This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 12
Season 10 will go down as a very contentious, experimental season of Shameless. These 12 episodes were riddled with disjointed storytelling, identity crises, and growing pains, but this season finale finds a reassuring amount of focus as all of the Gallaghers orbit around Ian and Mickey’s impending nuptials. The Gallagher/Milkovich wedding doesn’t just act as an important event that helps bring everyone together, it helps give meaning to this finale. The overwhelming feeling that’s present in this episode is that Gallaghers stick together and that they’re capable of anything when they put their weird, scrappy minds together.
This mentality is really what the entire season of Shameless needed to embrace as its main thematic drive. It’s been a difficult year for Shameless without Fiona. This feeling of togetherness could have helped this season ride through the more difficult times. Even when this show is at its worst and most absurd, the moments where the Gallaghers come together and emphasize how important family is always ring true. Strangely, rather than double down on this sentiment, Shameless’ tenth season seemed more interested in breaking the Gallaghers apart and putting them on their own separate journeys. It’s led to a chaotic year, but at least the season’s finale remembers what’s most important and succeeds in cobbling together a largely enjoyable conclusion to a messy year.
“Gallavich!” starts off with a literally explosive introduction as the venue for Ian and Mickey’s wedding, The Bamboo Lotus, goes up in flames. This throws what’s already a stressful day into even more chaos as everyone tries to pivot and salvage the occasion. Debbie has been a mess this season and far from a leader that inspires confidence, but it’s satisfying to see her take the reins with saving Ian’s wedding. The Gallaghers are people who definitely aren’t opposed to scrapping a giant plan at a moment’s notice in favor of something easier, so it’s critical to see how this situation is different. Everyone really, truly cares here. The solution they come up with, while still romantic, involves just enough grifting and subterfuge that it still feels on brand.
In juxtaposition to all of the love that’s in the air is also a serious bloodlust and need for revenge. Mickey’s father, Terry, is the one responsible for lighting the Bamboo Lotus ablaze and he only exacerbates what’s already a volatile relationship between himself and Mickey. Mickey has finally had enough of his father’s condescension and he’s just as committed to offing his dad as his father is to killing him.
It’s heavy territory and at no point does it seem like anybody is actually going to die in this episode, but the amount of rage present makes for a very fitting Shameless wedding that is distinctly its own thing. It only makes sense that a big moment of happiness in this series would simultaneously be full with complicated emotions and death wishes. It briefly feels like Ian and Mickey’s wedding may conclude with a massive brawl, but it’s actually really nice to see how the Terry situation gets defused in an entirely pacifistic manner.
Ian and Mickey’s wedding features many touching moments, but it also involves its share of absurdity. For instance, Mickey has to pretend to marry Debbie, which is just one of the many hoops that must be jumped through to make this wedding happen. A vindictive Julia also tags along through all of these proceedings and ropes in Carl along the way. Carl and Kelly together seems like a seriously bad idea and I was still kind of holding out hope that he could end up with Kelly, who seems to actually challenge and understand him.
Shameless can never really make up its mind with what it wants to do with its relationships. It’s entirely possible that this is a random hook up and Julia is never seen again, or Season 11 could start with Julia already living with the Gallaghers and committed to Carl…Or you know, she’ll testify at Debbie’s statutory rape hearing because apparently that’s what Shameless thinks is a worthwhile future story avenue?
As Ian and the majority of the Gallaghers scramble to make sure that his big day goes according to plan, Lip finds himself on a desperate mission to keep his family together. After a difficult season where Lip and Tami have learned to accept and coexist with each other, the events of the past few episodes threaten to disrupt all of that goodwill. Lip’s trepidation about leaving Chicago is understandable, but the way that he’s gone about it has been terribly frustrating.
Lip has had to overcome a lot over the course of the series, but it’s clear that he truly loves Tami and the family that he’s built with her. It’d be extremely upsetting to see Lip lose all of this after some regrettable actions and “Gallavich!” really taps into that fear within Lip. He knows that he might have ruined his life and that this mission to reconcile with Tami may be his last shot before she’s gone for good. The big blowup that the two of them have is devastating, but what’s even more difficult to watch is Lip succumb to the temptations of alcohol afterwards. It really feels like this is the end for Lip and Tami, which is brutal. Lip easily hits his lowest point in seasons, but thankfully a life preserver gets thrown out in the end.
The resolution to Lip and Tami’s fight is remarkably easy and doesn’t exactly feel earned, yet it’s still believable on some level. It may be a rushed reconciliation, but it’s worth it to just have Lip and Tami in an agreeable place again. These two clearly still have issues to work out, but ending on this note is infinitely more encouraging than starting the next season with Lip in a black hole. Let’s hope that Season 11 can show these two at their best and give the rest of the Gallaghers something to aspire towards.
There’s a ton to get done in this episode, but it’s appreciated that “Gallavich!” properly manages its time and doesn’t try to cram this finale with as many storylines as possible. There’s a surprising amount of restraint here and even though the conclusion ends in gunfire, it’s nice to see the finale take its time and allow for quieter, smaller moments.
Some of the best scenes in this finale are the more muted conversations between characters, like Ian and Mickey discussing if they want kids, Lip bullying Ian for his music selection during his wedding, or even Ian and Debbie sharing a brief moment to reflect on Monica. As much as a selfish asshole as Frank is, it’s even nice to see him smiling and being apart of this celebration, even if nobody will admit to actually wanting him there.
Additionally, there’s a lot of strong material here that revolves around Liam, even if he technically has less to do at the wedding. It’s incredibly sweet that Liam wants to give Ian and Mickey a nice wedding gift when nobody else seems to care. It’s a testament to how wonderful his character has become, even if he’s been left to mostly wander around in the background of this season.
It’s also perfect how Liam manipulates Frank in order to get Ian and Mickey a gift, but also wrangle him to attend the wedding. It illustrates how Liam’s been able to adeptly lie and cheat like the rest of the Gallagher clan, but the way in which he uses it for good marks him breaking away from the herd. Liam’s journey to discover himself lost its focus part way through the season, but there’s a satisfying resolution present in how he’s been able to turn most of the Gallaghers’ negative impulses into something productive.
A lot of the strengths to this finale are due to series creator John Wells writing and directing the installment. It still feels like Wells has the greatest grasp on these characters and how to properly use them. At this point it’s extremely unlikely for Wells to pen the majority of the episodes in a season, but it’d be nice if the show’s final year could get a heavier output from him because it really does make a difference.
“Gallavich!” is far from a perfect episode of Shameless, but it’s perhaps the best episode of the season and concludes on a satisfying note. Even without a gratuitous cameo or even a mention of Fiona, the rest of the Gallaghers are enough to make this finale work. Most importantly, “Gallavich!” remembers what’s most important about this show and hopefully it will be able to channel that energy as Shameless heads into its final season next year. The Gallaghers grew up in a lot of ways this season and even though it wasn’t always an easy journey, there are still strong characters here who have more stories to tell. Here’s hoping that one more year in the South Side will do these characters right.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.