What an episode. This is the epitome of Shameless on it’s A game, and when the show brings it they really know how to knock it out of the part. Written by show creator John Wells, “Crazy Love”, it is at its best with the utilization of all its characters and the uncompromising vantage point of just how messed up these Gallagher’s are. It’s something that would seem arbitrary or even redundant at this point but this isn’t simply an episode that has any of the characters doing some ludicrous or unforgiveable, instead we see how the Gallagher children are, one again, products of their parents and how as Fiona has put it before, they’re all living in a Russian roulette of genes. Its nature versus nurture and their familial unit has already been broken down by so many outside forces that it’s only natural that the one to truly cripple them is genetic, something they can’t simply overcome by being a Gallagher.
In Shameless, the Gallagher’s namesake is their strength and their curse and we never know what we’re going to get.
This all correlates to the two biggest storylines of the episode: Ian’s manic episode and the family’s call to action to find him and Fiona dealing with the return of Jimmy, something that’s massively shaken up the foundation she’s recently built for herself.
I mentioned last week that there’s something so very intense and intimate about Fiona and Jimmy’s chemistry, that it’s hard for me to fault the writers for once more finding a way to put them in a scene together. They click more than Fiona has with any one of her suitors since Jimmy’s first exit. The problem with the two and the reason that they are so watchable is that they’re also so toxic. They aren’t a sweeping love story, but rather, two unstable people who mix but shouldn’t. Maybe they could have had an epic romance but Jimmy left and then came back with zero explanations, some key manipulative moves, and an arm’s length of “I love you’s”. Then they kiss and she’s let her addictive nature fall from her grasp. They have sex, he spends the night, when she tells him to leave we know it won’t be the last of him, and then he returns. Steve preys on Fiona with his knowledge of her family and they again begin to have sex, mirroring their first hook up in the very first episode of the show, and she tells him to stop as she begins to breakdown. The image of him leaving a curled up Fiona, half dressed and crying is a sobering image, reminding us of where she was this time last season. She’s partially climbed her way out of the mess she caused herself and this was a dangerously slippery slope to find herself on.
We don’t know how this storyline is going to turn out but considering Fiona’s state and Gus’s forlorn look at her the next morning, I doubt it’s anything good.
The other storyline and the biggest game changer of the episode is Ian’s storyline, who finally gets some time to himself to share his point of view, which is frightening. I spent much of his screentime with my eyes partially closed or the volume turned down because I was just so worried that something was going to happen to that baby. Cameron Monaghan has never been my favorite actor on the show and it’s taken some time for him to grow into his own but he truly owned his moments here, convincingly playing Ian’s neurotic break and his ever escalating mania. It’s a rough transition to witness after we’ve known him for so long and have seen him fully transform into his mother’s son.
This all has a trickledown effect and Mickey, as is expected at this point, gets some phenomenal moments. Whether he’s on the phone trying and failing to keep it together while calling Ian, muttering a desperate “I love you”, or his face when he finally sees his sedated boyfriend walking out of his holding cell, Noel Fisher once again crushes it. He nails the subtleties of his character and the emotional battle of wills going on inside his head. When Mickey tells Lip that he’s sorry that he didn’t do anything earlier and that he didn’t know it could get this bad, it’s a perfect moment of character introspection and growth without it being overplayed. And then later, when they all say their goodbyes and he asks if he could go with Ian shows how much this character has grown. Mickey and Ian have become an oddly stabilizing facet of the show. They’re one of the few couples who began interacting in season one and who have had a steady narrative drive much of their story either together or apart. They’re in some aspects the heart of the show that isn’t the family dynamics.
In other, mildly lesser areas of the show Frank is inching slowly to death, even when he’s seemingly given a good bill of health at the last moment. V and Kev have apparently separated and that’s awful and needs to be resolved immediately. Carl and Debbie are pushed to the sideline which is where they seem to fare better these days, and Sammi is utilized in a way that actually makes her a character. Sick of Frank’s bullshit, she’s taken over the Gallagher household to try and help out as she can while also providing a roof over her and Chuckie’s heads. Fiona is preoccupied, so why not allow Sammi to play mother hen for a while?
This was an immensely strong episode of Shameless and if the season continues in this manner we’ll have yet another example of how this show shifts from good to great so effortlessly. For them it just takes time to get things moving.