This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 7
“I’m stunningly confused right now, but utterly intrigued.”
There’s no question that Shameless is full of many selfish characters, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of doing good things. This episode, “Citizen Carl,” sees many of the Gallaghers on the pursuit to help others, whether it’s genuinely for those people or for their own selfish purposes. These random acts of kindness lead to a lot of positivity, but it also results in plenty of new predicaments for the Gallagher family, too.
There’s a lot of strangeness afoot in this episode of Shameless, but perhaps the most bizarre of all of these stories is the spontaneous love story that Frank finds himself in. The mysterious Faye (Elizabeth Rodriguez) swoops into the Alibi and honestly seems like she’s a femme fatale pulled from out of some film noir. She’s entirely invested in Frank in a way that’s borderline suspicious, almost as if she’s been hired to find out information about him (not that Frank would ever be perceptive enough to pick up on such subterfuge).
Nobody can understand this immediate connection that forms between Frank and Faye and through the entire episode you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Ultimately, Faye’s big secret is that this seemingly perfect woman is in fact homeless (well, she lives in her car). Of course, this information only makes Frank more insatiable towards Faye.
Frank’s new romantic squeeze is an interesting pivot for his character after his saga with Mikey and then his successful mission to sell a baby, but it still feels like there’s more going on here with Faye. Since Shameless has some talent in the role, it’s likely that Faye will stick around until the end of the season until the slate inevitably gets reset once again.
This development works, but the big issue here is that Shameless has done a number of long-term storylines where Frank is in love and thinks that he’s found the perfect woman. Faye and Frank’s romance is certainly quirky and less desperate than the series’ other attempts at this idea, but it will have to do a lot to stand out and feel original from what the show has already explored in the past.
Frank may have found himself a temporary soulmate, but matters aren’t as idyllic for Lip and Tami. They’re currently doing great with their child—or as great as fresh parents can be doing—but now the next hurdle revolves around them trying to regain intimacy. With all of their other stresses out of the picture and now that enough time has passed since Fred’s birth, Lip and Tami are finally able to have sex again. Naturally, this simple act gets lost in a myriad of complications as Lip and Tami get further from their goal. It momentarily seems like these obstacles may stem from a subliminal avoidance of this act, but in the end it’s a much simpler scenario. This becomes very human, vulnerable territory that helps ground this episode from some of its crazier material.
“Citizen Carl” also brings in some pressure from Tami’s family on the subject of returning home to an easier life. Tami’s frustrations towards the RV life are more than clear in this episode, but her love for Lip and her desire to prove her family wrong are even stronger. This offer that Tami’s father hangs over her head doesn’t seem like it’s going to be something that Tami deeply considers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more of Tami’s family showed up to try to persuade her. Tami’s home will likely be where she retreats to if she and Lip ever have another major blowup, but I wouldn’t expect these two to relocate there with their baby or anything.
Lip’s struggles with parenthood have been a constant for the character from the start of this season, but the only other character to really deal with a consistent dilemma has been Debbie. Debbie’s unscrupulous scams to generate easy income have been present since this season’s premiere, but their scope and severity continue to balloon out of control and go to increasingly absurd places.
It’s still extremely disheartening to see that Debbie’s despicable scam to get money out of her dead ex-husband actually worked. It’s one of the more outrageous schemes that Shameless has ever done. Even though Debbie has already garnered a significant payday from this score, she’s still hungry for a steady income.
Debbie’s discontentment leads to her nearly making a string of poor decisions as she pals around with her terrible influence of a friend. Better judgment thankfully comes over Debbie and she ends up making a intriguing new friend in the process, Claudia (Constance Zimmer), a wealthy socialite—and then some. At first it looks like this new ally could lead to an interesting relationship for Debbie, but it’s actually a massive understanding that opens a whole new ill-advised stream of revenue for Debbie. Get ready everyone because it looks like Debbie’s becoming a prostitute. It hasn’t even been a full season without Fiona and it feels like we’ve come shockingly far from where things were at with her at the head of this family…
Even though Debbie puts to rest her baby swapping hijinks, the effects of it still linger within the Gallagher home. This largely resorts in some amusing visual gags, but it’s also a confirmation that Stella (Maya Bednarek) is a strangely amazing character. Everything that she does is kind of incredible and in spite of how irresponsible this whole plot is, it’s at least resulted in one absolutely bonkers character.
Stella’s easily the highlight of the episode. The only plausible way for this character to stay in the picture is if she and Liam start hooking up, which is crazy, but if it allows Stella to lounge around in the Gallagher house and hand out reams of condoms to people, then I am all for it. Shameless, do the right thing and lock down Bednarek.
As Debbie inadvertently commits crimes of her own, Ian and Mickey are also stuck breaking the law, but against their will. These crooked parole officer shenanigans that Ian is trapped in are a bit of a broken record so far, but after Paula pulls Mickey in too it feels like a change is imminent. The fleeting moments where Mickey actually works a decent job doing security are really enjoyable before Paula has to destroy that simple happiness.
Perhaps the most rewarding material in “Citizen Carl” is the storyline that the episode draws its title from. There’s an intensely sweet moment where Carl bonds with an elderly lady at his bus stop. It’s such a wholesome exchange and a reminder of the real heart that beats within Shameless. What happens next is beyond tragic, but what this innocent lady’s death manages to inspire in Carl is absolutely beautiful and a reminder that Carl has oddly turned into one of the sweetest and most empathetic characters on Shameless.
This scene could have had even more impact if this lady was someone that we saw Carl interacting with at this bus stop a few times previously this season. Shameless has so much on the go that this level of foreshadowing isn’t expected (nor is it necessary for this story to connect), but it wouldn’t have been difficult to do.
Carl attempts to right these wrongs in his own Carl way of doing things, but it’s still very moving. It also makes for a logical way to bring Kelly back into the picture that doubles as a reminder that she can actually be a pleasant character. The sense of purpose that this provides Carl isn’t lost on him and hopefully Shameless continues down this path for him. By the time season eleven rolls around Carl better be running for mayor or something similar.
The death that Carl peripherally experiences prompts some real growth in him, but a fatality within the doors of the Alibi prompts opposite reactions in Kevin and Veronica. Billy, one of the Alibi’s constant barflies, unexpectedly drops dead. Somehow this isn’t territory that Shameless has already dipped its toe in before, but it leads to a level of morose contemplation within the bar.
Billy’s death mostly effects Frank, but when V realizes that Billy’s alcoholism fueled nearly 30% of the bar’s income, they begin to panic. Their way of handling this problem is highly farcical, but at least keeps with the over the top theme that these two have been on all season. The two decide to troll AA meetings (in outlandish disguises, no less) with the hopes of luring over new customers in the process. It’s very depressing to see them knock a pillar of sobriety off the wagon, especially when it’s played for comedy.
This season of Shameless, more than any other, has suffered from an issue with extremely segmented and broken up storytelling. This is more egregious in some episodes than others, but “Citizen Carl” succumbs quite hard in that respect. Many of the plotlines in this installment technically reach conclusions, but in most cases they’re still open-ended questions in a way where it feels like only 2/3 of the story is finished. It’s a strategy that slows down the momentum of some characters’ struggles while it rockets ahead that of others.
So many episodes in Shameless season 10 feel like they throw the Gallaghers back to square one and introduce a whole new world of characters and problems for them. This is inherently frustrating on some level (is Anne just seriously out of the picture now, along with that vape selling plot that never even got moving?), but the Gallaghers’ current set of problems—as ridiculous as they may be in some cases—could lead to some promising character development for everyone involved.
If Shameless can stay focused and ride these ideas out until the end of the season then there could be a half-decent finish to all of this. Then again, at the rate that the show is currently moving at, the next episode will probably have Frank selling dinosaur eggs while Debbie uses her latest cash influx to turn herself into a sex robot.
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.