Shameless Season 3 Episode 2 Review: The American Dream

There appears to be just nothing left to like about Frank. Nothing.

Well that didn’t take long! Less than a minute after the Shameless opening credits in the season’s second episode, Emmy Rossum is gratuitously naked in the shower. Must be making up for last week’s fully clothed premiere, I reckon. Still, it is going to take more than water to wash away Fiona’s problems this week.

The show begins with reality coming back to Fi. She realizes gambling the family’s property tax money on promoting her first club gig may not have been the smartest of moves and she cannot sleep before jumping into that shower. But even the bathroom is no refuge when Jimmy has to take a dump. Poor Fimmy, they’re at that awkward stage where couples are sharing bathrooms for the first time. Before she can even finish chastising him for breaking into her quiet time, Frank outdoes them both by trying to take his old bedroom that he forfeited to Fiona after leaving her to raise his other five children for six months. She keeps him out this time, but he’ll be back. 

Also, causing problems before breakfast is Mandy Milkovich walking around the kitchen with no pants on. Lip’s new live-in FWB seems to be clearly pushing herself into the Affairs Gallagher much more than Karen ever did. When Fiona asks her to put her to put something on, she shoots back at the slightly older female, “Don’t look if you don’t like what you see.” The two appear to be lionesses poised for combat over the pride. Sorry Mindy, everyone likes you more than Karen, but don’t start trying to Yoko this family. It doesn’t help when she looks so proud of Lip when he gives Fiona shit for using the property tax money.

Meanwhile, we quickly learn that maybe Karen is lucky to turn out as well as she did. Sure, Sheila is a great character and who doesn’t love the haplessness of Joan Cusack channeling comedy brilliance? However, when you accidentally leave your grandbaby in the front yard to be picked up by the dump truck instead of the trash, there are clearly problems. Fortunately, Jody figures out tired mamma may need a break and gets the kid back. He also has a great idea. They can get Debs to come watch out for the kid!

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Fiona spends most of the episode trying to get her dream for a club together while being torn down by Lip at home. She thinks she can save money if she gets her alcohol from Kev’s wholesaler connections, but has to write him a check for $5,000 when she has about $17 in her account (she hopes she’ll make enough to deposit the difference before the check clears). She is also harassed by a stuck up ward official who wants a cut of her profit. When she asks Jimmy for financial help (for the first time in the series as far as I can tell), he says he doesn’t have any money at the moment, but he does have his own problems.

This week, Jimmy found out that Estefania’s father left one last guy in Chicago to make sure Jimmy goes on the straight-and-narrow to keep Estefania’s name out of trouble. When he tries to steal a Porsche to help out Fiona, his cartel shadow is there to intercede…and break his pinky for not looking for cash the legal way. I sense a career as a short-order cook in Jimmy’s future…

Things aren’t going bad for everybody. Mickey gets out of Juvie and kicks the crap out of Ian’s new ROTC fuck buddy under the school bleachers. Ian wonders if it’s love and Mickey’s sister, Mandy, encourages Ian to find out. Mandy herself is turning out to be an intriguing character. Unlike a lot of the show’s lovers, she seems to really care for her semi-partner. She speaks to the school counselor about how to convince Lip to apply for college. Despite being pressured by Fiona to go back to high school, he shows a complete lack of interest in higher education, despite being a genius. Mandy is starting to get that Lip is both the smartest and dumbest person on the show. At the same time, she is pressuring him to “take over” leading the family from Fiona. Is she June Carter or Lady Macbeth?  Only time will tell. Lip spends his time trying to figure out how to raise money that he is positive Fiona can’t recover. This includes duping resume-building rich kids from Lake Shore into working for free as labor that Lip can underbid illegal immigrants with. The only thing that can put him and Fi back on the same page this episode? Frank.

When Debs cannot get Sheila’s grandkid to stop crying, she goes by Kev’s bar and, as expected, finds her drunk dad there. She convinces Frank to help her get the kid to stop with his patented solution of coating the mouth with Valium. This allows her to stay up all night and finish her Civil War project by constructing Honest Abe’s log cabin out of popsicle sticks. Debs is the only one who seems to have any use for Frank. That changes when he comes home the next morning with two other barflies. All three are wasted beyond belief and want to crash in the only bedroom Frank is allowed…Deb’s. Lip, Ian and Fiona all stand together to kick Frank out. A lot has changed since Frank beat up an insecure Ian in the show’s Series Premiere. He still manages to rush his children and get to Debbie’s bedroom. There his drunken buddies proceed to literally piss all over her room and as Fiona tries to drag Frank off Debs’ bed, he pushes her off of him and lands himself on top of Debs’ Civil War project. The one spent all night working on. He excuses himself by calling it “a piece of shit.” And with that, Frank lost the last of ‘em. Debs goes ballistic, stuffs a pillowcase with soap and totally throttles her worthless father into a bruised ego of submission before kicking everyone out of her room.

Everything comes to a head the night of Fiona’s party. Lip and Ian run a scam by tricking the Lake Shore kids that Wilco is playing at her club. Meanwhile, Veronica and Kev can’t make it to the party because V finally found out about Kev’s ex-wife and potentially unknown son. Fiona makes $9,000, but after she pays everyone off (both legally and illegally), she ends up with only $900. She gets a tongue-lashing from Lip who is furious that she gambled their family’s $1,000 property tax and refuses to let her pay for most of it with the money she got back. He even asserts he should be running the family’s finances as Mandy watches in the wings.

However, the worst is still yet to come. Frank, licking his wounds and pride, decides to punish his children for kicking him out seemingly for good. He calls Child Services on all six of them and sets the ball rolling for what could be a very unhappy ending for the whole family. He then sits down to have a drink.

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Overall, this sophomore week was much stronger. Instead of having more drama of Frank’s status going from loved to hated with his kids, it feels like they are genuinely done with him. So much so, the show’s protagonist may go from merely detestable to becoming the antagonist. Shameless, unlike many other premium cable dramedies, has a plethora of likable characters. But the levels to which they’re willing to let us hate its star is still shockingly impressive after two years. The growing conflict between Fi and Lip is also very interesting, given that she kicked him out of the house just last season. Lip is a great character, but he is too smart for his own good if he thinks he can run this family better. If he wanted to help his family financially, he would actually go to college as opposed to run from it while thumping his chest with impotent rage.

The only complaint is the seeming redirection the writers have gone with Jimmy. The character has gone from being street smart and always a step ahead of almost everyone to being unable to get a few dollars together? It felt far too convenient for the plot that a character who has driven BMWs and bought houses on a whim is suddenly broke and cannot think of a way to turn a dollar that is less obvious than stealing a car. Still, it is a strong episode that promises plenty of mean spirited cruelty to come.  Cheers!

Most Shameless Quotes of the Week: 

“Not dog piss! [It’s] Gary the homeless guy.”—Frank explaining the putrid smell on his clothes.

“C’mon, GI!  Pound me like an Iraqi soldier!”—An ROTC trainee under the bleachers with Ian.

“I’ll tell you this: For all their laziness and lack of motivation, the Mexicans are a lovely people!”—Frank as he lounges about a bar during the middle of a weekday.

“When you’re poor, the only way to make money is to steal it or scam it like Don King or Joe Kennedy.”—Lip explaining to Fi that her dream of success is pie in the sky.

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“He raised six great kids.  Look at him’ he’s like the baby whisperer!”—Sheila’s way-mistaken reading of Frank’s parental skills.