This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 11 Episode 2
“I want some nice things in my life for a change.”
A major hurdle that season ten of Shameless had to work through was not only the loss of Emmy Rossum’s Fiona, but also the idea that some other Gallagher should now take her place as the show’s central protagonist and stabilizing force in the family. Their decision to appoint Debbie to this position did not work in the show’s favor, but season eleven is already off to a strong start by how it’s relegated Debbie back to more of a supporting status. If anything, Shameless’ final season understands that it doesn’t need someone to fill Fiona’s place and that truly showcasing the cast as an ensemble is the strongest way to go out. Lip’s struggles get a little more attention than everything else, but the episode’s reasonably balanced and all the stories are driven by the same economic conflicts and desire for acceptance, whether it’s in a new neighborhood, job, or from a family member.
Right from moment one “Go Home, Gentrifier!” feels more natural than last week’s premiere and the whole episode eases into a very comfortable rhythm. It’s extremely satisfying to see the Gallagher family operate as a unit for large portions of this episode. There’s such infectious chemistry between these characters when they all get to bounce off of each other and Frannie’s fifth birthday operates as a reason for everyone to get together for the bookends of this hour. There’s such an enjoyable energy to these scenes between Gallaghers, but this also extends into how this is genuinely a very funny installment. Longtime Shameless writer Nancy M. Pimental’s script features exceptional dialogue, which helps “Go Home, Gentrifier!” work a lot better than it necessarily should.
There’s a strong sense of comedic timing and joke development through many of the scenes, which helps give mundane scenarios a lot more impact. There’s a great running gag in The Alibi Room about Tony and Kermit’s distance that beautifully develops. On that note, Shameless also deserves credit for turning the strange hookup between Tony and Kermit from the premiere into a legitimate storyline. It felt odd and not necessarily earned when it first happened, but I’m now excited to see where it goes. If this season ends with the two of them in a relationship together I’ll be genuinely happy.
Mickey is often presented as one of the series’ broader characters, but “Go Home, Gentrifier!” makes beautiful use of him and he’s another strong example of this episode’s comedic strength. The fact that a derivative infomercial bullies Mickey into finally getting a job (while he also ignores the point of that infomercial) is actually perfect. His roleplay scenario at his interview is just as good and a testament to how much potential there is to have Mickey out of his element and in a nine-to-five context. Granted, that plan becomes very short-lived, but it opens the door for even more rewarding material between Mickey and Ian over their contrasting strategies to make an income.
Ian and Mickey’s problem becomes representative for many of Shameless’ characters as they all adopt wildly diverse approaches towards economic oppression. It’s worth pointing out that both of the characters with the most conventional jobs are the most frustrated. Carl begins his illustrious career as a South Side police officer and his partner is played by Joshua Malina here who’s in fine form as a deleted character from Grandma’s Boy. Carl’s attitude is incredibly gung ho to get into some real police work, even if he manipulated the system to get this far. Ironically, his partner is the laziest kind of cop that skirts by on the bare minimum and has perfected the art of staying in the background.
It’s an interesting idea to neuter Carl and use the police force to reflect another broken area of Chicago. The premiere hinted that this corruption would be through the police force’s abuses of power, but it’s a more unique turn to have Carl aggravated over the opposite problem. Despite his frustrations, the way in which Carl supports his partner and still finds ways to embody the unity of the police force is really sweet. This camaraderie may inadvertently ruin his partner’s life and solve Carl’s problem in the process, but he only has altruistic intentions here.
Shameless’ biggest weak spots over its past seasons have been its treatment of Frank, Kevin, and V. In Frank’s case, he’s continually paired up with a revolving door of guest stars like Luis Guzman or Katey Segal, only to know that his latest get rich quick scheme will have to come to an end by the season’s close, if not sooner. Kevin and V also continually work through extremely odd jobs that feel like rejected Kramer subplots, most of which are incredibly disconnected from the rest of the series. It shouldn’t have taken Shameless this long to have Frank, Kevin, and V all share a storyline, which easily solves both of those problems.
A story arc where Frank is Kevin and V’s weed connoisseur so that they can get the best possible product also makes a lot of sense for everyone involved. The detail that Frank’s actually a skilled gourmand in the field is the icing on the pot brownie. “Go Home, Gentrifier!” succeeds when it brings these characters together and it already seeds more compelling developments to come as Frank’s worth begins to cause friction in their new business. It’s also a rare situation where Frank is completely on point and fully capable. He doesn’t screw up once in this episode and he even is able to unintentionally read between the lines with Tony and Kermit. If this was someone’s first Shameless episode they’d think Frank is some Heisenberg-esque genius and that’s a fantastic angle for him during this final season. Maybe some Nazis will end up executing Kevin in front of him during one of the series’ final episodes.
Liam also attempts to make some easy money off of food, but his product is completely legal and functions more as a commentary on the depressing state of public schools. Liam has become a real joy over the course of Shameless’ latest seasons and the show lucked out with how Christian Isaiah has turned into such a charismatic performer. This energy often sees Liam turn into an inspirational leader and that’s no different here when he transforms subpar cafeteria food into the opportunity to become a martyr. Forget about Ian’s Gay Jesus and get ready for Liam’s Cafeteria Food Jesus.
Liam’s actions bring him together with his fellow student, but Lip and Tami don’t receive the same warm reception from their community. Lip and Tami’s problems with a neighborhood vandal turns into a deceptively deep story. A lot of characters get pushed out of their comfort zones in this episode and slotted into roles that feel foreign to them, but billing Lip as a gentrifier is by far the most extreme example.
The reasons behind this are crushing in their own way, but Lip is not a character who has fundamentally changed or sold out his values with his new life and house. This turns this episode into more of an examination on false labels and the widespread damage that they can cause. It’s really quite sweet to see Lip side with the greater good and help out his community rather than take pride in the good condition of his new home. In a strange way, the vandalism that adorns his house becomes a badge of courage for how strong Lip’s values really are.
Labels are also crucial when it comes to Debbie’s desire to be viewed as a princess, even in lieu of Frannie’s repeated dismissals of the idea. Her actions over Frannie’s birthday help unpack the episode’s themes in a very different way. “Go Home, Gentrifier!” mildly addresses Debbie’s quarter-life crisis here and that she’s reacting out of anxiety over getting older, but it feels pretty baked into this storyline. It’s Frannie’s birthday, but Debbie is also older and the fact that she has a daughter that’s now five certainly subconsciously contributes to Debbie’s desire to dress up as a princess and hide away in fantasy. The episode simplifies this to some extent, but the deeper implications are still there.
“Go Home, Gentrifier!” works out any of the kinks present in Shameless’ season premiere as it confidently moves ahead in its final season. This episode is very crowded, which is something that Shameless always struggles with, but all of these storylines feel natural and that they’re contributing to a larger whole. It’s still very early on and it’s possible that none of these plot threads will be relevant by the end of the season, but “Go Home, Gentrifier!” officially has me optimistic for what’s to come and that Shameless can end on a note that’s worthy of its eleven-year run.