Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Shameless. Catch up on previous coverage here.
It is astonishing to see how quickly a show that I considered to be one of my favorites has turned into a mild disaster. If I rate the show on a fairly consistent basis at this point, it’s because I’ve lowered my standards. The show reached its peak, and this is it coasting, cutting corners and leaving messes in its wake and sacrificing character development in order to try and find a purpose as to why it’s still sticking around.
I love the Gallagher’s but just because most series ignore it doesn’t mean that most shows don’t have a shelf life, and Shameless has surpasses theirs.
Before I get to everything wrong with the episode, I’ll shine a big, bright light on what really worked: Ian and Mandy. Now the longest sustained friendship the show has had, they bring a lot of weight to their scenes together when Ian gets a call from Mandy about a man whose dead on the bathroom floor of her hotel room. Mandy works as an escort now and is finding it ideal aside from this one violent confrontation, something she says has never happened before. At least now she points out she gets paid for being hit, where as when she lived at home, it was for free. Now she owns a car, is paid regularly with health benefits and in a line equally charming as it was heartbreaking, she talks about how one of her clients flew her to New York City and she got to see Wicked. The childlike inflection in her words and Ian’s shared enthusiasm is beautiful to behold. Their decision to simply call the cops rather than try and cover it up like they might have used to do is a refreshing, optimistic turn for the characters, as is Mandy’s plea to Ian at the end that just because they were born there doesn’t mean it’s where she has to stay.
What with Ian’s current attempt to become an EMT, I’m sure it’s not too far from his mind.
And then, in a moment immensely moving due to the actors’ chemistry, Mandy and Lip’s eyes meet as she leaves the Gallagher household, not sharing any words before she runs out, blonde and professionally dressed as Lip nurses a stint with alcohol poisoning, a fresh bruise decorating his face. I’m sure there’s the urge to reunite them in some fashion, but it’s much more satisfying to see Mandy get to be the one who managed to escape and build a better life for herself as Lip flounders and returns to old and damaging habits. He can’t drag her down with him.
Which leads me to Lip.
I have written before that Lip has always greatly shared Frank’s makeup, which has always made him so fascinating, seeing his parallels with Frank, a representation of what could have happened if Frank hadn’t succumbed to his addictions and ego. What isn’t interesting is seeing Lip fall down that same rabbit hole and all over something as ridiculous as a relationship gone sour. Waking up with an IV doesn’t seem to have jogged his senses at all, and he’s quick to reach for a beer and all of this will be okay if it’s leading to something greater. Is he heading for his rock bottom like Fiona in season four? Or is this going to be dismissed in an episode or two, another dead end storyline for Lip where something interesting is introduced and then thrown away for more relationship drama.
If that sounds a lot like Fiona to you, you’re not wrong because boy, oh boy, I don’t think a character has suffered at the hands of the zero momentum writing as Fiona has. Sean had EVERY right to be angry even if he took it too far in their argument. However, as much as I like Sean, I liked Fiona’s declaration of needing to focus on her own happiness for a while with no relationship attachments. She was right. Despite this, the show used it instead as build up to Sean’s proposal at the end of the episode, and it’s exhausting to see so much self-sabotage happen in such a short amount of time.
Debbie’s storyline could be interesting if she was at home, and Carl is getting there. I enjoy his and Sean’s dynamic, but we’re getting to the point where every story feels stagnant. I’m waiting for something to happen that makes sense within the show’s universe that isn’t just throwing characters into one tough situation after the other and waiting to see how they handle it. Mandy and Ian worked so well this week because it was based wholly on what we know of them, how they’ve grown and their relationship together. We need more character development.