Often with these weekly reviews of Shameless, I find myself espousing the importance of family. Nothing runs thicker than blood. Yet sometimes, this show can remind you that the same blood will pour into your lungs until you drown from all the love. In Episode 8 of this season, “Where There’s a Will,” it’s not only the Gallaghers gagging on the ties that bind.
In the show’s opening scene, all of Frank’s offspring gather with him to officially say goodbye to the long dead Aunt Ginger. Standing next to them, on a surprisingly sullen day for late summer Chicago (it’s the first day of school, thus putting us in early September), is the equally grieving Gallagher clan sired by Uncle Patrick. If you recall from the previous episode, Uncle Patrick is the distant relation who swindled them out of the deed to their home when he got his forged will for Aunt Ginger to the notary first. As Frank says later in this show, “You got out-Gallaghered.” Together, Frank and his brood stand shoulder to shoulder with Patrick’s soulless ginger brood of. “I knew where Aunt Ginger was happiest,” Patrick says with a sigh. “Here on this corner where she turned tricks in her 20s and 30s.” Frank dutifully corrects him, “60s.” Young Carl is just confused as to what a trick is.
Once the ashes are spread on the concrete Ginny knew all too well, the peace comes to an end and a war worthy of the Lannisters begins. In her first week as legal guardian of her five siblings, Fiona is facing eviction from her house. When she pleads for mercy from Patrick, all he lends is that their “goddamn problems” are not his concern. With nowhere to move and, yes, winter coming, the Gallaghers gather for a war plan against Patrick. Begging for his kindness will not work, so among the other ideas, Lip agrees to see if he can study up on the law in a few days to defeat the old bastard. Carl helpfully chimes in a fourth option…killing Patrick. Frank sticks around the brainstorming long enough to blame his kids for not letting him have his old bedroom. If they had just welcomed him back with open arms, he would never have called Child Services on them. After rubbing it in Fi’s face a little more, he is off to a warm cooked lasagna meal at Sheila’s.
At this point, I want to take a detour from my normal reviewing to focus on the three steps of Karen sucking the life blood out of all that is good and Holy in Southside Chicago. Again. Yes, her reunion with mother Sheila after losing Hymie to the teenage father’s parents was very touching last week. But good on Creator Paul Abbot and Showrunner John Wells for not beating around the bush and pretending Karen has changed into a different person.
(1) She decimates Lip and Mandy’s relationship in all of a combined five minutes. First, she drops by Lip’s house on Tuesday to give her sob story of how she ended up with a tattoo of the Eiffel Tower on her arm when a New York lover promised to take her to Paris, but only stole her money. Ian wisely would not let her step foot in a house that is technically no longer even theirs, but she still got Lip feeling all chivalrous. Then she drops by Mandy on the first day of school to tell her about talking to Lip. Faster than you can say “relationship discussion,” Lip is throwing Mandy out when confronted. Why talk to the girl who wants you to go to college when your ex who cheated on you constantly is already a strung out loser?
(2) She fucks Lip right after ending his relationship in the same night. This is more proof that, despite being an academic and streets aheads genius, Lip is a total fool who enjoys throwing his life away. Even so, bravo Karen, bravo.
(3) In the most stinging betrayal of the whole episode, Hymie’s Chinese grandmother reveals to Sheila that Karen told her about having a grandson and that he needed his father. Sheila, ever pliable, accepts that her daughter lied about coming home to help raise her child and instead pulled the special needs grandson out of caring Sheila’s hands. Yet, even she knows Karen is not just a terrible daughter, but also evil incarnate. Karen, I salute your maniacal villainy!
Other familial peculiarities include the household of V and Kev. It may have been Veronica’s idea to use her mother as a free surrogate to make a baby, but she is less keen when mommy shows up in pumps and a gold dress with her hair done for the next ovulation cycle. When she starts whispering to Kev that she closes her eyes to imagine Denzel and as she opens them, she sees Johnny Depp…well V just cannot take anymore. Add in a little Bruno Mars and Kev getting 1am text messages and we have a recipe for some real squabbling down the road. To paraphrase Fi, wanting a mother to make sterile love to her boyfriend is a simple thing any daughter would want.
Speaking of Fiona, she did find a new job quickly this week. She is back to cleaning out toxic waste! Only now, it is the juicy gig at one of the overstuffed waste tanks in a local slaughterhouse. And I do mean juicy. Jimmy, trying to help out, is there two hours before he has to jump out of the blood and shit because he has one too many cockroaches crawling on the inside of his hazmat suit. The boyfriend formally known as Steve is off to become a barrista for much less pay as an alternative. I have come to accept this rewrite of Jimmy from being a street-smart hustler to a bumbling idiot, if only because when he meets a doctor friend ordering a cappuccino, we see hunger and regret in his eyes.
Still, the main focus will obviously be fighting for the house. Before Lip screws things up, Mandy gets her brothers for a $200 discount to beat up and intimidate Patrick. Unfortunately, they bring crowbars to a gunfight and leave with their tails between their legs. Luckily, Carl steps up with the kind of quick-thinking certainty that would have made Hamlet Sr. proud when he slips rat poison into his uncle’s sandwich (he is there removing their toilet). It does not kill him, but Fi is comforted by the realization that she is “raising a sociopath.” At least he showed initiative! It is Debs who proves more akin to Fi as she grows older than Carl later that night. When Tony and the other cops come to evict the Gallaghers, Debbie makes a last-ditch solo play by revealing “Uncle Patrick” likes her. He gives her candy, he buys her toys…and he touches her in her special places when they have sleepovers. You can fight almost any slander, except being accused of pedophilia (especially on the South Side). When the cops turn around to arrest him, Patrick is horrified as Debs keeps up the act. “I knew it was wrong, [but] he said it’d be our secret.” Faced with those claims, he signs a 50-year lease over to Fiona for $500 a month. Yay for false accusations!
Overall, it is a nice return to unapologetic crudeness and light political incorrectness following two heavier episodes. As much as I hate Karen, I have to admit she is so devious that it becomes an art form. She has not been back for three episodes and she is already ruining her mother’s life and turning Lip into her plaything. Not that I have sympathy for Lip. He has had almost a year to reflect on how badly she messed him up, yet he is still ready to throw Mandy away for likely five forms of STD. Speaking of craftiness, Debs is also showing herself to be quite the evil genius. I imagine that is the last we will see of Patrick unless he wants to go to prison for a charge he will never survive. It almost makes rat poison look preferable. This episode is a nice breath before some big dramatic plunges for our last three shows. Mandy and Lip still need to truly bring things to a head while it appears Jimmy will just be heading out soon. Sometimes, like a recovering alcoholic, it is nice to have one for the road.
Oh, speaking of which, Frank is now the sponsor for a recovering drinker from AA (Sheila kicked him out with Hymie gone). Also, turns out that his sponsor is not a drinker, but just a lonely, odd bird who likes stuffing animals he euthanizes at the kennel. And he and Frank are sharing the same bed! More on that next time.