Shameless Season 9 Episode 8 Review: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Alibi

The Gallaghers are back in Shameless, and Fiona is in a bad place. But is the series itself also in a downward sloping rut?

This Shameless review contains spoilers.

Shameless Season 9 Episode 8

God bless Santiago. This is a young man who crossed the border, has undoubtedly dealt with hatred and discrimination everywhere he’s traveled, and seen his family detained. And yet like a beacon of good and holy light, Kev and V’s “adoption” has come to the Alibi to offer a glimmer of optimism in an otherwise bleak and weary world. So I give him three episodes until these Gallaghers and those in their orbit tear him down faster than you can say “land of the free and home of the brave.”

Yep, the twisted world of South Side debauchery returns for the second half of Shameless’ ninth season, which is also now acting like a long goodbye to Fiona. After nine years of watching her grow, regress, and grow again, we are definitely in the second regression stage that every Shameless character’s journey must go through for the series to extend. So knowing that Emmy Rossum is also looking for the exits makes tonight’s hour bittersweet, as there is no way for Fiona to leave the series now without it feeling like a downer. It’s also because we’ve seen this all before.

To be clear, there are a number of virtues for returning to Shameless’ “classic” formula regarding Fiona, and really much of all the other characters. Just as when the series began, Fi is at the bottom of the economic ladder and getting into hijinks, as are all her siblings who are going through beats that are as comfortable as, well, your favorite stool at the Alibi. The despair in it is that Fiona is now taking that stool from Frank.

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Indeed, it would seem that after seasons of watching Fiona find a fighting chance into the middle class, she is stealing the “cautionary tale” subplot from Lip while facing the possibility of winding up like Frank. Personally, I hope in the next episode Lip goes to the trouble of persuading her to join him at an AA meeting (while not being too “Lip” about it), because he was just on this exact same downward spiral a season or two ago when the producers realized he was looking too happy on his collegiate trajectory. In the meantime, it is worth savoring what does happen to the Gallaghers while Fiona turns her pity party into a lifestyle choice. (I mean, who wasn’t shuddering at her looking forward to the evening every afternoon because it meant happy hour and sleep were around the corner?)

Fi takes after her father in the worst ways while Debbie is suddenly being burdened with the responsibilities of Fiona. This means realizing when the electricity is turned off that Fiona has not been paying their bills. It is amusing to suddenly see Debs take on Fiona’s mantle of concern about power management. It likewise provides an intriguing avenue for the writers to explore the character beyond her continuing romantic troubles as a single mother. Seeing Debbie realize what happens when Fiona is closing down the Alibi every night is forcing her to look at the family’s larger troubles in a way reminiscent of how she was written in early seasons before she became obsessed with having a baby, and it might give Emma Kenney more to work with than she has had in years.

It’s a thought since both Lip and Carl are going through familiar motions. Even though Carl has cleaned up his act and wants to get into West Point, his new girlfriend in season 9’s eternal summer is okay with slumming with him when he gets the bright idea of stealing the city’s scooters and selling them at inflated prices to desperate hipsters. It is actually a perfect old school Carl racket, but unlike Fiona losing her building and money, it’s coming out of nowhere for the guy who wanted to get out of the South Side to stop doing this kind of stupid shit that will invariably backfire in the long run.

Still, mocking hipster millennials was one of the more amusing themes of the night. While Carl was tormenting yoga studios’ most whiny customers, Lip is dealing with the reality of dating a girl with three roommates—and who’s roomies will demand he chips in for rent if he’s there every night. This is an incredibly accurate depiction of young peoples’ lives in modern big cities, including their penchant for overpriced organic coffee. And the howls continue with Lip for no reason considering an apartment with its own fireplace and the promise of space heaters on the roof upstairs. A few thousand leagues out of the income of a dishwasher and part-time mechanic, that space seems about as attainable for Lip as owning a Ferrari. Tami might have to come to understand “Jabby” is not leaving his sad little house, and if he did it would befor a flat like the one in Fi’s now long-gone building. That being said, Lip could at least do something about those rats. Call an exterminator at least, dude.

So Lip is in another doomed romantic entanglement, Carl is playing Russian roulette with his future, and Fi is on the same death spiral she flirted with in season 4. It’s all a bit repetitive, which brings us back to dear, beloved Santiago. Along with Frank’s bemusing subplot, it is the humor that gave the mid-season premiere any vitality and life. Quite horrifically so in Frank’s case. Because while Frank is going through the motions of discovering a new Shelia-Monica hybrid, this one being the heavily bipolar Ingrid, he is presented with a unique situation: It turns out a lifetime of drinking and drugs is terrible on the sperm count for a 60-year-old man. But because the woman he is dating has frozen her eggs in the hopes of having a child late in life, Frank needs to find the sperm fast.

Tricking Carl into becoming the unwitting father of an older woman’s child is perhaps the lowest and nastiest thing Frank has done to one of his children since calling social services on them in season 3…. or at least since that time he ruined Fiona’s wedding in the cruelest possible public display… well then there was that time he tried to prostitute Debbie to the mother of a house…

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Okay, he’s a terrible father, but this is still one of the most remarkably Shameless moments where he manipulates Carl into masturbating into a cup a little too easily so he can bring it back to a fertility hospital. Ignoring the absurdity of any doctor not being suspicious how an essentially barren man suddenly has a “miracle” off-site, we have a nightmare storyline that should be able to fill Frank and Carl’s scenes with new possibilities for the rest of the half-season…. if not poor Carl’s life.

And then there is Kev and Veronica, who suddenly light upon the idea of adopting an adolescent instead of a baby because Kev thinks, in part, it’s a great way to have a babysitter. And while Kev is dreaming of playing catch, Santiago is fearing that he’ll never see his actual parents again. Yeah, I wouldn’t count on Kev and V being the ones to save Santiago (who reminds me a bit of their foster child subplot from what was it… season 3 or 4?). But good God is he breath of earnestness in a shameless world—and one that’s become a little too happy in its rut. We truly don’t deserve you, kid.

Most Shameless Quotes of the Week

“I need a scooter dude, I just did an hour of hot yoga.” – Annoying hipster millennial.

“Hey Carl, remember the time we walked in on Aunt Ginger and saw her tits? Weren’t they something?” – Frank on the other side of the bathroom door.

read all of our Shameless Season 9 coverage right here.

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David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.


3 out of 5