This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 8
“Why would you want to do good?”
Shameless season 10 has been rife with change, but “Debbie Might Be A Prostitute” sees many characters wrestling with serious decisions about their futures as they also come to terms with their past. As the episode’s title indicates, Debbie finds herself at a certain crossroads, but every Gallagher here has to really look at who they are and what they want for themselves. This is an act that’s easier for some than others, but it leads to a very big episode of Shameless that’s not afraid to shake things up.
Ian and Mickey’s situation is by far the most interesting of everyone’s problems. The previous episode of Shameless ends with Mickey flippantly joking that they should kill their parole officer and this installment begins with her getting thrown out a window to her death (in what’s actually a very well done sequence). Mickey denies having killed her, but Ian can’t help but connect the dots, as well as being very familiar with how the Milkovichs handle their problems.
It’s a very difficult scenario for the both of them that truly tests their relationship in an unexpected way. It’s even better when the audience learns that Mickey didn’t do it and is just as suspicious of Ian as he is of him. While it’s disappointing that they both suspect the other one of murder, it’s encouraging that both of their instincts here are to perfect their partner.
This strange tragedy unites them in an unusual way and nearly acts as the odd impetus for their marriage. Cleverly, the resolution of the murder causes Ian and Mickey to look at their relationship from different angles and figure out what they really want here and the blowout is crushing. It’s so sad to see that Mickey really is committed here while Ian is the one that has larger issues to work out.
A great touch here that’s consistent throughout the whole episode is that Ian comes to Lip for help on what to do. The Gallaghers are at their best when they’re working together as a unit. Everyone has a tendency to get lost in their own worlds, but “Debbie Might Be A Prostitute” properly has this family come to one another for support instead of suffering alone.
With the death of Rachel Dratch’s character, let’s also just take a second to appreciate the guest stars that Shameless has pulled together this season. Rachel Dratch’s character may be the worst, but the actress was having so much fun in this role. The addition of Constance Zimmer and Elizabeth Rodriguez—as well as Luis Guzman earlier—as flawed, unusual characters holds a lot of promise. Characterization is sometimes a mess for the main characters, but Shameless is still a good place for actors to get a chance to shine in eccentric guest arcs.
As Ian and Mickey experience some significant cracks in their foundation, Frank continues to bond with Faye as their unusual whirlwind romance only intensifies. Faye becomes more of an enigma to Frank when he learns that she’s not in fact homeless (which is revealed in a hysterical manner). Frank tries to figure out just exactly what’s going on with Faye, but their love still feels even more unfettered than before. All of this takes an unpredictable turn when Elizabeth reveals she lives in a haunted house, which actually sounds like it’s literally Frank’s dream home. Quickly this love story begins to turn into the ultimate grift.
This material is still steeped in the dark idea of Frank taking advantage of a vulnerable person, but with how broad and crazy Shameless has been this season I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if a real ghost did show up and temporarily possess Frank or something. There of course aren’t any ghosts, but the conclusion is far more satisfying as Elizabeth turns the tables on Frank and reveals that this has all been a long con against him.
Elizabeth actually shares a connection to Frank’s past and her fiancé was wrongfully sent to prison for nearly 25 years because of Frank’s negligence. As broad as ghosts would be, Elizabeth going all experimental surgery on Frank and wrapping him up in a torture porn is nearly as out there, but at least there’s more thematic resonance in this plot.
Frank’s actions are terrible and the hostage situation he’s stuck in carries a lot of weight, but there are so many people’s lives that Frank has ruined throughout Shameless’ ten seasons that this would have had more impact if Elizabeth were engaged to someone we have an actual connection with rather than someone who pre-dates the series. When a show has been on for this long, pulling out minor characters from the first or second season could even be a compelling way to explore just how much actions can have consequences over time. This episode still touches on those themes, but there’s a disconnected nature here that would have been so easy to rectify. Frank’s current problem is predicated on manipulation and misunderstanding, which isn’t a far cry from Debbie’s current lot.
After the innocent misunderstanding that happened with Debbie last week, she continues to spend time with her new friend, Claudia, and seriously considers if sex work is the right direction for her life. She dismisses the notion sooner than later, but she’s still enamored with Claudia. They have a difficult time finding the right dynamic to their relationship, but it all comes from a very sweet place and it looks like Claudia might actually be a really positive presence for Debbie during what’s been a very destructive time as of late. So many characters jump through extravagant hoops throughout this episode to get what they want from their partner, but Debbie and Claudia’s story turns out to be one that’s the most genuine in the end.
Right after Lip and Tami are able to feel comfortable as new parents they have to start thinking about who would be a guardian for Freddie if they were out of the picture. The decision over who should look after Freddie in case of emergency causes a schism between Tami and Lip. Even though no one in Tami’s family appeals to Lip, she’s at least thought about the question as opposed to him.
At the same time, her easy dismissal of Ian feels a little slight. So much of their story is presented through Lip’s perspective that it’s important to remember that Tami has gotten a ton thrown at her and is still likely raw from the birth. Tami’s aunt starts to weasel her way into their life and look after Freddie, but none of this ever reaches much of a fever pitch or gets too dramatic.
The only Gallagher who’s not wrapped up in some kind of relationship drama is Carl, who instead embraces the positivity that he brought forward in his effort to improve the community. This sense of self-worth grows strong in Carl and while it may express itself in some unconventional ways, he at least has the best of intentions with the change that he’s trying to enact. The results are already a little messy but hopefully his youth group won’t turn into a full-on militia.
V and Kevin expressed certain financial concerns in the previous episode, but here the universe continues to bend over backwards for them, only for them to waste the opportunity. Kevin and V fall into nearly $1000 from a tax rebate and they argue over what would be the best use of this cash. Out of all of the terrible ways in which they could blow this money, they get roped into a particularly awful pyramid scheme. Don’t worry though, they’re now in the hemorrhoid cream business so everything’s going to be just fine.
“Debbie Might Be A Prostitute” has a lot to work through and faces an uphill task, but the episode has a very well written script that contains some fantastic dialogue, makes a lot of tiny decisions that are smart, and features some very funny gags and payoffs. Even if all of the larger beats don’t connect, Molly Smith Metzler’s script really captures these characters well and turns this into one of the more enjoyable episodes of the season. As contrived as many of these storylines are, Metzler gets the most out of them and finds ways to make them work within their restrictions.
Oh, and Liam’s managing some rising basketball player and killing it in the sponsorship department. Yeah, I don’t know either.
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.