This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 8 Episode 9
Midway through tonight’s episode of Shameless, Carl gives the kind of snarky comment that can only land so well after a show has been running for at least a half-dozen years. And land it did, “I’m not going to let [her] go just to end up like everyone else in this family who can’t keep a relationship.” The punchline is just as much for we, the viewers, as it is for his befuddled brothers Lip and Ian. They attempt to counter this argument, even after Ian’s been flipping back and forth between his on-and-off dynamic with Trevor for nearly a whole season now, and Lip finds himself in what must be at least his fifth love triangle.
It is perfect, and cuts into what makes “The Fugees” so good—besides Frank running from Canadian law in a subplot that errs wonderfully into pure farce. Here is an episode that owns up to the heightened insanity of these characters; so even as it is mostly about the price paid by all Gallaghers who bone (and Fiona’s apprehension to being apparently boneless), the whimsical demeanor gives Shameless an amusing buoyancy, until that suddenly comes to an end with always unexpectedly blunt authenticity. And that edge was here tonight too.
Surprisingly the most poignant of such high-impact drama came this evening from Lip’s latest love triangle. While Lip being torn between several women is well-worn narrative territory, the conflict regarding Sierra and her dumb-as-a-brick baby daddy, Charlie, ensnare Lip into a very precarious dynamic. Finally, Charlie has come clean to Sierra about having another child on the side… but only after he left in the middle of dinner because his ex on the side was going into labor. Consequently, Lip is asked to give comfort to Sierra while also sending his new friend with benefits running for the hills when she gets only a whiff of these domestic soap operatics.
What is interesting about this dynamic is not how it is tearing at Lip about choosing between two women, but it’s ripping him apart because he must choose between trying to be a lover to Sierra and just a decent human being to Charlie. Previously, we and Lip despised this seeming mouth-breather for being the one given a second chance by Sierra, even though Lip is the one with a genius IQ and the Gallagher bonafides. But after Lip realizes he almost sent a recovering addict into a tailspin at an AA meeting, Lip has taken a genuine shine to Charlie, beginning by disposing of the errant drugs for the schmuck who then thanked Lip for his “intervention.”
Yet now Charlie comes hat in hand to ask Lip to help him out with Sierra, which goes to show that Charlie at least knows how to manipulate a good hearted guy: He positions this as not just helping him out with a girl Lip’s clearly into; it is a gesture Lip must make to prevent Charlie from spiraling back into vice, which would then deprive little Lucas of his father. Of course this does nothing to stop Lip from hooking up with an angry and lonely Sierra a few scenes later, but now Lip finds himself at the center of a domestic house in crisis. And it is worthwhile to consider if there is a “right thing” for Lip to do here.
I suspect Charlie knows that Lip would see this as an opportunity to be with Sierra and is attempting to guilt the rival into perhaps sabotaging himself—but then again that seems a wee too Machiavellian and CW for Charlie and Shameless, respectively. More likely it’s contributing to the visage of Lip’s bitterly hard earned maturity. His romantic entanglements are no longer as clear cut as when he was being driven mad by a blonde (not unlike Carl’s own burgeoning crisis). As Lip gets older, the highs from these hijinks are no longer so playful, and it is fair to see why Carl wants to try to avoid that destiny.
Of course the idea that Carl could while dating a girl who is trying to pressure him into dropping out of military school is as absurd as all the other bad choices in his older siblings’ rear views. While Kassidi is not as bad news as Jimmy was for Fiona, the thought this could end well for him as they speak of “joining souls” at the breakfast table is about as sound as a pound as Frank Gallagher’s Great Canadian Migration.
Feeling pressured into buying a “promise ring,” Carl has inadvertently proposed marriage to a girl he was warned would drain his life force and leave him as an empty husk of a man; something that is all but certain if he winds up at the altar. Which is devilishly appealing. The show very well could have Carl browbeaten into a shotgun wedding before military school. The series already went down a steeper path with Debbie having Franny at a young age, so Carl winding up as both a groom and a soon-to-be-divorcée before the age of 17 is perfectly in keeping with this series. It is also something that could be quite amusing for the show’s final three episodes of the year to explore.
The final major relationship drama of the night involved Fiona and Ford. Last week, I was fairly critical of how Ford was presented to both Fi and viewers, which may have rubbed some readers the wrong way. I am still not crazy about Ford being portrayed as the perfect, enigmatic pseudo-intellectual ideal, but he at least improved tonight. Despite calling Fiona complicated, Ford invited the landlord with the huge family to come play bowling with him at one of those posh spots where they serve cocktail drinks to you while you sit in leather couches. They’re very fashionable in Brooklyn, and they’ve apparently moved to the South Side of Chicago as well. But it is neither entirely a date or a chance for Ford to introduce Fi to his friends. Instead, the mysterious architect is showing Fi to all of his ex-girlfriends, who when juxtaposed with Ford, reveal he also can speak at least two or three different languages and has had a long history as a world traveler, meeting some in Nepal… presumably to climb Everest without a guide.
The scene works well at making Fiona feel out of her element and off-balance with this implicit “catch,” but I still am mixed on it all. He is so comfortable in his own skin that not only will he show the new prospective girlfriends to his exes on what amounts to their second date, but he would rather spend his time while there chatting about life with the exes in languages that intentionally exclude Fiona? It’s just a little too on the nose in its desire to depict him as an alternative from her previous beaus. Still, the actor who plays Ford definitely has charisma, and his reluctant pull into Fiona’s orbit is enticing, just because viewers know he’ll inevitably become involved into all of her “complications.”
The first occurs when one of her roofers falls off her building, and Fi visits him in the hospital. The roofer’s wife seems genuinely surprised and touched that her husband’s contracted employer would care to visit him. Still, the strangeness of the gesture will do more than endear Fiona to Ford; I suspect there is something about the roofers who Fi haggled down to $550 and then fell off her rooftop that we haven’t seen. Could a lawsuit be in the offing?
The other major storylines that had less to do with romance but absolutely hit it out of the park tonight were St. Francis’ second son, Ian, doing something actually holy, and Frank’s Canadian detour. In the former’s case, it will be interesting to see if Ian has really discovered his calling as the voice for marginalized gay youth who are preyed upon by churches and authority figures as deviants that must be “fixed.”
Last week, it was cute when Ian stood up and shouted down a minister in the kind of exchange that occurs on every college campus in America. However, Ian doing it during a “therapy” session and being the strapping, gingered Gallagher we all love who did so while next to a transgender man probably would go viral today. As such, Ian has a following that is allowing him to actually speak to other troubled youth who are enduring hardships similar to the ones we witnessed Ian suffer through during Shameless’ earliest seasons.
Frankly, seeing Ian talk to other Christians, be they related to the Catholic Church or otherwise, about the love of Christ was actually moving. And then Ian taking on a Christ-like posture by saving the life of a homophobic priest was hilarious. Undoubtedly, Ian’s legend will only grow for performing CPR on a man who a minute ago was all but shouting “you’re an abomination” in Ian’s face. This kind of Jesus-inspired choice will strengthen Ian’s message in the coming weeks. Here is to hoping that Shameless sticks with this storyline for a while and does not treat it as a temporary narrative diversion like… Frank’s adventures.
Not that there is anything wrong with Frank’s adventures! Indeed, Frank all but admitted he was in a living cartoon when he and Rami (a doctor on an outdated visa whom Frank just refers to as “Mohamed”) were arrested by honest-to-God Mounties. “I thought you only wore those hats in cartoons.” No, Frank, but there is something wickedly hilarious about you and Rami being saved by the poster men of Canada before crashing your vehicle into what I believe is supposed to be a moose. All that was missing was the maple syrup and a hockey jersey.
From there, it’s all stealing a horse from a little girl and Frank then also stealing money from Rami while the latter slept. To recap again, Frank stole a horse and punched a little girl in the face. And then after having a bonding moment with Rami, takes his wallet and leaves a few notes of money as a condescending mercy. This is the very definition of crass, demented, and mean-spirited humor that has made Shameless such a strange and alluring blend over the years. The show can have moments as heartfelt as Ian Gallagher’s musings on Jesus Christ, and as silly as Carl accidentally proposing marriage… and then just this kind of gonzo entertainment involving Frank. It might be shameless (clearly), but it also in its best moments is something approaching greatness.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week
“It’s Canada. Nobody locks their doors.” – Rami.
“I once shaved my pubes into a V for ‘V.’ But it looked like it stood for ‘vagina.’” – Kev.
“I’m home! Overweight, minimum wage workers buying discount laundry detergent, I have missed you so much!!! God bless America, God bless America!” – Frank
“What’s a promise ring?” “Like commitment with an exit route.” – Carl and Sleazy Jeweler.