This Shameless review contains spoilers.
Shameless Season 9 Episode 14
“I feel like I got a second chance…”
Shameless Season 9 has been all over the map, largely in part due to the random and frenetic storylines that have pulled the season in various directions. Remember Courtney Cox’s stint as that rehab-bound celebrity? Neither do I. This schizophrenic feeling that has dominated much of this season is fortunately absent in “Found,” thanks to a strong underlying theme that helps give it focus.
This is an episode that is is all about futures and getting trapped in a certain path or choosing to escape from it. This is obviously most prevalent with Fiona, who actually exits the series in this episode, but nearly every member of the Gallagher family makes drastic life decisions that will shape their future in this finale. Whether these are the right decisions or if they’re made for the right reasons becomes one of the larger questions behind this contemplative finale.
“Found” puts to rest the many lingering plot threads from this season, but more than anything, this episode is one big showcase and love letter to Fiona Gallagher and Emmy Rossum. The last few episodes—particularly the previous one—began to fast track Fiona’s exit from the series and just as she had hit her rock bottom, she conveniently gets a bailout check in the form of $100,000.
With most people expecting this exit to happen, the question then becomes if it works. Even though it probably could have been better seeded throughout the season rather than rushed through in these last two episodes, the show does make Fiona’s goodbye work.
Fiona basically takes mental inventory of her life and the people around her throughout the whole episode. Fiona’s gone through this to various degrees before in the series, but each moment she takes to reflect on something here feels especially significant because of the very public news that it’s Emmy Rossum’s final episode.
This finale is full of moments where she sees that her family really doesn’t need her anymore and that if she wants to stay with them, that’s fine, but they’re no longer a viable excuse to keep her from leaving Chicago. Fiona’s grown up, but so has everyone else (well, minus Frank). Some of these moments are a little more heavy-handed than others, but it almost seems like the point of the episode is that Fiona needs to be repeatedly hit over the head with these signs to finally take the leap and leave.
Accordingly, the episode gives Fiona some nice one-on-one moments with each of her family that are particularly effective. Series creator, John Wells, writes and directs the hell out of this episode, and each of Fiona’s conversations are articulate in a way that can often get away from Shameless.
Fiona’s talks with Frank here aren’t about anything substantial, but there’s a careful rhythm and cadence to them that’s reminiscent of the show’s earliest seasons. Rossum has always done great work on this show, even when her character has gone to some unlikable places, but she really puts everything into her final performance here (as does Wells, with the script’s dialogue). “Found” also features copious group scenes with as many of the Gallaghers together as possible, which also helps harken back to the show’s earlier years and creates the right nostalgic vibe for this finale.
It’s also really fantastic that Ian is the one that Fiona opens up to over her plans to leave Chicago and while the reunion between these two is short, it’s such a perfect, emotional scene. Fiona’s characterization has been a disaster this year, but her writing here and the journey she takes in this episode is beautiful. When Ian tells Fiona that she deserves this freedom, she does, and this wouldn’t have been the case at the season’s halfway mark. Or even four episodes ago. All of Ian’s scenes here are seriously such a treat and I’m much happier to see him show up in this finale than Jimmy/Steve (which some people were rooting to happen).
Fiona finding the courage to leave is the main drive in ”Found,” but the rest of the cast is hardly sidelined through this episode. Frank’s broken leg and zest for painkillers continues to be the bane of the Gallagher household. Bedridden Frank is at his neediest and most vulnerable here.
The revelation that Frank is reduced to this state for anywhere between three months to half a year is yet another factor in Fiona’s decision to ultimately leave, lest she be stuck with this nuisance. He just runs his mouth and insults his family for the bulk of this entry.
Lip is also in the middle of his own crisis with Tami and her pregnancy. Tami’s breakdown over her prognosis is some devastating stuff and the episode doesn’t simplify the difficulty in the decision that she has to make. Lip continues to be the perfect, considerate partner here, but Tami just spirals out of control in a way that’s actually scary.
It’d be nice to see Lip catch a break for once after going through such a gauntlet of bleak events. Tami somewhat comes around by the end of the episode and it looks like perhaps a happy ending may await the two of them, but their relationship and future is still very much in flux and the finale intentionally doesn’t provide closure here. I really hope that Shameless lets Tami stick around and doesn’t completely wipe her from everyone’s memories like it’s done so often in the past. Furthermore, I’d also like to see Kelly remain in the picture next season.
On the topic of this whole Carl/Debbie/Kelly love triangle, it’s been a real disaster and low mark for the season, especially when it seemed like Carl and Kelly had something legitimately positive when their relationship began. This is hopefully not just another way for the show to burn down its many seasonal storylines as the year comes to the end. So although I didn’t need to see Carl and Debbie get revenge on their ex-lover (especially when this is so often the show’s MO), it at least gets the two of them working together again and acting like family.
It’s also interesting to see Debbie very much stepping into a leader role at the Gallagher household and that this may be the show’s plan post-Fiona. Debbie’s made a lot of poor decisions over the past few seasons, but her transition into the Fiona role on the show could possibly help redeem her character. Honestly, Debbie kicks ass in this episode and while she’s been the worst for a while now, this is the comeback entry she’s so sorely needed. Her takedown of Kelly is one of the best moments in the episode.
The show paints a seriously discouraging picture for Carl and it temporarily looks like all of the progress that he’s made over the past few seasons will be lost as he turns to a career in fast food.
While this increased level of responsibility is nice, it also feels like Carl is still raw and acting impulsively after his West Point rejection. Rather than bury this, “Found” uses it to drive a cathartic scene between Carl and Debbie. Carl resigns himself to an easy life and gives up on higher aspirations, while Debbie pleads him to be more optimistic about the future. It’s a powerful scene, but one that’s even more so because Carl has watched literally all of his older siblings “waste” their potential.
In this sense, Fiona’s decision to seize her life and leave Chicago may actually be the inspiring push that Carl subconsciously needs. The fact that he sees that Fiona can escape all of this means that he doeshave hope. It’s a smart way to have Fiona’s departure empower those around her rather than it look like she’s just running away. Of course, Carl’s reunion with Kelly plays a significant factor here as well, but Fiona’s decision surely also affects him.
Another Gallagher who’s very much in flux and also more or less leaves the family is young Liam. The tail end of this season has done some curious things by removing Liam from the equation and then actually turning that absence into something bigger.
For all intents and purposes, Liam has gone off and joined a new family who may not appreciate him more than his biological family, but they at least would notice if he was missing a few nights every week. We’ll see where all of this goes, but honestly, it’s probably a good move for the kid. Liam’s shown incredible promise when given the opportunity, which he’ll now finally have.
Finally, the plot of least significance in “Found” is the nonsense that Veronica and Kevin have themselves roped up in. Kevin’s role as Jesus doesn’t exactly have the highest of stakes, nor does Kevin’s continual struggles to regain his sexual prowess post-vasectomy.
Both of these stories meet fine conclusions and they thankfully only take up a few minutes of screen time. At one point V explains this convoluted situation to Fiona and it’s almost like the episode is poking fun at how absurd their storylines have been this year. However, the idea that this Jesus thing may become a runner through the future of the show isn’t too encouraging. Get ready for Bat Mitzvah Jesus in Season 10, all!
One of the largest oversights in Shameless Season 9is that the dynamic between Veronica and Fiona has been seriously skewed to the point that I was convinced that there is some behind the scenes drama between Emmy Rossum and Shanola Hampton. They’ve barely shared any scenes together and they’re supposed to be best friends. Thankfully, this finale not only let’s the two of them bounce off of each other, but V is the first person that Fiona tells about her recent financial turn, which is very nice to see.
In any other situation it’d be far too easy for everyone to turn on Fiona and dissuade her from leaving, but it’s a whole lot more satisfying to just see everyone come together and party. Fiona’s spontaneous exit will certainly rub some viewers the wrong way, but she has her reasons (and the check for $50,000 also doesn’t hurt). The last Gallagher that she does share time with is Frank, which is impactful in an entirely different kind of way and contains some of Macy’s best work in a long time on this show, even if it’s not a lengthy scene.
“Found” checks off many of the necessary boxes for a finale, but it also contains many allusions to Shameless’ series premiere. Fiona wears the exact same clothing combo that she does in the show’s pilot, which is a nice piece of synchronicity. The framing as Fiona waits for the subway to leave town is also identical to the first season’s finale and at the end of the pilot episode, Jimmy/Steve tells her, “You’re not lost Fiona. You don’t need finding.” Whether that was true or not at the time, it looks like Fiona is now finally “Found.”
Overall, “Found” is a very safe finale that pretty much moves how you’d expect it to, but it’s an episode that still works and displays an incredible amount of love for all of these characters. I don’t think we needed such an assassination of Fiona’s character before getting to this conclusion, but maybe reaching that dark place is what Fiona needed to get to this place.
With Fiona now gone and Ian apparently returning, I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 10 returns with some kind of time jump. It’d be pretty convenient to suddenly have Lip and Tami’s kid be a few years old (if they keep it), Ian’s sentence being up, and any other flimsy plotlines from this season can just easily be swept under the carpet.
I don’t know if the dynamic of this show will continue to mutate through the years. I know that this take on Shameless is entirely its own thing from its UK counterpart, and has been for quite some time, but on that show most of the “Gallagher” children left the nest until pretty much onlyFrank was left. Even though Frank is mostly a useless appendage to the show at this point, I’m not sure if it would continue to go on if Macy also decided to leave.
However, with Fiona now gone, it’s very much the end of an era for Shameless. We’ll see how the post-Fiona years go down, but in the meantime, what was your favorite Fiona Gallagher moment? For me, it would have to be her evisceration of Frank in court when she’s awarded custody of her siblings.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.