Shameless: Liver, I Hardly Knew Her Review

Frank's shoddy liver finally throws in the towel, and Fiona goes on the worst kind of road trip (to Wisconsin) in this week's Shameless.

“I don’t want to be another Frank or Monica,” Fiona insists to Lip in tonight’s Shameless. This marks the first point all season where I actually believe that’s avoidable…even if she fell off the wagon so hard this week that she inadvertently bounced right back onto it.

As someone who has been seeing Fi’s utter collapse coming for at least half a season now, it honestly could have been much, much worse. Sure, she is about to go to jail for breaking her curfew—how could she not when she was tripping on ecstasy while on a road trip to Sheboygan?—but it will just mean another week in the slammer as she is forced to sober up. And it actually appears that she will do exactly that when she confided in a surprisingly understanding Lip about her fears. And more surprising still, Lip gave her the boost confidence she may need to rise out of this funk in time for Season 5.

As what’s essentially become the focal point of every episode in Season 4, Fiona’s backward slide toward poverty and self-destruction has left some viewers perplexed. The strong den mother, who managed to successfully take custody of her siblings, and refused every seeming lifeline Jimmy threw her to escape that pain (as Fi did in the UK show), became a convict for leaving coke within her youngest brother’s reach. Personally, I still agree that Fiona doing hard drugs in front of her siblings, when she hasn’t done them once before thanks largely to her father’s flagrant stupor on the couch or front stoop every night, will always be somewhat contrived as a way to create conflict and return to the show’s core ethos: the poor can never win. Nonetheless, it is a credit to Emmy Rossum that she has been able to find the essential truth in Fiona throughout the season to give it enough authenticity to make that hurdle surmountable and causing, in my mind, Season 4 to become the best season since Shameless’ glorious freshman year. This is the darkest, the most cynical, and probably even the only nihilist season, but the show has always been about systematic poverty destroying opportunity in a gallows humor context, and the fact that a few of Frank and Monica’s kids could become this screwed up not only makes sense, it has long been expected.

While the moment of utter life-implosion will probably be debated by Shameless fans for years to come, the events that transpired before and after are painfully real. Fiona is a child of chaos, a fact that is driven home in her incessant need to run back to Jimmy every time she might have a good thing going. Since Jimmy is supposedly out of the picture (and long out of whatever fish’s digestive track), she found that excuse to return to the chaos of Frank and Monica again in Robbie. He was simply a tool for her own self-destructive impulses. And when Robbie’s sister called her a bad person who will destroy her own family, she likewise had an excuse to go even further down the rabbit hole of self-hate by doing every drug imaginable with Robbie all the way to the Polka Blues of Sheboygan. But as miserable as Fi’s current run has been, it has allowed the rest of the family to step up in a refreshing way that offers the twisted grin one expects from this series.

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And that grin has come in the shape of at least three younger Gallaghers filling the void left by Fiona. Uncharacteristically, Lip has proven to be the shoulder to cry on in recent weeks after his predictably acidic passive-aggressive anger with Fiona early on. Once he realized that Fi had disappeared and was pulling, as Ian pointed out, a “Frank,” he swayed between quietly fearing for her life and understanding how he has used her. Once he discovered that she was crying at a gas station in Wisconsin, he drove there without one judgmental criticism to say other than hoping to give her a helping hand out of “the shit” she has found herself in. Meanwhile, Debbie has stepped up to be the sibling who keeps track of the household by being the first to notice Fiona’s absence and spearheading the Fi search all the way to tracking down Robbie and finding her phone. She even puts aside her teenage angst long enough to realize that Fiona has been marganlized well before she ruined Liam’s life. It is the fact that these two have grown up so much in this season, and were able to give Fiona that momentary helping hand, that lets me believe Fi when she says she won’t end up like Frank or Monica. The show is more sarcastic than Alibi compliments on St. Paddy’s Day, but it would not have drawn attention to that comparison tonight if it did not see a way out for Fi. And for once, I do too.

Oh, and Carl has taken after her worst aspects by discovering himself Bonnie: pint-sized Jimmy in a pink backpack. Yes, her need for stealing cars makes more sense given that she comes from even more dire poverty than the Gallaghers (her family lives out of a van), but when she is bringing her 12-year-old suitor on GTAs and cash-and-grabs, it’s safe to say that this isn’t a healthy relationship. But it is a hilarious one, as even Frank knows that Carl can’t expect much better.

Speaking of Frank, the other aspect of tonight’s Shameless was the Hail Mary resurrection of the most shameless Gallagher. Despite having even myself believing there is no escaping the Grim Reaper for Frank after the last three or four episodes, Frank got a last-minute reprieve from death just in time for his wedding. Granted, he had to lose a kidney for it to happen, but it’s not like that organ could be much healthier, right?

Sammi was skating on thin ice when she threatened to cancel Shelia’s wedding to Frank, thereby ensuring Sheila wouldn’t get the reservation kids to add to her collection. One could almost remind Sammi whose house she broke into and on whose bed Frank was dying. Yet, serendipitously, Sheila discovered that Sammi’s drug dealer also deals in black market liver transplants, courtesy of a local taxi driver with a medical degree from India. Makes perfect sense. Honestly, if this ridiculous scenario had been what solely saved Frank Gallagher’s life, I would have been ready to ding the show for a flight of fancy, but again Shameless lived up to its name when the surgery was a con: they didn’t save Frank’s liver, they took a kidney. It is a brilliant curveball and perfectly in tune with the show’s sense of humor. If Frank really died because of this organ theft while marrying Sheila, I would have been ready to applaud the perfect send-off as Debs, Ian, Carl, and Bonnie looked on with mild boredom. To be fair, Carl still thinks of Frank like a father, but he’ll now have years now to regret that earnest feeling, because Frank’s sudden flat-lining suddenly moved him to the top of the live transplant list.

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I have no idea how transplant waiting lists work, and it does feel like a little bit like a cheat to keep William H. Macy on the show, but there is so much more fun Frank can get up to while ruining his new liver that I’m more than willing to watch the next implosion occur.

Lastly though, I want to take a moment to savor Kev and Veronica’s storyline. Week in and week out, Fi and Frank’s dramas are so severe that it is easy to gloss over the supporting work handed in by Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton, but these two are absolutely fantastic as the reliable comic relief. Kevin’s failed attempt to go from humble bartender to Daddy-Rambo this season has offered the consistently best laughs and delivered again when Kev and V finally had their twins…a small relief that surprisingly was skirted around early in the episode. That nothing but normality occurred in this delivery would make it easy to ignore again, but as the only stable relationship on the show, seeing Kev and V have a small victory deserves a special mention. As does Howey and Hampton’s perfect rapport when Kev accidentally fires a gun in the house. “Don’t come near me,” she kept saying, but she allowed him to hug her after he said “no more guns.” Kev, you’re not cut out for the NRA nuttiness. But your comedic timing is firing on all cylinders every week.

Overall, it was a solid episode that felt like things are finally looking up. Fiona truly bottomed out this week, and Frank won’t die. While one will be in jail and the other in surgery during the penultimate episode next week, things could have honestly gone much worse for either of them. Which is why I know a bombshell will land on the April 6 finale. Any guesses on what it could be? I’m sensing the return of a certain double-forenamed once-and-future doctor.

Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:

-SHEILA: Now, the tribal council is in six days. If Frank wants to die after that, it’s up to him.

-IAN: Thirteen-years-old and she’s bringing a shiv to class.

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MICKEY: I miss high school.

-P.O. (after seeing Carl run out the backdoor): At least that wasn’t suspicious.

-SHEILA: Sweetie, let mommy do her drug deal, honey.

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3.5 out of 5