This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 8 Episode 10
The name of tonight’s episode is “Church of Gay Jesus,” which is fitting because it is something of a miracle for a show in its eighth season to feel as fresh and bemusing as Shameless has during its better moments this year. While this season certainly is more unwieldy than Shameless in its unapologetically humble (and demented) beginnings, episodes like “Church of Gay Jesus” can distill the series into its best essence as an unlikely marriage between dark humor and poignant sentimentality. And nearly a decade on, that union remains a potent one, which is all but assured to last longer than that of Carl and Kassidi.
Indeed, Carl tying a knot that is guaranteed to make him one day soon wish he’d stick his own head into a noose was just one development in an hour packed to the brim with gonzo glory. The Gallagher kids only fleetingly intersected in one another’s storylines—which is hopefully a hint of things to come, as the very best Shameless episodes occur when the clan has their backs up against a collective wall and see differences converge into a singular narrative—but the echoes and parallels strongly complemented each other. We are nearing the end of season 8 and with it, the show’s narrative threads are getting smaller while brutal endings are revealed.
The most effective finality of the night came when Lip Gallagher was at last forced to say his final goodbye to Professor Youens. Youens’ life has been on a downward trajectory so severe that there was obviously no hope of salvation. Even if the series flirted with the idea that Lip could convince a judge to show clemency for a man with nearly a half-dozen DUIs—and most recently resulting in careening his car into someone’s home—such a fantasy was impossible. The show might be Shameless, but it’s not delusional. As soon as the writers headed in that direction with Youens, it was inevitably the end of the road for the well-meaning drunk. Yet it already felt like we had said farewell to Youens in his final scene with Lip where he told the lad “if you don’t like what you see, look away.” There couldn’t have been anything more stark to suggest about his journey.
And there wasn’t. In an unconventional but devastatingly effective move, Lip comes to visit Youens in prison, only to discover that the prof is dead. There is no onscreen goodbye, nor a gag at Youens’ expense as he collapsed from a seizure on a dirty, cold, concrete floor. Rather it’s about the shock of learning of Youens’ death—and no one having contacted Lip to tell him that he’d passed. This leads to a new reminder of the sum total of Lip’s arc.
Youens’ adult daughter unsurprisingly has little patience for Lip’s eulogizing when they first meet. But at Youens’ service, she notices he is the only student touched enough to attend a memorial and then leave early. Lip has his reasons though. Every other student who spoke up of Youens taking him under their wings showed the expanse of his mentoring kindness. Lip might have been his drinking buddy during the Gallagher boy’s brief stint as a TA, but he also was a protégé who showed immense promise, like all these other souls who Youens guided to graduate school programs or major careers. Leaving early, Lip finds himself with the result of Youens’ guidance. Without the prof and money for rehab, he probably would be halfway to Frank-and-Monica-ville. But this came following crashing his future at the University of Chicago and completely blowing off the opportunities for a career Youens still threw his way.
Lip is apparently the brightest mind that Youens ever saw in an undergraduate, yet here he is using it to fix motorcycles. The anger in that wasted talent causes us to recall another one of Lip’s virtues: blind rage and wrath. Hopefully he’s as much a wunderkind with a monkey wrench as he is at physics, because that bike is going to need major work…
Where this leaves Lip as we head into the final two episodes of the season is anyone’s guess. He and Youens’ daughter share a tender, yet believable, moment on the back of the Gallagher house after she brings a luminous recommendation from Youens to him. Knowing Shameless, she could be yet another romantic interest for Lip to dither about. But I hope not. This might be the final wake-up call he needs to get his life back on some form of track. His chance of being a major engineer for Space X or some other craziness is gone, but he can still do more than work in that auto shop, which is perfectly fine work—it saved his life. Yet he needs to now use that latest opportunity to genuinely try to rebuild his life.
Another Gallagher who is turning the page is Ian Gallagher. After all, he is the episode’s “Gay Jesus.” That nickname was bestowed upon the ginger Gallagher by Kassidi in her first reasonable moment. While she might be determined to drag Carl into Hell, Ian is showing many more the light, first by utilizing his home as a meeting place for wayward souls and then by taking it to an actual church.
This storyline is intriguing, because Shameless is maintaining an ambiguous line about where it is all headed. There is a more poignant direction this could lead, as well as a more cynical one. While given this series’ history, I tend to think it will elect the grimmer route. Still, I’m rooting for the former. Ian is offering a very powerful and necessary message: if you are Christian and gay, you shouldn’t live in shame or fear. It is still a powerful one too, especially, as Lip pointed out tonight, hating on gays is popular again.
When Fiona goes to the church at the end of the hour, she is somewhat amused at what she later describes as “Ian has a cult.” But she is also awed by how important the message is to people. It needs to resonate. Nevertheless, the show is definitely raising plenty of red flags. One is somewhat inconsequential, because whatever Ian’s opinion is on the matter, he couldn’t stop it. Frank is tackling another get rich quick scheme by “helping” Ian via “Hot Gay Jesus” merchandizing shirts. Poor Liam is convinced to help out, and Ian ridiculously believes that Frank will give 95 percent of proceeds to Trevor’s homeless shelters.
Still, there is the fact that he is being viewed as a prophet. There is something biting in season 8’s best social commentary: folks who saw Ian save an “enemy” on Twitter now flock to him like a messiah. Standing outside Ian’s place of work like Israelites coming to hear the Sermon on the Mount, social media acolytes—even those who inhabit atheist, Woke Twitter—can turn into toward fanaticism. And it is getting inside Ian’s head. In conventional TV plotting, he missed Trevor’s chance to inspire at-risk kids to pursue EMS work like he previously had; and you can see him get high on the buzz of his own new bumper stick catchphrase, “God Hates Haters.”
This could spiral toward some dark places, but Hot Gay Jesus has a genuinely spiritual message. I hope Ian can spread it, because if he can avoid being turned into someone as sanctimonious as a megachurch preacher, he actually is putting real good out into this world at the moment.
Compare that to the pain of Carl and Debbie, who as the youngest non-Liam Gallaghers are going through the throes of the most typical of Gallagher shenanigans. Debbie is taking “night welder” scab work, which almost guarantees she’ll never gain membership to the union she needs to turn her trade into a career. Sure she made good money for a while, but one broken leg and no health benefits (or union) later, and she’ll be out of work and potentially blackballed by the organization.
Meanwhile, poor, poor Carl, has dived headfirst into the abyss. The nightmarish back-and-forths between Carl and Kassidi highlight one of the better elements of the episode, as the Gallaghers see their paths incidentally converge. This includes Frank feeding like a cipher off of Ian’s preaching, or Fiona attending one and being kind of stunned (and tickled) by the experience. But it can also be about Carl and Kassidi’s fights causing a lonely Lip to realize just further how much he’s screwed up at this point.
But back to Carl and Kassidi, he also makes his own classically boneheaded mistake by marrying a girl who’d fake a suicide attempt for a ring. As aforementioned, he should have probably just placed his own neck into that noose, because it really is game over at this point. I also suspect they’ve written their out from Carl benefitting from this doomed marriage to a trust fund baby: Kassidi is only 15. Thus when her parents find out, they’ll get it overturned as unlawful. They might even suggest Carl really did kidnap and brainwash Kassidi, a la Patty Hearst. So no Gallagher windfall from this.
Not that the Gallaghers couldn’t use a little more money since Fiona is being sued for $6 million! Oh, it is a shame that that one hell of a stinger was given away in the preview last week. While I predicted in my review (before I watched the promo for episode 10) that a workman falling off her roof would lead to her getting sued, it would have been so much more perfect if we were as in the dark as she was that this family was drawing up the lawsuit while taking Fi’s sympathy for a ride.
Hell, it even happened after I finally started warming to Ford in this episode. His convincing her to buy a wonderful designer chair—although I’m still not sure if it’s a chair she wanted or if it’s a chair he wanted her to have—and saying, “And frankly, you scare the shit out of me” is the most believable thing this Renaissance Man could do. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by Fiona, the Den Mother of the South Side? Granted he found out her backstory because he “asked around” instead of inquiring from the woman he’s dating. This still rubs me the wrong way and makes him less enigmatic than it does pretentious. But hey, four times in one afternoon while leaving both parties satisfied? The man’s clearly not all bad!
But then the family she’s helping have to go and predictably ruin her new chair by spilling junk on it. As soon as Fiona saw that they invited another family over, there should have been warning bells. Hence why Fi had it right the first time; she used to take advantage of people the same way this family is currently doing. And when Fi took advantage, she and her siblings also tended to worsen the lives of the people trying to lend a helping hand. Now she is the one who has been kicked out of her own new apartment, which is getting destroyed all over again, and soon enough they’ll be squatting there while erroneously suing her. Not that the court costs won’t pile up along the way.
This is the perfect type of cruel twist directed at Fiona’s kindness. She is now on the other end of the equation she’s been forced to game so many times, and it really does suck. We also discovered an interesting insight during all this building mayhem: Fiona doesn’t want to have kids. “My siblings are my kids.”
They really are, and it’s interesting that a young woman who essentially adopted five children at 23 now wants no more diapers in her home. Even so, it’s time to call a family meeting together, because the only way to stop this squatting nonsense will be in the court of South Side politics, and Fi will need her whole feudal house in line before “negotiations” begin.
All of these threads—including Svetlana’s failure at passing as a respectable gold digger—were woven seamlessly tonight, and came off for a funny, heartbreaking, and most of all purely entertaining episode of Shameless. Put more of the Gallaghers together to join forces in the next two episodes, and we might have a finale worth taking to the county clerk office.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week
“Time to reflect on my accomplishments and bask in the spoils of a life well lived.” / “You mean leach off your kids and drink booze out of a backpack?” – Frank and Lip.
“Expenses? Alcohol and drugs is nonnegotiable.” – Frank.
“Oh come on, Svet, you’re Russian. This is spy shit; it’s in your DNA.” – Kev.
“Hot Gay Jesus? I bet we can make money off of that.” – Frank.