This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 11 Episode 6
“It’s the end of an era…”
Shameless widely advertised that this is the series’ final season, but this episode is the first time that it’s actually felt like the end of the show and that it’s getting ready to say goodbye. The first half of Shameless season 11 has been very messy and it’s even often felt careless at times. This is a season that’s been about change, both in respect to the Gallaghers and Chicago as a whole, which is a theme that’s been explored in many different manners, some of which have been more successful than others.
Past storylines haven’t necessarily complemented each other, but Shameless’ final season starts to connect some of these dots as it prepares to head off into the sunset. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good…Eh, Screw It” is still a flawed episode, but it’s responsible and succeeds in a way that the rest of this season hasn’t.
Shameless finds itself at a turning point in its final season as it approaches the halfway mark and has characters in search of atonement for the radical decisions that are made in the previous episode. “Do Not Go Gentle…” begins with several Gallaghers in freefall mode and in a position where they can work towards redemption or just continue to enable their mistakes. This is hardly new behavior for the Gallaghers, but every mistake resonates more as the series gets closer to its conclusion. Lip glibly remarks that he only fell off the wagon for “just one night,” and it’s this mentality that’s a destructive note to leave the Gallaghers on.
Lip drives the majority of the conflict in this episode and it’s seriously disappointing to watch him resort to robbery after coming so far. It’s major regression on his part and even though he leaves some racially motivated subterfuge to cover his tracks it still feels like he’d be the primary suspect in such a crime. It’s equally difficult to watch Lip skirt the truth while around Tami and deflect on important topics that he should be approaching with her as a team. Lip has screwed up plenty throughout Shameless, but he’s earned a happy ending at this point and it’s tough to watch the fragile life that he’s built for his new family continue to receive abuse. He gets pushed into a difficult corner that might affect the rest of the season.
Lip is the worst offender in this episode, but Debbie comes in a close second when it comes to her relationship with Sandy and her future in general. This season should be about embracing the relationships that these characters have built rather than resorting to the same melodrama that polluted the earlier years of the show. Shameless eventually reaches this point, but it takes the season too long. This “surprise husband” twist feels like artificial conflict and it’s not even original considering that Shameless has covered all of this before with Jimmy/Steve/Jack/Rumplestiltskin.
Extraneous drama may be Shameless’ expected routine, but all of this feels misguided, especially once Debbie seems ready to wipe the slate clean and reinvent herself through a new gig working at a gay bar. The majority of this rift is handled in a frustrating manner, but it’s resolution works well and helps provide some clarity to what’s been a very unfocused relationship. This story still would have worked better in the first or second episodes of this season, but hopefully the two will be stronger in what’s left of this season. Debbie has hopefully learned something from all of this, whereas it’s not clear that Lip has.
Additionally, Debbie repairs things with Sandy, but her relationship with her daughter is still a disaster. It’s genuinely shocking that every episode has featured some despicable act from Debbie to Franny. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage that Debbie’s reckless behavior with Sandy has had on Franny, but also how Debbie pours salt in this wound in an unsuccessful attempt to use her daughter as a bargaining chip in her relationship drama. Franny is not in good hands.
Franny’s future is questionable, but Liam continues to prove why he’s become the beating heart of Shameless. He’s consumed with guilt over inadvertently shooting, and paralyzing, Terry Milkovich, which sends Liam down a spiritual tailspin where he worries over the fate of his eternal soul. Liam is such a pure, sweet presence in this series that it’d be tragic to see this random event cloud his future and send him down a dark path. His journey for absolution here is mostly played for laughs, but he at least feels like he’s properly repented by the end of the episode instead of accepting that he’s bound for hell and becoming worse. It’s also really endearing that Carl is the one who is able to soothe Liam and give him the right message after Frank’s advice only triggers existential dread.
Carl also does plenty of good outside of his family and it’s truly nice to see him use his new position of authority to selflessly help others. An earlier version of this show wouldn’t have been ashamed to have a Gallagher abuse their cop status to pressure someone into a date and so it’s extremely satisfying that the opposite is true with Carl. He’s a strong example of how much some of these characters have grown, as opposed to the destructive actions of Lip and Debbie.
“Do Not Go Gentle..’s” other major hurdle involves Frank and his dementia, which finally gets confirmed. Shameless honestly deserves some credit for the subtlety that it’s applied to this material. The hints that Frank has been mixing up names and events have been minimal and spread across several episodes. This is really the first time that Shameless draws some concentrated attention towards it. Frank’s ailing health is likely the big event that will frame the series’ final episodes and it’s enough of a catalyst for Shameless’ goodbye. Frank has often been an insufferable character in the past, but it’s been impressive to see how this year has carefully made him perhaps the most entertaining and enjoyable Gallagher so that this emotional blow will have as much impact as possible.
Frank’s storylines and William H. Macy’s work in the role remains a highlight of this season and he’s already giving an impressive performance. However, it feels like Shameless is about to move into more somber territory on this front. There are small moments where Frank is around the rest of his family and earnestly smiles at their antics and the people that they’ve become, and they’re just so sincere. His family actively berates him, but Frank begins to value and take stock of what’s important to him in life and it really resonates.
It’s shocking to get a speech about cowardice and integrity from Frank to Terry Milkovich of all people, and that these two individuals are able to hang on while others like Lip are ready to cash in their chips. Frank and Terry’s resolve is over the frailty of their physical conditions, but it connects to the larger issue that Lip wants to sell the Gallagher house and leave Chicago behind. Lip tries to push the idea that selling the house is a positive change for everyone, but he’s the only one that literally needs this to happen and he shouldn’t get to be rewarded for his mistakes.
This subject is far from resolved, but it begins to draw a line between the Gallaghers that have worked hard to rebuild their lives and those that continually tear down their own accomplishments. This decision might help everyone reach common ground, but it also has the potential to tear everyone even further apart.
“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good…Eh, Screw It” provides the clarity that this season has otherwise lacked and this hopefully means that the final batch of episodes will be just as focused and reflect the higher level of quality that Shameless is capable of achieving. There’s definitely the potential for what’s to come to devolve into sappy and saccharine storytelling, but this greater sense of urgency will hopefully aid these final episodes. Shameless is often needlessly vulgar and juvenile, but there’s also a real sensitivity to the program and it’s the right approach for these final episodes to begin to embrace that.