Wow. Did you see that scene? I never would have thought we’d get a moment like that in episode 7! That’s some season finale or penultimate episode crap right there. Frank versus Fiona in court for legal claim over the children. How can such a small-scale custody dispute with an even smaller outcome have more weight than four seasons of judicial drama on The Good Wife? Oh, because this is Shameless and they realize developing your characters organically before growing to a major event is actual drama. Just wow. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself…
This week’s episode, entitled “A Long Way From Home,” begins like every other week with a snarky insult to the audience for not remembering what happened in the previous episode. I’m only mentioning it now for the first time because of how brilliant William H. Macy’s deadpan is in this one. As he sits on the stoop with his legs stretched out, cigarette in mouth, he nonchalantly states, “Here’s what you missed on Shameless last week. Not too much, it was kind of light last time.” That smug irony is all the more pointed considering the episode that follows. Next week they’re just going to have to give those who missed out (and didn’t finish reading all the wondrous text below) the finger and call it a day.
This morning, Fiona is on a mission. She is fully dressed in actual business attire and has make-up on for the first time in God knows how many episodes. All around her are Debbie and Carl’s mementos of the ever-absent father. Fi’s face is filled with an anguish we rarely witness: love for Frank. For a moment, you can actually perceive the abandoned girl whose life Frank ruined so many years ago. But then its gone and replaced with a pissed off determination. She is going to get her kids back. She orders Jimmy to deadbolt the house to make sure Frank never can get in again and is off. She isn’t even aware of Jimmy’s total reluctance about where this is going.
Across town, they meet/assault a legal buddy of Jimmy’s older brother, Chip. He’s supposed to help Fiona get her siblings out of custody, but seems less than keen on the idea. After Fiona corners him in an elevator, he concedes, “You know my firm makes me do one pro bono case a year and I guess this won’t be as bad as representing those scary motherfuckers at the Innocence Project.” Step One done.
Meanwhile Debs is starting to fight back. Surprise, surprise, Momma Comola is running a sweatshop of sorts under her basement and wants to indoctrinate Debbie to the system. If you want French fries, make a pair of earrings, but a bracelet will net you a hamburger and two means those decadent luxuries called chicken wings. “There used to only be a few of us down here,” Debs’s new BFF cheerfully bemoans. “But business took off when Momma Comola started putting ‘Made in Africa’ stickers on them.” Debs isn’t going to stand for this shit.
Sheila is having her own real family crisis as well during all this turbulence. Jodie is disturbingly trying to hang their sex life around erotic asphyxiation when some dumb teenager shows up at the door. He’s there with his mother and they want Hymie, Sheila’s mentally handicapped grandchild, to come home with him. He’s the baby’s father. This is the child Sheila chose above rude, crude and all around terrible Karen. Yet, as she looks at how far down the rabbit hole of sex addiction Jodie has slid in only two episodes, the inner-pushover shatters like glass. She lets them have the baby as long as she can visit on weekends and holidays. She insists it’s for the best, but as Jodie says, “I can’t see how. You miss him already.” If only Jodie knew it was also because the very next day he tries to convince Sheila to take part in group sex, which she wisely declines.
Ian, still smarting from his boyfriend disappearing after the whole Gay bashing dad thing and Lip are surprised during their daytime hours from the home that Fiona is trying to take custody of them. Doesn’t she understand it’s for the rest of her life? Still, they roll up their sleeves and help by forging a will for Aunt Ginger that leaves Fi the family home. They also copy Kev’s W-2 so that it appears that Fiona is gainfully employed. Lip, who’s been doing Kev’s taxes since he was ten, gloats, “It’s so easy, it’s like they’re daring me to commit fraud.” Fi is a bit worried about doing it to Kev, but when she asks for his blessing, he responds, “Sure. What’s a W-2?” Step Two.
Frank is preparing himself to get the kids back too. Unaware of his daughter’s maneuvering, he promises Kev that his next drink at the bar will be his last for at least two days! He needs a character witness and proof that he’s attending Alcoholics Anonymous. Of course, he is escorted out of the AA meeting when they won’t give him a chip that proves he’s been sober for 30 days and he starts ranting against them. Also, his character witness, a local priest, immediately wants to refuse. “I wrote you your last two character recommendations and you’re still a deadbeat!” Who thought being a drunk could have so many bad repercussions?
The most difficult part of Fiona’s scheming is to replace Aunt Ginger with a less incriminating dead body. To pull off this trick, Veronica helps bribe a morgue doctor who conspires with the nursing home she works at. They find a harmless Jane Doe one night and place her decomposing body in Frank’s bed at the house. Only hitch? Aunt Ginger was missing a big toe. None of them have the guts or nostrils to do the deed until Debs breaks into the house and immediately starts raiding the refrigerator. It seems she poisoned Momma Comola and escaped after gluing sleeping Momma’s eyes shut. The sight of her starving sister begging for milk gives Fi the strength to cut the toe off. It only takes two slices. One flirtation with a creepy medical responder later and they don’t even notice the glued shut wound headed for the incinerator. Step Three.
Sheila finally decides she needs an intervention with Jodie. She even gets Frank to help after threatening to take away his free room and board. They earnestly tell Jodie he has a problem (that they steered him towards) and that the best way to fix it, according to Frank, is to sweat it out. That means handcuffing himself to the bed until his darkest sexual urges pass. Sheila is so busy tending to him that she doesn’t even hear…Karen return. Crap. Nice for Sheila and a moving scene for Joan Cusack…but still, crap.
All of this is building to the two scenes at the Court that we want to talk about. Earlier, Fiona confronted Frank and tried to get him to sign over the rights like Monica apparently did (Fi learned to forge her mom’s signature before middle school). So, he comes prepared with a suit and a real sob story. He will not let them take away his kids. How can such a worthless deadbeat care about kids he abandoned for six months last time on his trip to Mexico?! Between all the bluster and bullshit he spews at the judge, I think he gives a real answer. “I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t a dad. I’d be nothing. Please don’t take my kids away from me.” For all of Frank’s narcissism and manipulative dishonesty, I believe him. I believe that he sincerely views himself as a resilient father and knows that if he officially lost power over the kids whose lives he is barely a part of, he’d have nothing to hide behind other than his bottle and pills. The one way he can live with being such an unrepentant loser is by telling himself that he’s a dad. He will never ever stop clinging to this fantasy. Fiona counters with what may be Rossum’s best moment in the entire series. She tells of a long-held memory. Her father dropped her and her two toddler brothers off at the side of the curb from his car one evening. He promised he’d be right back, but never showed. Ian, who already had a fever, began burning up and Fiona, only a kid, had to rush her brothers to a medical clinic five miles away. Ian almost died that night and so did Fiona’s childhood. She was 6. It wouldn’t be the last time Frank disappeared for days, weeks or even months before turning back up to ask for money. “I’m not asking for your pity or your admiration. I just want to be able to give these kids everything they deserve because they’re great kids and they deserve better.” If this Emmy is snubbed again by THE Emmys, they are officially worthless.
The judge calls Fi and her lawyer to his chambers where he bluntly admits she does have his admiration. He also acknowledges that Frank is obviously a pathological liar and will only screw up again. He doesn’t want to leave the children in Frank’s care, but he levels with Fiona, in very stark terms, about what she’s asking and what’s pushing Jimmy away. If he even makes the compromise of turning Fiona into the kids’ legal guardian, meaning Frank still has technical custody but all responsibility goes to his eldest daughter, she is saddled with them all until they turn 18. Liam is 2-years-old. Fiona is in her early 20s and is agreeing to throw away the rest of her life. If she does this, there is no hope for college or a truly better life. Even starting her own family will eventually seem impossible. The judge who has a daughter around Fi’s age would never wish this upon her and, for a moment, I almost rooted for Frank. If Fiona goes through with this, there is no way it won’t come back to haunt her. So, of course she does it.
When her brothers and sister hear that Fi is now their legal guardian, they all celebrate. When Frank hears he can still pretend he’s a real father, he goes on his own party with the only people whose opinions matter to him…the other drunks at Kev’s bar. The merriment is so high for both sides that Lip doesn’t have the heart to yet tell Fiona about their cousin, Patrick, swooping down with his own fake will for Aunt Ginger. Jimmy also puts on a brave face as he realizes his hope of having a life with Fiona sans five kids to feed is over. And Frank? When a fellow bar fly asks where his kids are between shots, he responds, “Fuck if I know.”
This was a really good one. Ever since the pilot when Frank beats down a much more introverted and closeted Ian, we have waited for things to come to a head with the father and eldest daughter. But in classic Shameless fashion, the ending can never truly be happy. Yeah, Fiona has the kids now, but just as she gave up going to college or having a life to raise them the last five years, she is now throwing away any future. I’m not saying Jimmy is a catch as he is also being comforted by his wife between INS check-ups. But can I blame him? He may love Debs and the rest, but he’s now signing on to be a father to his girlfriend’s siblings. As someone who met Fiona under a false name and is already leading a double life with Estefania, I highly doubt this season is going to end well for the couple. Yet, can any with Fiona now a legal mother of so many children?
Shameless gave audiences the showdown they wanted. Now, the aftermath will likely be anything but that. It’s a brave new world for the Gallagher clan and only one thing is certain: Frank will be drunk tomorrow morning and Karen is going to screw with Lip’s head.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:
“Nothing is more American than a second chance. Or a third. Or a fourth. Redemption tugs at the heartstrings. Another shot for the road!” Frank.
“More when Bernice is working.” Veronica when asked if they have a lot of women die at the retirement home. “That negligent bitch is like the Grim Fucking Reaper.”
“This is why white kids are flocking to Allah!” Frank outraged that his priest doesn’t want to be his character recommendation. “This is what happens when you put a German in charge of the Church!”
“See if you can get the security codes for this place and we’ll come back in a couple of months and steal a bunch of this shit.” Lip mentoring a sad Carl at his rich, Gay, foster parents’ home.
““For the better?” Frank at an AA meeting where he is being lectured. “You’re all dying a slow miserable death thanks to this cult of self-improvement. Drop off the kids, 9 to 5, PTA-A, you call that a life? THIS AIN’T NORTH KOREA. ALCOHOL IS A GIFT! Nance, what happened to you? You used to dance on tables! Now it’s cleaning your dad’s catheter and the graveyard shift at the drug store. You’re young, don’t pack it in!” Wow. Again, wow.
“Just booked a first class ticket to eternal damnation.” Veronica after they find a Jane Doe to play Aunt Ginger.
“Bacardi. Leave the bottle.” Nance. In the bar. Wow, Frank. Wow.