This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 4
“Soft hands, but also a soft heart.”
Shameless’ South Side of Chicago has never been painted in an uplifting life. The show thrives on how the difficult neighborhood has helped define the Gallaghers and their attitudes in a lot of ways. Negativity is the norm, so it’s always really special when characters open themselves up to kindness and explore the beauty of connection, rather than destruction.
Even the title of the episode, “A Little Gallagher Goes A Long Way,” speaks to the fact that in a pinch, these characters are eager to lend a hand without even thinking twice. There’s been a lot of pain and deception in the first three installments of Shameless season 10, but this entry begins to hint at a healing period and an injection of hope.
The largest and most emotional storyline out of “A Little Gallagher Goes A Long Way” involves Frank’s friendship with Mikey. Mikey comes to terms with the fact that he’s at death’s door and finds himself forlorn over the way in which he squandered his life. Mikey provides a few glimpses into his past and it’s harrowing stuff. Luis Guzman really excels in this episode and Mikey finally gains a kind of humanity that’s been lacking in the previous episodes. He’s still on board for Frank’s shenanigans, but he does have a more sobering outlook that’s not as blissfully ignorant as Frank.
Mikey’s largest regret is that he never became a businessman, so Frank becomes his friend’s own personal Make A Wish Foundation and sets out to make this dream come true. Frank and Mikey’s relationship has been one of sweetest aspects of Shameless’ tenth season, but their material in this episode is the richest yet. Frank takes Mikey on a whirlwind of a journey that gives him the kind of closure and fulfillment that he was looking for.
Frank and Mikey’s story may have a lot of fluff to it, but there’s also so much joy present that it’s forgivable. The final stop on their trip becomes powerfully touching, especially when they both realize that it may be the last time that they see each other. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Mikey stuck around for the entire season, so this early departure shows restraint on the show’s part. It also means that Frank’s story is about to shift gears.
Frank and Mikey spend the episode masquerading as businessmen, but Debbie’s recent decision to go on strike has her looking for work or some kind of financial aid. Debbie runs into an old friend who gives her extremely terrible advice in the art of manipulation. Unfortunately, Debbie actually seems to take this guidance to heart in a frightening way. Debbie’s initial hunt to get Derek’s checkbook back in her life leads to the news of his death.
Hopefully this season doesn’t end with Debbie pregnant for financial purposes, but back during the season premiere I thought that she might have actually turned to prostitution. Debbie’s been on a very rocky path this season, which is becoming all the more dangerous since she imbues her actions with the moral high ground that would accompany Fiona. She thinks that she can justify any destructive behavior because it’s ultimately for the good of the family. The gap between that illusion and reality grows even bigger by the end of this episode. She does get told that she’s a terrible person, but she’s so far gone that it doesn’t even seem to register with her.
As Debbie tries to figure out the best way to fleece men for her child, Lip becomes a little less stressed over his own. Some of that solace and confidence comes courtesy of how Lip bonds with Sarah from Mommy AA, which is just such a sweet, wholesome relationship. Their bonding feels genuine and it’s nice to see how Lip is generally impressed by her. Their scenes are just so comfortable and pleasant. The increased amount of time together makes it seem like the two of them are headed into romantic territory, but I hope this relationship can remain platonic. There will be a lot of baggage to bring to the table if they get together, plus Tami deserves better.
In terms of the other relationships in the Gallagher family, Carl may not officially be together with Anne yet, but it’s pretty much implied once he becomes her white knight. Anne and her family continually face pressure from immigration services and even though they’re prepared, they’re still terrified over these encounters. It’s admirable to see how Carl steps up here and doesn’t allow Anne to be bullied.
It’s actually a really touching catalyst to help officially bring these two together. It’d be one thing if it was just Anne crashing with Carl, but the fact that about a dozen of her relatives shack up in their home is exactly the kind of chaos that Shameless relishes. This kind gesture may be more trouble than it’s worth, as both Kelly and Tami return to the Gallagher household and are already giving the side-eye to their partners’ new friends.
On the topic of mistrust, Liam begins to grow suspicious of Mavar’s gung-ho attitude towards everything. His exuberance even pushes Liam back further to his Gallagher roots. It’s rather telling that Liam actively looks for faults in his new mentor, as if he doesn’t deserve a positive role model of this nature. In the end, Mavar’s biggest fault is just that he’s too pure and passionate.
This turns out to be too much for Liam, which is a shame, but it’s better than Mavar turning out to be some creep that lets Liam down. It’s strangely appropriate to see Liam swindle Mavar and get confirmation of who he is by looking at who he isn’t. It’s not the place that I was expecting Liam’s quest of self-discovery to take him, but it’s a strong resolution to his unrest.
Off in Alibi Land, matters are still loose and illegal. Kevin’s illegal buying and selling racket is in full swing at this point. All of this material is still highly inconsequential, but the humor actually lands this week (Kevin’s concern that Mavar is involved with the “dark arts” because he can do close hand magic is a highlight). It’s also satisfying to see V’s female friendship with Mimi carry over and develop further rather than just being the plot for a solo episode. It’s long overdue that V has someone beyond Kevin to interact with and it’s very helpful here. It’s a little disappointing that their conversations almost come down exclusively to race and gender, but they still have a fun dynamic and the direction things are headed should be wonderful for V’s character.
“A Little Gallagher Goes A Long Way” is a step up from the previous entries of this season as it brings many storylines to a close and begins to set up what’s next for the Gallaghers. Characters actually make progress here and hopefully they’ll be able to maintain that as this season turns up the heat a little. Episodes from this season have had a tendency to feel over-stuffed, but this entry finds an easy balance and is smart to leave out characters like Ian and Mickey. In a series that’s so full of selfish and unrepentant characters, it’s always especially meaningful when Shameless can shine some light down on its world. Now let’s just see how long it can last.
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.