SHAMELESS Throws Believability to the Wind in a Wild Episode

The most enjoyable part of Shameless’ 6+ year run has been its ability to maintain emotional depth and believability in the face of utter ridiculousness.

More than anything, Shameless is a show about highly flawed people dealing with the stress and strain that comes with absent (or worse) parents and doing anything possible to get by in the face of poverty. At it’s best, the show has been equally dramatic and hysterical, taking into account the effects that the Gallagher’s circumstance and poverty would have on a group of kids.

In the real world, growing up poor – especially in cities and impoverished neighborhoods – coincides with juvenile crime. For this reason, it made perfect sense for Carl to end up peddling drugs on the street last season and end up in juvy only to continue to continue this season as an arms dealer using a high school bathroom as his office. A perfectly dramatic and ridiculous arc for his character.

Teenage pregnancy, as well as abortion, is also more prevalent in poor families. Again, kudos to showrunner John Wells here, as this is a truly great way to develop Debbie’s character and offer Emma Kenney a more dramatic arc in response to her stellar performance.

Gentrification is occurring in basically every big city across America. The decision to introduce it into the Gallagher’s world was a tremendous one and they have done it in such a subtle way. Rather than hit the audience over the head with it, the changing neighborhood gracefully manifests through the two Lisa’s noise complaints and hipster’s falling in love with the South Side’s “Best Shitty Bar” the Alibi Room.

As the children of a manic, bipolar mother, chances are that one of the kids would inherit the condition as well. Unfortunately, that diagnosis was presented to Ian but it still has allowed him to run the gambit of both hardship and humor, often in the same scene – like celebrating the fact that now he can get drunk off of one beer because of his meds, while challenging Mickey to love him the way he is last season. Again, a harmonious balance between comedy and crisis.

Finally, as parents of two addicts, one of the children was sure to have inherited this disease as well. In Season Four, it looked like Fiona would have to raise all of her siblings while coping with addiction. Yet, this was a challenge that Emmy Rossum’s incredible acting chops would be up for. However, now as Fiona shows no signs of dealing with addiction, it seems that this arc was created SOLELY for the purpose of Fiona finding Sean, which is pretty sad that her hardships only matter to introduce men into the story.

And this is where Shameless starts to run into problems.

Even more absurd might be the total lack of emotional depth and understanding exhibited by Fiona on Sunday night’s episode, “#Abortion Rules.” It actually pisses me off to write that title and not for political reason, but because it embodies the two worst things about this show right now and episode: 1) pandering to sensationalism and 2) Fiona’s regression as a character.

Fiona legitimately had a chance at one point to be one of the most complex (in a good way) and best developed characters on television and the showrunners have seemingly robbed her of that. I just don’t get the choices they make again and again to cycle her through men, new and old. Every second of her life doesn’t need to be filled with the crazy. The show was powerful – and good – when it allowed her to simply struggle to raise all of her younger siblings while finding some time to have fun in there every now and again.

Last week, I complained about the corner that Fiona has continually been written into with her character arc relying far too much on the men in her life. While that remains true, she has battled through countless challenges, which you would think would have given quite the perspective on life. Yet, how has she seemingly gone backwards in her social and emotional skills? Seriously, for over four years Fiona was a great “mother” to her siblings  even while she made some mistakes and was absent at some crucial points (like allowing Liam to ingest cocaine). So, how has she all of a sudden come out a worse person for it? We find her berating Debbie to do as she commands and firing Ian rather than understanding where the two have come. She meets the news that Sean had relapsed with a total lack of sympathy, even after going through rehabilitation herself and seeing what addiction has done to her family. Where has selfish Fiona come from, saying things like “I am finally free from raising you kids”? And, now, to top it off the previews show her reconnecting with Husband Gus next week, which of course comes only after finding out she is pregnant, presumably with Sean’s baby but who knows? Maybe this is the why Gus is being brought back into the picture. Either way, it appears to be just another unnecessary complication to the plot.

I mention all this because Sunday’s episode threw believability to the wind, pandering entirely to the ridiculous in both the main character’s story lines, as well as those on the periphery.

Kevin may have just committed manslaughter and you can argue that Frank may have done the same, while Lip is contemplating full on murder. It is pretty ridiculous to believe that Fiona is pregnant as well as Debbie since she is undoubtedly on the pill – even more ludicrous when considering the fact that the two Lisa’s are pregnant too. Not to mention that all this is happening in addition to Carl’s gun smuggling enterprise and Sean’s relapse.

No matter the consequences of what happened Sunday night, one thing is clear: it is time for our favorite family – and the Shameless showrunners – to take a deep breathe and figure if their  path is the right one.

By Matt Atwell
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