overcome a life filled with addiction, regret, and an unintended, short-lived pornography career. In short, she would appear to be her father’s daughter, save for that she has stuck around to raise her child despite all her limited options, and therein Frank finds his weakness to prey upon. Hiring a schoolyard bully with a joint to beat up his grandson, Frank presents himself as a VA Hospital volunteer and Teetotaller who just happened to stumble upon a child taking a smacking across the street. Smitten with such a kind soul, Sammi invites Frank out for dinner after dinner, in which Frank represents himself as the complete opposite of his real self. And why not? If she knew it was Dad, she’d slam the door incredibly fast, especially after escaping a relationship built on drug addiction.
However, with Frank the Good Samaritan, she finds something attractive about a soul in need of a new liver. So, what if she wants to reward him with more than just one organ? Frank is getting what he wants, and William H. Macy is again allowed to explore just how grimy Frank Gallagher’s underbelly is. Unlike his British counterpart, played with grotesque charm by David Threifall, Macy’s Frank is a much less endearing character. And that is a credit to Macy, as well as John Wells and Paul Abbot, for going in such a boldly repellant direction. As entertaining and humorous as Macy’s understated charisma is on this series and most of his other work, his variation on Frank Gallagher is so underhanded and manipulative in his alcoholism, not to mention vindictively cruel upon his children, that there is not a shred of sympathy from any viewer that he is dying. Nor is there shock when he would stoop so low as to romantically manipulate a child of his seed. All there is from this character is vile repulsion, as well as a knowing amusement in this pitch black gallows humor…a gallows in the South Side hellholes to which his spawn are sentenced. This kind of unredemptive characterization is not only a rarity for a protagonist, it is strangely liberating for both the performer and his captive audience. And this week, one can add Sammi to this capture. Nonetheless, the title is not truly about her. Ironically, the daughter who is more like Frank is Fiona Gallagher. We root for her when she gains custody of her siblings, surpassing Frank’s reach. And we tentatively smile as life seems to be going right for her at World Wide Cup, in spite of knowing that the shoe is going to drop. That is partially because Shameless’ mission statement is the near nihilistic opinion that not only is upward mobility a pipe dream, but that the poor (working or otherwise) are cosmically doomed by how the deck has been stacked against them. Yet strangely, with Fiona, it seems Abbot and Wells are swinging back around to blame her once more, as opposed to only her limited opportunities. With Mike, Fi’s life is going almost too perfect; he even invites her for dinner with his upper middle class family—a family that owns the company at which she works. There she meets Mike’s older brother, Robbie. Robbie is an addict “of life” (his words) and every self-destructive substance imaginable (my own). After a falling out over the dinner table, Mike tries to make amends with Robbie by taking him out for another dinner with just himself and Fiona. Mike gets smashed, and his wayward brother then proceeds to smash Fiona. After all Fi’s talk about getting over the destructive and lying nature of Jimmy, she ends up banging her touchy-feely boyfriend’s older brother on the kitchen counter while the lover sleeps. The next morning she threatens Robbie over the phone that they will take this to their graves. He smirks and chillingly confides in her that it will happen again. Addict. Fiona then looks around her home to see Frank passed out on yet another floor. Last week, was about Frank’s oldest daughter, but in this installment, it is Fiona’s likeness gracing the title.
Robbie is obviously a real piece of work: a smugly proud douchebag who feels he’s entitled to sleep with his little brother’s girlfriend, due to life owing him for his own unfulfilled misery. But he is going to use Fiona and spit her out, a fact that Fiona realizes when she looks at Frank. It is also one that she knows she will not be able to help herself with. The reason she would go after a guy like Jimmy over Season 2’s Adam, or now Robbie over this season’s Mike, is because she is drawn to the kind of bad boys that she pretends she’s thrilled by. But truly, she wants a lover who will never rock the boat of her own comfy, self-made prison on the South Side. Someone like Mike might pull her up if he could overcome how many kids she’s responsible for, but in her head she and her siblings’ place is where its always been, and Robbie is just the wrecking ball her subconscious needs to free her from the tranquility of World Wide Cup. That’s why Lip’s storyline has a newfound urgency this week. Try as he might at school, he cannot seem to catch a break or get ahead. Spending all night on a paper that he gets a C on is a night he didn’t spend studying for another midterm while his tardiness at work stacks up. Tonight’s Shameless finally gave credence to Lip’s struggles at school and put stakes on his slow slide back toward Chicago. It is still a bit mystifying how in Season 1, he was so gifted as a high schooler that he could stun a University of Chicago professor with his brilliance, but now he can’t seem to get even a B- for anything he studies for. However, the reason why he needs to succeed has now been belatedly underlined in Season 4. Making his inevitable crash back towards Frank all the more apocalyptic. And like any good disaster of mass destruction, we are riveted. Most Shameless Quotes of the Week: -SHELIA (about what to do with her online dating suitor): Now what?DEBS: Ask him if he’s DTF.SHEILA: DTF? What does that even mean. Okay, got to ask him if he’s DTF. -FRANK: So, that my daughter? Wow, she’s kind of beautiful.CARL: She looks like you in skank form.FRANK: Thank you, son. -FRANK: Get hard drugs. Make daddy proud. -FRANK: That kid can take a beating. As tough as a $2 steak. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!

Rating:

4 out of 5