This Shameless review contains major spoilers.
Shameless Season 8 Episode 7
Gallagher versus Gallagher. Kin versus kin. Plus, Frank launching a hair-brained scheme to make money. Ah, this is more like it.
Last week, the impending crash of Fiona and Ian was sidelined for some amusing, if slightly irrelevant, comedic and emotional beats. However, with the title of “Occupy Fiona” alone, it’s clear that Shameless has found its main thread again, and it is perfectly compelling, and not only because it is about Gallagher subplots colliding. While there is some real joy found in that aspect with tonight’s hour, the truth is that this clash heavily hints at very different tracks for the members of our favorite South Side brood.
As per the name of the episode, “Occupy Fiona” begins with Fi being ushered back to 2015 with a bucket of ice cold water splashing her sleeping face. Obviously ticked, Ian is making the fight for a church property personal. Two weeks ago, I ultimately sided with the gingered Gallagher because he was right that Fi is ignoring her roots to protect her path into a bougie lifestyle. However, she has every right to do just that, and long before Trevor is disturbed by the sight of Ian using his kids to torment Fiona, audiences can deduce this is about more than just finding at risk teenagers a nice shelter.
Throughout the episode, Ian bellows from a megaphone about the “thundercunt” and “landlord cunt” who is his sister. It’s on-brand with the mission statement of Shameless’ title, yet it quickly passes the point of just comedy. As Fi accurately rants like a crazy woman to Fred Ford (while the carpenter all but makes love to her doorframe), she raised all of her siblings, including Ian, during her teens and most of her 20s. And now Ian is trying to punish her for attempting to climb out of poverty. She did make a selfish choice to protect her investment over those children, but she also, by this hour’s end, finds an alternative shelter that while not as nice as the church, still benefits the children. But all Ian sees is a gentrified traitor.
The subplot had delicious tit-for-tat gamesmanship with Ian putting a tent city on a vacant lot outside Fi’s building; and she in turn bribes all these kids with $20 plus a few slices of pizza while robbing them blind of their admittedly meager possessions. If she really wants to make things up to Trevor and Ian, she should offer to buy a round of sleeping bags. (And thus maybe raise her overpriced apartment space to $1,200 a month to offset it. She’s got the lemons to do it, yo.)
Neither come out looking good. But while Ford stands as possibly a new love interest for Fi in future episodes—I personally think that is just a red herring to tease fans—the more interesting fallout is Ian. Both Fiona and Trevor eventually accuse the lad of being off his meds, and while he claims that isn’t the case, he is obviously hurting from this. I think it is a personal thing beyond the children he used as soldiers in a proxy war; he feels that Fiona is leaving him and the rest of the Gallaghers behind. She is trying to climb out of poverty, but there is no inclination she is still going to be the maternal figure who will take them with her; Ian meanwhile has lost his mother (if you can call Moinca that), and no one seems to care…. including Monica’s other kids.
It is a malaise and sorrow that runs deeper than medication that is taking hold of Ian. And it is why he can’t say “I love you” to Fiona when she visits him in his bedroom. I imagine by the end of season 8, Ian will be moving out and might be the first one to make a strong break from Fi and their childhood. As Shameless is closer to its end than the beginning, it is not at all impossible to imagine that the kids will be breaking away, and whatever success Fi is having might just lead to her enjoying it alone as a woman… but no longer a mother.
Lip’s storyline tonight also reached a crescendo that made it much more worthwhile. I have always liked the alcoholic prof that Lip has hanged around. He’s done too much for Lip to be a disposable or throwaway character. But it feels right that this is the last time we see him. Unlike Frank, Lip actually cares about this mentor’s alcoholic abuse, and it isn’t played for laughs. He is a smart guy who was tenured at the University of Chicago, and still was a shameless drunk when we met him several seasons ago. It was humorous then because it put Lip into a lot of unearned position of responsibility as an undergraduate; but it also has allowed the series to dig into the uglier side of addiction in a way it never could with comic relief Frank, or always- salvageable Fi and Lip.
He represents the dark side of drink that also claimed St. Francis when he was but a wee lad in his 20s, and there is nothing amusing about him grimly telling Lip, “I chose booze a long time ago. If you don’t like what you see, don’t look.”
Lip will have to turn away too if he wants to save himself. Now, I suppose, it makes the introduction of Brad more sensible by the writers. He is the father figure that can be saved. Maybe. I actually find that dubious too given all the shenanigans he’s been up to. But unlike ol’ teach, Brad had years of sobriety and has put in a concerted effort. Then again, his double was saying the same thing last week that Brad now says about the convicted felon: he’s a lost cause.
It’s nothing but ugliness all over that Lip is drowning himself in, but he is showing a responsibility we haven’t seen him have for anyone else, excepting his youngest siblings in… maybe ever.
Speaking of the siblings, Debs proved she is still Debbie by hopelessly shirking her job’s responsibilities while running off to Missouri, and then hilariously throwing away her second chance. But like all the best Debbie acts of vengeance, there is something delicious about her using her newfound welding skills to screw over the conceited prick by merging his convertible to a dumpster. Yeah, she will not have money for Frannie in a week, but to be fair it was kind of hilarious. Point to Debbie on this night.
And speaking of selfish, Frank had another amusing subplot as he tried to hold out for a management position before giving up and running someone—a person who actually has been screwed over by the system in a truly profound way—into Canada. For a price. And now he’ll be running Canadian drugs back into Chi-Town. Part of me would wonder if this is the beginning of Shameless breaking bad, but Frank’s career as a Maple Leaf pusher will probably be as fleeting as his attempt to become management. But I am genuinely enjoying seeing Frank try to set his life straight. He has that fancy new car that will begin having payments due in at least a few months, and if for no other reason than it is something amusing for him to do besides wallowing in his filth, seeing him finally try to work within the system—and discover how stacked the deck is against him as a middle-aged man who hasn’t done much of anything for the last 35 years—is a comic, and nevertheless depressing, delight.
Also wrapped up tonight was Carl finding his tuition money. This isn’t shocking, because unfortunately we’ll soon have to say goodbye to the most entrepreneurial of Gallaghers as high school will be starting up soon enough for the actor off-screen. Nevertheless, “kidnapping” a dentist’s daughter for realsies and then still getting away with it sounds about right for this show—even if this invariably ends with him getting heartbroken again. Hopefully though the “Fuck” means he knows he’s getting used this time.
But even if he does get taken for a ride, this episode didn’t use or waste it’s time at all. It was sharp, funny, and even heartbreaking as we see the tear between Fi and Ian reach a point where it may never be truly repairable. The best Shameless episodes tend to offer some bite along with their French fried fun, and this one pushed the Gallaghers further. Hopefully though not so far along that they cannot see each other behind their independent walls. We’ll find out more on that front, I suspect, next week.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week
“Are you sure this is what you were talking about, you wanting to be dominated? Because it looks painful. I mean, look at the guy with a pole up his ass. He’s sad in his eyes.” – Kev.
“Offer declined. This collar is white. I’ll take my talents elsewhere.” – Frank.