Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Shameless. Catch up on previous coverage here.
What is it about the Franks of the world where no matter how many disgusting and terrible things they do, whatever they’ve put their children through, the neglect they’ve handed out like candy, that you still end up hoping for some sort of redemption? You want him to pull through, to be a better father and right by his kids. It must be the charisma of a crook and the deception of an addict, because if we were to look strictly at Frank Gallagher’s actions both past and present we would know he wouldn’t be lasting the hour on the straight and narrow and yet, here we are, hoping that he’s going to pull through for Fiona just this once.
I expected Sean and Frank to butt heads, I expected for Frank to eventually bail even if his “I’m sick of missing things” comment had real, emotional heft behind it, but I didn’t expect Frank to put a hit out on Sean.
Let’s put it out there now: if Sean dies at the hands of Frank, no matter the intent or purpose, it will put Frank so far down the irredeemable hole that they might as well leave him there to rot before expecting the audience to watch him with any form of enjoyment. His is a cockroach of a character and nine out of 10 times he is a despicable being, but this would be the last straw.
Is it a sure thing that it’s going to happen? No, not at all, but I’d mentioned last week that my hope of Sean making it to the alter happy and breathing is slim.
Fiona having the only storyline that is heading down a optimistic road makes me wary of what’s coming her way, but she’s surpassed the rest of the Gallaghers, Carl excluded, that it’s hard to focus on her when the younger siblings are dealing with one fallout after the other.
With Debbie, it comes at the hand of her own making, but it’s still difficult to not feel for her as she’s shoved out of the schooling system and left at home to try to mother a child when she’s still very much a child herself. Her dropping Franny was a horrific moment, as was her own Monica-like horror as she hid herself away in the crawl space under the stairs. Fiona comes home and is able to put some of her fears to rest, but Debbie is still very much out of her depth.
Ian also found himself in hot water after a promising first day as a trainee EMT. Lying about his mental illness was, of course, a bad idea and he’s fired once his boss finds out. It was a storyline that I found myself enjoying, even if it meant the writers flip flopped on how to write the character each episode because of it, and rushing through the storyline in an episode seems like a lazy way to give themselves a reason for Ian to mess up his relationship with Caleb.
None of this touches just how royally Lip manages to dismember his entire collegiate future in one hour.
Lip’s storyline is painful to watch play out as he finds his rock bottom and then punches and kicks his way to dig himself further. No matter the contrived nature that brought him to this point, handcuffed and being carted off for a night in jail, there’s been an inevitability to this newest development. He is Frank’s child, a Gallagher and has the innate ability to take the luck he’s been given and tear it to shreds. What with Debbie being a teen mom, now Lip had been one of the few characters we could root for to succeed and escape the life he used to know, but that hope has slipped away with a sickening ease.
His breaking point doesn’t come from where you’d expect, when Professor Youens tells him that they need some professional boundaries, but from what should be a simple, nice conversation with Fiona. Fiona is finally getting some happiness, some semblance of a real life as Frank tries to once again assert himself as the patriarch of the Gallagher family and when she tells Lip he’s paying for the wedding he looses his control. It’s just one moment of the facade he’s been building starting to crumble as his situation continues to turn to shit, but it’s a telling one. Here’s a kid who has come to expect being let down by his father who has now once again been let down by a father figure. It seems too trite to boil all of his problems down to daddy issues, but the description is prevalent. We wince as he disturbs Youens’s class, humiliates him while drunk, before the two have it out.
His shaking rage is astonishing to watch as he hits his self-destruct button with fervor. Jeremy Allen White, always so quietly consistent, sells this fallible anger, practically simmering physically as he lays into Youens verbally, imposing himself upon the only person left in his academic corner, making himself bigger than his actual stature. But behind that rage is a tangible and raw vulnerability, a frustration internalized after he put his trust in a drunk, a man similar to Frank only to be let down again. This makes the breakdown so much more than a tantrum as White’s owlish eyes convey the pain and rejection he’s experiencing. I’m all in favor of White being given challenging material since he handles it with aplomb, but it’s a tough road to watch him travel on as he extinguishes one smoke cloud of hope after another.
Like many penultimate episodes of Shameless each beat seems to hit harder than any other crucial moment in the season leading up to it, leaving the characters in precarious positions, all to be picked up (hopefully) in the season’s last hour. The episode is a success in a manner it hasn’t been in a very long time due to one, basic function of the show’s DNA-it brings them all together. The sequence of them dancing around each other in the morning to get ready or the one where they all corralled in the living room due to being kept awake from Franny’s crying all remind us of the show it used to be, that was about a family working together to get through the day, rather than all the characters splitting up and falling into one mess after another.
After such a messy, uninspired season it will interesting, even a little frustrating, to see if the show can sustain the quality for the last hour of season six.