Shameless: Survival of the Fittest, Review

A dignified and un-shameless season's end?

It is strange that for a show called Shameless, the series chose to end its third season in such a quiet, dignified manner last night. Compared to last season, where the finale exploded from the wrathful carnage of Hurricane Monica, this week took a small bow. Most of all, it still left things…kind of up in the air with Jimmy. But not really.


Let’s cut right to the chase. Jimmy is deader than a Dragonball Z live-action sequel at this point. He just is not coming back. In such a context, it is a bit curious that the show writers chose to send him off in a completely anti-climactic way. Last week, we saw him board the ship to Estefania’s drug cartel judgment and were left in total darkness to wonder. However, the more I wrap my head around it, the more my heart sinks with the knowledge that Jimmy has sunk even lower at the bottom of Lake Michigan.


First, if he were alive, would he really not make even the smallest attempt to let Fiona know that it is over in a sneaky way? Lets say that they took Jimmy to Canada to start over with Estefania within a new government. Would he not call Fi from a payphone and say that he left town instead of abandoning her to questions of his imminent vanishing act? Also, if he were still alive, would Jimmy’s drug cartel shadow, who kind of liked the dumb kid (and Fiona more), really show up at Fi’s house to give her a payout for Jimmy during the finale? Saying no less that Jimmy said, “You deserve better.” We all know Jimmy would never say that because, at the end of the day, the guy was too vain to ever think that. He also would not have done so through creepy Gangster Dude #4.


The most damning evidence of Jimmy’s whacking though is that the writers said before Season 3 began that there would be a death. We are now through the finale and everyone else is still standing. I hate to say it, but unless there is a mermaid or some magical creature that rescued the poor bastard (sorry, I also watched Game of Thrones tonight), then he is done. It also makes sense with the whole rewrite I have been noticing this year. Even at the end of Season 2, Jimmy seemed responsible to a degree and very sincere in wanting to live with Fiona and her siblings. He even manned up and took care of Monica when she tried to commit suicide during Thanksgiving Dinner as Frank fled with his tail between his legs. In Season 3, the only job he could keep was that of a coffee boy and his resentment for Fiona’s poverty felt too sudden and forced. The writers teed him up to get squashed. Expect to see him popping up at some point in Season 4 like Karen’s dad. In a body bag.


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With that out of the way, let’s talk about what IS ACTUALLY IN the finale.


Fiona is pretty devastated over losing Jimmy. She spends the first half hour calling his phone and going constantly straight to voicemail. The extreme close-ups on Rossum’s face as she agonizes over every word are the most uncomfortable and depressing things to come on television this year (though you get a gold star and a good laugh if you sincerely try to post the words “Lori” or “Andrea” in the Comment Section below). She also is being passed over for a promotion for a full-time job at the office she is temping at. In all honesty, it is pretty much a downer the whole episode for the lead of this “comedy.”


Also, self-destructively in the dumps is Lip. The finale marks the last day of the fall semester and is also his graduation day from high school. Since he went over a semester for dropping out, Lip finishes his senior year of high school with a victory lap and the extremely unceremonious handing over of a diploma in the principal’s office. After that, he has nowhere to go but…to The Alibi Room (Kev’s Bar). Who does he find there? None other than Frank, who has been released from prison on a technicality. I was hoping that feeling miserable and directionless at a bar before noon with a bunch of layabouts would force Lip to reconsider his life. Nope. Lip and Frank have a ball winning money in a push-up contest on the bar’s floor. Once Frank is finally told that his son has even graduated high school, a first in the Gallagher family (Fiona got a GED), he offers to buy Lip a steak. Lip agrees when they make it lobster and Scotch.


On the brighter side, Kev, Veronica and Veronica’s Mom have a nice little self-contained subplot. During the first ultrasound, they discover that V’s mother has been pregnant for 12 weeks. V is of course outraged, realizing that her twice-before impregnated mother did not tell them sooner of the morning sickness. She just wanted some of that sweet Kev-loving. Kevin is of course flattered and boastful, but V looks about ready to strangle her mother. However, the situation is gently diffused by the mother explaining that it wasn’t about the sex…it was about having a special bond between her daughter, her son-in-law and herself. Nice cover story, lady.


At least she has one. Ian, rather stunningly, skips town this episode. Still infuriated by Mickey’s betrayal of marriage to the impregnated prostitute his father made him have sex with at gunpoint, Ian has found a way to enlist into the U.S. Army for four years. He tells Carl it is for ROTC and just manages to avoid Lip all together. The only people who know are the Milkoviches. Ian comes to say goodbye to Mandy as they are friends, but it is embarrassingly transparent that he is there for Mickey. He acts superior to Mickey’s uptight actions and pretends that he is free of Mickey’s memory. Yet, if that is so, then why the hurry, Gallagher? To everyone’s surprise, he manages to get Mickey to tears as he walks out the door. All Mickey can manage is “Don’t. Just don’t.” That is like moving a mountain for the Milkovich family, but it is far too little and too late. Ian leaves Mickey alone with his closeted emptiness and a judging gaze from Mandy.


Eventually the major drama, if one wants to call it that, comes from Frank. After running out on paying the tab for their five-star lunch, a drunken Frank and Lip go ice vomiting (puking on skates) in the touristy part of town. But, when Frank’s gags turns to blood, there is a more serious problem. As Fiona shows up at the hospital, she tells an increasingly rebellious and teenage Debbie to stay behind. It may be for the best, because as much as Debs now wants to act an adult, I doubt she could handle the news that Frank is going to die if he keeps drinking. When Fiona confronts Frank with the hard truths, we have some of the finest acting that either has done. Between this episode and “A Long Way From Home,” it will be a crime if and when Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy are overlooked for Emmy Award recognition again. The amount of hate, but bitterly reluctant love Fi gives her father when she tells him to not kill himself in front of his children and the look of guilt he feels when he realizes he does not love them or his narcissistic self enough to change is harrowingly real. Frank is going to die and leave it all on Fiona to pick up the pieces.


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At the end of the episode, there are some silent moments of acceptance and victory made. Lip knows he has no clue what to do with his life, but will at least let Debs throw him a graduation party, even if he has a hangover. He also finds out that he got into MIT, but it is not like he will actually go…he still thanks Mandy for applying for him. Frank will let Carl shave his head so that sunlight can “cure his cancer” like it supposedly did for the boy. It is a nice moment for Frank, despite him going out into the night a few hours later to find a drink. Ian gets on that bus to the U.S. Army with no sense of looking back. And Fiona calls Jimmy’s voicemail one last time to say goodbye.


It was a very melancholy episode for this show. It seems the world is changing. Besides the big overhaul of there being no more Jimmy, which is even more awful because Fi will never know what happened and thinks he abandoned her, it seems like Ian is leaving the show. Given Frank’s medical condition he should have only one to three years left before he kicks the bucket. Who knows? Maybe Lip could surprise us all and go to MIT? This episode did most seriously wave goodbye to Karen and Jody as the two moved to Arizona with Hymie. Considering Karen is permanently a vegetable after being hit by a car, it is safe to say that she is really gone (though thankfully Sheila is not). This could be a totally different show in Season 4 if even half of these changes become permanent.


It is actually a curious dilemma the show is faced with. I understand that the British show is radically different because most of the original Gallagher family left after the first two seasons (Fi moved happily ever after out of the ghetto with Jimmy in Series 1…played by James McAvoy no less!). However, American television is different and actors sign on for entire runs or at least six seasons. Even so, it feels like Ian’s story is over. At least in Chicago. Similarly, Lip should really go to MIT, even if it means he can no longer be on the show. Do not fret; they will avoid that conundrum. He seems doomed to be a waste of genius. This finale even made the parallels between Lip and Frank blatant as they got shitfaced midday together and bonded over stiffing a waiter on a $200 bill. I have been saying it all season (and Season 2 for that matter), but Lip is destined to relive Frank’s mistakes. Yet, is that a bad thing for television if Jeremy Allen White stays on? Character growth in relation to television necessity has never come to quite such a visceral opposition.


If I had to guess about what changes are sticking, the first would be that Ian is no longer going to be a regular. I predict he will only appear sporadically in the future. Think like Hurricane Monica. Karen is gone and never coming back despite what Sheila prays for. So too gone is Debs’s innocence. She no longer wants to latch onto Sheila as a surrogate mother and has gone from getting her first kiss at the beginning of Season 3 to very vocally defying Fiona in the finale. There is new teenage angst tension there on the horizon.


The two most curious challenges the writers have intentionally thrown in their way are Fiona and Frank’s revelations. Frank is supposedly going to die if he keeps drinking, but the show is not Shameless if Frank is not shamefully intoxicated. They are not going to kill off their lead, William H. Macy, no matter how daring their twists get. It just ain’t happening before a long-off Series Finale. The British show, which is wrapping up its freakishly ELEVENTH SERIES this year, has starred their version of Frank as the only Gallagher since about Series 4. He is the only constant over there and he will stay reliably plastered on this side of the pond too. Take it to the bank (or a Squirrel Jar).


In the case of Fiona, she ends up landing that full-time job at work by getting Kev to buy a bunch of solo cups from the company for the Alibi. Of course, she could just get fired like she has from all her jobs on this show. Yet, I do not think they are going to do that. The writers yearn to give her some type of stability and legitimacy. But if that happens, she should be able to climb her way out of poverty. Again, that is against the entire thesis of the series.


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There is a lot to ponder about a fourth season that seems like a lifetime away. The show is changing so much that it risks losing its core premise. It will not, but I will be impressed if and when they can balance this realistic character growth with the shameful behavior it is titled after. In the meantime, it seems kind of quiet over the Gallagher house on the South Side. Winter has come again and the snow falls on Fiona’s head as she makes her last words of peace with Jimmy. “Last message, I promise. Wherever you are…bye.” Perfectly said.


Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:


“God gave you the race card for a reason, Julius. Play it.” Frank to his fellow cellmate asking for legal advice.


“Teachers have taken bets on what’s next for you, Gallagher.” Principal to Lip. “College: 10-to-1. Prison: 4-to-1.”


“Hey, what can I say? Once you go white, you always stay tight.” Kev. “Hey, I just think I insulted myself.”


“So no plans [about your future?]” Frank to Lip. “GOOD.”


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“I’ve dreamt about your death.” Fiona to Frank. “Put money in a collection box and prayed for it. Blew out my birthday candles, wished for it…I wrote a letter to Santa once.”