This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 10 Episode 9
The title of this Shameless episode, “O Captain, My Captain” is in reference to Carl and his unruly police recruits, but it’s largely applicable to most of the characters within this episode. Many characters are in positions of leadership or steering some sort of metaphorical boat as major hurdles lie ahead. However, much like being the captain on some giant luxury cruiser, this episode of Shameless moves at a very slow pace. The drawbacks of this episode are more the faults of this season of Shameless as a whole, but they’re particularly prevalent in “O Captain! My Captain!”
The previous Shameless installment left many of its storylines left to linger on cliffhangers. This means that much of “O Captain! My Captain!” is devoted to cleaning up old messes and providing overdue answers rather than heading off into new territory. Granted, this entire season of Shameless has had more of a serialized feeling than other years, but for the most part “O Captain, My Captain” could be called “Part 2” of the previous episode as it keeps its sights largely on the past.
The most egregious example of this is with Frank and Faye’s storyline, which this episode manages to milk dry and robs of what made it so compelling in the first place. The entirety of their time here is spent on trying to figure out the connection that Frank shared with Kyle, rather than Faye outright telling him. It turns out that the situation with Kyle involved the police mistaking him for Frank’s crack dealer, just because he’s black. These moments between Frank and Faye are tough because Frank isn’t withholding anything from Faye. He’s genuinely forgotten about Kyle, which is tragic for its own reasons. She eventually is able to coax it out of him, but it’s more like she feeds him the details.
Frank’s not being malicious here and Claudia acts like he is. That being said, she’s still entitled to her frustrations in this situation. Shameless struggles to find the right tone for this material as it considers these issues and it really doesn’t go that much beyond what’s revealed in the last episode. It’s also softer this time around as Frank’s predicament is now played more for laughs instead of the angst-ridden terror that the last episode goes for.
If any Gallagher is experiencing angst-ridden terror in this installment then it’s got to be Ian, who feels like he’s starting to lose his center. His indecision over his marriage with Mickey has caused Mickey to act in some very childish behavior as he hooks up with new people and goes as far as to say that he’s in love with them. It’s petty behavior, but it’s enough to help push Ian to figure out what he wants through all of this.
There are some really endearing scenes that are featured during Ian’s malaise. Liam helping Ian pick out wedding bands is really sweet and the kind of stuff that I want to see him doing. Another really delicate moment is when Lip grills Ian on why he wants to marry Mickey. It nicely speaks to their relationship as brothers, but also echoes the very difficult situation that Lip’s in at the moment with Tami, who he himself is not married to.
These are both brief, but powerful scenes and these past few installments of Shameless have done a really good job at showing the Gallagher family work together as a unit and use their siblings when they’re in need of support. Ian puts in a considerable amount of work here and “O Captain, My Captain” looks like it’s about to culminate in a fairytale romantic ending, but to Shameless’ credit, it again shows restraint and lets this argument take its time. As much as Ian wants to want this, it’s also just an inherent feeling that can’t be forced and Mickey continues to remind him of that. Much like last week, their story ends on a painful note (although this time it’s more emotionally painful than physical), but matters are considerably darker for him. This could be the end of Ian and Mickey.
Relationship drama also plagues many of other Gallaghers, albeit in a very different ways. Debbie finds herself nestling into her relationship with Claudia and really enjoying herself. They’re even at a point of putting a label on things and Claudia’s not afraid to have Debbie meet her teenage daughter. Debbie gets thrown into the deep end with her relationship in this respect, but she doesn’t let Claudia’s spunky offspring throw her off. However, I definitely didn’t expect Debbie to make a move on Claudia’s daughter, which actually made me shout out, “Ohhhh shit!”
This is a very Jerry Springer move for Debbie and it might have worked better if this development grew over the course of several episodes rather than all happening at once. This would also let the audience get a better grasp on Claudia. Regardless, it’s still a very exciting turn of events and there’s no real resolution provided here either for any of this. One may assume that Debbie simply switches over to Claudia’s daughter and breaks up with Claudia, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Debbie foolishly attempts to be with both of them at once.
Debbie’s relationship drama is more of a soap opera nature, but Lip’s is much more intimate and visceral. At innocent discussion about paying hospital bills launches a much larger conversation about the nature of stealing. Tami knows Lip rather well, but it’s still startling for her to learn how easily he’s able to rationalize stealing in its various forms. This also naturally gives her reservations over the kind of lessons that Lip may instill in their child down the road.
Shameless does effective work with this fight and even though larger issues have taken up less time with Lip and Tami in the past, this topic really causes a big rift between the two of them. In the end, it speaks to the fundamental differences of their backgrounds. It harkens back to that age-old Gallagher defense mechanism that their family is on their own because they need to be. I’s satisfying to see this topic fester between them rather than get quietly resolved. Oh, and Tami’s outrageous aunt is still hanging out with the Gallaghers as the welcome wild card who can do something wacky whenever things get too mellow.
Carl’s efforts with his cadets are kind of all over this episode as he tries to push them in everyone’s faces, but they’re used more as a novelty. It’s easy to forget that Carl started all of this because a poor old woman was robbed and murdered and now he’s got a bunch of possible-pariahs on his hand. Granted, none of this has gotten too far out of control yet and is anything to be concerned about, but it feels like it’s moving in that direction. However, Carl’s interactive lessons in the Alibi make for some extremely dark laughs. He definitely makes a very memorable, unique teacher. Let’s just hope these kids end up saving lives as opposed to taking any.
Similar to Carl’s exploits, Kevin and V find themselves peddling some crooked mobile health care that really doesn’t go anywhere here other than provide some amusing visuals for the episode. This still feels as disconnected as anything else that they’ve been up to this season. Hopefully before the season closes they can actually have something of substance to keep them busy instead of being Shameless’ perpetually broken punchline. These are characters that used to have depth.
“O Captain, My Captain” isn’t necessarily a bad episode of Shameless, but it just feels like a fraction of an episode. All of the decisions made are appropriate, but the progress is so incidental (other than Debbie’s storyline) that there’s nothing to really get excited over here. Shameless isn’t a series that all about its plot progression, but this episode in particular feels like it spins its wheels with old ideas when it should be trying to look forward. Shameless season 10 is beginning to enter its final episodes and it’s pretty unclear what stories and ideas, if any, will be sticking around through the finale.
Fingers crossed for a season finale that’s just Frank Gallagher doing his own version of Gerald’s Game as he tries to get out of those handcuffs.