Last week, hope may have sprung eternal on Showtime’s Shameless, but reality has set back in tonight. And for the Gallaghers, as well as arguably all at their disadvantage, that hard truth can best be summed up as running barefoot on snow-strewn and icy sidewalks for four blocks before you cross the “back to jail” buzzer.
After a very heartwarming moment that involved Lip finally showing some mercy on Fi—around the same time he realized that college parties are probably worse for Carl than a tipsy Fi—she was back to having her face rubbed in the white powder of what she’d done. As a convicted felon, her hopes of having a cushy job that could lead to the middle class are over. When house arrest ended with a meeting at her parole officer’s desk, Fiona proved to be as just as in denial about her conviction status as she was of her previous guilt. When she said that she has a job interview lined up, her PO probably stifled a laugh everywhere except in her eyes. But nobody was laughing when Fi’s first interview crashed and burned once she finally marked the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony” box. Sure, she tried to turn it into a joke with V, saying that the only jobs she is qualified for now is flipping burgers, but the giggles felt forced.
It was really two crushing moments that brought the pain home. The first came when she told her substance abuse counselor (court mandated) that she is looking for work with as a convicted felon, which led to her first job tip: hooking. Terrific. The second came when she was implicitly accused of that at World Wide Cup because she did the unthinkable: she came back, hat in hand, to beg for her status to be changed from fired to downsized. The company’s ever-nice HR lady probably would have done something if any single one of the Pratt family owners were not on hand to really let Fi have it. I didn’t remember Mike and Robbie’s sister, but she clearly recalled Fiona. Vividly. Couching her utter mutilation of Fiona’s character in front of former co-workers was an intriguing bit of class warfare slander. Promising she withheld judgment on Fi’s person by not blaming her for her parents (which in itself insinuates she very much did make a value judgment on Fiona Gallagher due to her modest upbringing), she then proceeded to cut into a woman she held with more disdain than the Whore of Babylon.
“You think that you’re a good person? You’re not. Destroy your own family and leave mine alone.”
My fear is that this will become Fiona’s mantra going forward. The look of utter acceptance of these shattering words on Rossum’s face said all that was needed. Fi is going to bury this evaluation of her character deep into her brain and remember them in those quiet moments for years to come. While she can be in denial of her guilt, her existential need for self-inflicted misery is omnipresent., as witnessed when she succumbed to Robbie’s BS. The irony is that of course Robbie is as equally responsible for Mike’s destruction. He slept with Mike’s girlfriend. He urged on doing it again and again. Hell, he even gave Fiona the cocaine. It’s probably why she turned to Robbie to cry in total despair about what’s happened. His family gave Fiona a taste of hope, and at least for his part, helped dash it away. Reality is cascading onto her head, and he isn’t going to do more than watch her weep in the hallway. This is how Shameless views the poverty line in America, and I fear how Fiona is going to react. Fiona is not a bad person; she just tries to act like one.
Maybe that is why despite all of Lip’s passive aggressive cruelty, he is right to want to protect his college life. His intelligence remains the one gift that could save a Gallagher from this life. And now thanks to a shared girlfriend with his scarily ambivalent roommate, he might also be able to balance his time. She doesn’t so much become his girlfriend as his personal assistant when she plans out every minute of his day, even leaving fifteen minutes for a “BJ” with a heart. The downside to that is if someone wants to find Lip, like say Mandy’s six-foot five-inches boyfriend who (wrongfully) thinks she is running around with him, it is pretty helpful too. And that is what happens in one of the most hilarious comedy bits Shameless has had all season. Lip is hunted like a rat in a maze through his own college quad while living up to his name by throwing out one insult after another at his would be murderer. He even convinces the campus police that he’s a crack dealer, earning the assailant a taser. This sets up a moment so perfectly funny that I can even forgive that it makes no sense the rent-a-cops wouldn’t force him to file a report and bring his scholarship in some hot water (they did see his student ID). Still, it is some much-needed comedy that raises an interesting question: where exactly was Mandy Milkovich?
We do know exactly where Mickey Milkovich has been since Ian returned. He is sleeping by Ian’s side like a lost puppy, but at least he chips in on a little bit of the food for the Gallaghers. The show is reaching an interesting tipping point with Mickey where it’s become hard to believe that none of the other Gallaghers don’t know what’s going on. His family certainly does with the wife coming over to confront him about their fatherless child. Mickey proves to be a cold, cold bastard when he shows no interest in the name of his kid and even threatens the mother with death if she tells his father that he’s playing house with Ian. Sadly though, reality is right outside their romance. This is a coupling that fans can appreciate, but Ian is honestly too far gone out of the closet for Mickey. At the moment, he is the most stable Gallagher who has a reliable income from being a twink dancer in Boy’s Town, but that lifestyle won’t last forever. Yet, the further he brings Mickey out of his closet, the more painful it will be when their neighborhood shoves him back in with extreme prejudice and violence. There are too many complications holding Mickey back, and he does need to take some responsibility for the child that he has already claimed as his own. His marriage may be a sham, but so will his eventual life when daddy gets out of prison.
Unsurprisingly, Debbie Gallagher’s latest chapter in her quest for 20-year-old Mattie also hit more snags this week. It turns out Matt is dating a woman roughly his own age who is a nursing student, so Debbie glimpsed again that hinted psychopath we all adore, such as when she almost drowned a mean girl last season. This time though, it is a snake in the car. Sadly though for Debs, the competition has claws too, which was demonstrated when she showed up in Debs’ neighborhood with a baseball bat and a warning. To everyone’s chagrin, including the character’s, it was Carl who made more progress this week when he had his first kiss by knocking over a convenience store with his new detention hall girlfriend who gave him his very own ski mask. This is surely one step further down the road that all know Carl is running, but hey he actually brought in some income that snowy afternoon and got a kiss on his newest crush! In that sense, he is doing much better than both of his Gallagher sisters. In the world of Shameless, the only way to find happiness and get one step ahead it seems is at gunpoint.
In many ways, this week is vintage Shameless. It enjoys the series’ unique blend of gallows humor and earnest drama that makes it incredibly hard to quantify or categorize. While the series is never sentimental, it knows how to put its heart on its dirty sleeve, which is all the more impressive when there’s a good chance of it getting snatched in this neighborhood.
This week returned to the ethos of the series: these guys will never get ahead in our supremely screwed-up and unfair world unless they cut corners. The only things they have to rely on are each other, even if every season it seems like they are ready to commit kinslaying. It’s all there, plus some hilarious comedy about being chased through the quad or shot at by the Lollipop Guild. Somehow, even Frank can find generous helpings in both. Despite being the most reprehensible protagonist on TV, there is something nice about him (kind of) agreeing to marry Sheila Jackson so that she can adopt her new favorite children from the nearby Native American reservation. Of course, the fact that she’d otherwise throw him out of her bed where he’s dying prevented him having a choice in the matter. Nonetheless, when it becomes finally clear to him that he can’t go to the Alibi, Kev bringing the Alibi to him carries so much weight on this show. Kev, with two kids on the way and constant cash woes, is still able to help out his friend under dire circumstances. “Even John Wayne Gacy got a last meal.” Yes he did, and as Frank gets one foot further in the grave, the more we already miss him. When an episode of this show can do it for that character, it was a great one indeed.
Most Shameless Quotes of the Week:
-MICKEY: You are the worst fucking pimp that I’ve ever seen!
KEV: Is that supposed to be some kind of insult?
-DEBS: Why do guys care so much about sex, anyway?
CARL: Because it’s awesome?
DEBS: Like you would know.
CARL: If my hand is anything like the real thing, it’s off the chain.
-SHEILA: Roger and I were going to get married and adopt them before he showed his true color, which is evidently brown and not red.
-LIP: I don’t know him officers, okay. He asked me if I wanted to buy any crack, and when I said no—
-ALIBI REGULAR 2: Add that to the list of things I thought I’d never see: Obama’s birth certificate and now Frank drinking O’Douls.