This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 2
“Welcome to parenthood…”
As much as family is about togetherness, sometimes a temporary separation will do a lot more good than forcing people to be around each other. In fact, time apart can be the best way to become closer. This theory gets tested in various capacities in Shameless’ “Sleep Well My Prince For Tomorrow You Shall Be King.” It’s most prevalent in the deconstruction of Ian and Mickey’s relationship, but it’s also explored in a more abstract sense, whether it’s through Lip’s parenting hurdles, Carl’s return to his old job, or Frank’s desire to reacquaint himself with his masculinity. Every character in Shameless further embraces the decisions they’ve made and the paths that they’re on, but “Sleep Well My Prince For Tomorrow You Shall Be King” proves it’s important to slow down and taking a break isn’t the same thing as giving up.
This episode of Shameless has much to say on relationship dynamics, but it provides even stronger commentary on gender roles. It frequently holds a mirror up to society’s expected ideals and what happens when people try to challenge them. As the Gallaghers continue to acclimate to the new changes in their lives, “Sleep Well My Prince For Tomorrow You Shall Be King” does a satisfying job at continuing this story.
The biggest and most exciting development in this installment is that Shameless returns to Ian and Mickey. Not only is it entertaining to revisit these characters, but getting storylines that are set in a correctional facility immediately gives Shameless a lot more range. It’d be one thing if Cameron Monaghan returned to the series and was back in the Gallagher house, but it presents a rich dichotomy to have one of the Gallaghers isolated on their own island, so to speak.
To this episode’s credit, it also has a lot of fun as it plays with the preconceived notions of the “paradise” that Ian and Mickey have been in since they were last seen. It initially seems like they’re still in the honeymoon stage until it’s obvious that they’re at each other’s throats—and not in a romantic way. Ian and Mickey are desperate for some kind of separation. It’s a tragic follow-up to their happily ever after, but it’s not only a dramatically more rich angle, but also a realistic one. They’ve spent six months together in the same tiny cell and this installment effectively explores their frustrations that have built up over that time. They’re able to work through their issues relatively easily in this episode, but it’s rather hilarious that the solution to their lovers’ spat is which of them is able to shiv an old man first.
Ian and Mickey are still figuring out the nuance of their dynamic, but Lip could seriously use his partner’s support during this major life event. It continues to feel manipulative that Shameless hasn’t brought Tami back into the picture, but at least we know that she’s not dead. This cryptic wait is painful, but it’s very rewarding to watch Lip’s solo struggles as a parent. I hope this direction isn’t permanent, but it’s a challenging current setback for the character. It’s incredibly sweet to see that Lip names his baby Freddie after Professor Youens. That’s the kind of sentimental continuity that I’m looking for here. However, the fact that he didn’t run this by Tami first is definitely an argument that’s waiting to happen. It’s also oddly cathartic to see Debbie pass parenting advice over to Lip. They’ve both grown up in such substantial ways.
During Lip’s learning experience, Liam reminds him how he’s basically raised all of his siblings over the years. However, that doesn’t mean that he’s instantly perfect in the parenting department. All of Lip’s gestures have good intentions and come from a place of love, but it’s hard not to cringe as he fumbles his way through diaper changes, navigating a stroller on stairs, and other ordinary tasks. It’s the incredible pressure to not screw up that makes him so frazzled. In the past, Lip’s always been allowed to make mistakes, but with a child his responsibilities are on a whole other level. Lip’s learning curve with Freddie should gain even greater depth once Tami is back in the equation.
Debbie continues to maintain her rule of the Gallagher household, but cracks in her collected demeanor are beginning to show. For one, her retail scam blows up spectacularly quickly, which isn’t a surprise, but it’s a relief that this act of deception isn’t going to balloon and consume the entire season. As Debbie course corrects her mistakes, this episode has some interesting points to make about power and consent in the conversation that she has with the employee who tries to broker sex for her returns. It feels very par for the course for Debbie (or even Fiona), but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s wrong here. This isn’t just some smug employee and Debbie’s promise that she’ll never do this kind of thing again is almost certainly a lie. What’s even more puzzling is how Debbie’s able to help turn this random misogynist’s life around in the end.
On the topic of misogyny, Frank’s friendship with Mikey is still going strong, yet Frank is ready to acquiesce to Debbie’s demands and find some kind of gainful employment. Of course, to Frank this means concocting scams to exploit the innocent. Mikey tries to explain to Frank that he’s a victim of persistent matriarchal rule and that all of the women in his life have ripped away his independence. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it manages to instill a dangerous confidence in Frank that’s enough to confront Debbie and get through on some level to the other Gallagher men.
Frank comes at this from entirely selfish motives, but it’s hard to argue over how Debbie shouldn’t be unilaterally making decisions with the family’s money. A very chaotic shift in power is set to take place as Mikey blackmails Debbie, but Frank in charge is a surefire way to have everything go up in flames. Strangely, the relationship between Frank and Mikey is currently the strongest love story that’s being told this season. I’ll be very curious to see if Guzman sticks around beyond this year as a permanent sidekick for Frank.
Frank is still trying to earn his independence, but Carl also deals with a lot of complicated feelings over how he was treated at Westpoint and what he thinks of the military’s view of humanity in general. These pent up frustrations manifest themselves through his return to Captain Bob’s. There may be fresh blood over there that looks like it could challenge him, but Carl’s inappropriate relationship with his boss continues to become more irksome. Unfortunately, all of this looks like it’s pushing Carl (and Liam) into shady business, but hopefully it won’t come at the progress that these characters have made. Hocking vape pens out of a fast-food joint definitely seems like a step down from the military, but it’s important to not underestimate Carl.
Liam aligns himself with Carl, but he suffers even more of an identity crisis as he tries to figure out his African American roots. Now he’s even determined to do a DNA test to pinpoint his exact ancestry. This is all fascinating character development for Liam and it’s satisfying to see this compound from the previous season rather than be forgotten, like so many other single-season storylines, but it’s still failing to amount to anything more than Liam’s constant malaise. Hopefully these threads will be able to culminate into something bigger than magical murals of Barack Obama. The news at the end that he’ll actually get to meet the African American side of his family is a step in the right direction.
Finally, as everyone scrambles to deal with the curve balls that get thrown at them, it still feels like Kevin and V’s exploits at the Alibi are from an entirely different show. It’s mail fraud and dead bodies off in their world. These exaggerated storylines indicate that Shameless still considers Kevin and V to be comic relief more than anything else. But hey, at least Lip gets a bassinet out of the experience and V is able to give out some sweet advice on parenting. All of this is still marginally better than Kevin becoming a stripper or their efforts to exploit the preschool system.
“Sleep Well My Prince For Tomorrow You Shall Be King” is a solid improvement from last week’s safe premiere that pushes everyone a little further down the paths that they’re on. The stories could still be a little less messy and Kevin and V remain largely superfluous, but the return of Ian and Mickey helps. This season also starts to paint a bigger picture of identity and gender in America as Shameless attempts to disrupt the system. Liam is the only Gallagher who actively searches for his roots, but everyone in the family is set to receive a shock to the status quo.
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.