After Sunday’s “NSFW,” It’s Time for the Gallagher’s – and SHAMELESS – to Take a Break from Relationships

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Photo taken from http://www.sho.com/sho/shameless

Don’t worry guys, after missing my weekly Shameless Recap last week due to being enamored by the Super Bowl commercials, I am back with a recap on Sunday’s episode, “NSFW”.

I have lamented much of this Season of Shameless, and while it is steadily improving with each passing episode, I cannot ignore the absolutely infuriating idea that basically every character in this show is controlled and dependent on who they are – or have previously – been fucking.

Before I get into the negatives, I would be remiss if I did not take time to praise the arc of Carl and performance of Ethan Cutkosky for the past 6 episodes. Carl had always been a little shit and it seemed like that would always be his role on this show. However, his friendship with Nick and desire to live and revel in a life of crime has pushed the boundaries of his character. For weeks, we watched Carl simply not understand Nick’s quest for a bike because Carl didn’t understand that the bike symbolized Nick’s childhood that was stolen from him. So last week when the bike was stolen, Carl thought nothing of it. He thought throwing money at the problem would fix everything. But what he didn’t realize is that Nick believed he had a chance to recapture what he lost all those years in Juvie through the bike, and when it was stolen all over again, it brought back all the pain he felt as a child. This eventually led Nick to perform a heinous crime – beating the young child who stole his bike to death – because he knew no other way to cope or handle things than through violence.

In this incident, the episode draws out its most prominent theme- coping. It is evident for every character: How Lip copes with the possibility of losing Helene, how Debbie copes with the possibility of being on the street with her unborn baby, how Fiona copes with losing the home that she suffered yet managed to raise her child, and how Ian copes when thrown into the fire. This could have been done beautifully. I have spoken in past recaps that it is time the Gallagher’s start growing up. Learning to cope – or how not to – is a valuable lesson that everyone must learn someday. However, it is a such a shame that in everyone’s storyline except Carl’s the coping revolves around a significant other.

I understand that relationships often drive life and, as such, are the best device to drive plot but let’s examine how perfect Carl’s arc is to understand how horribly misguided all the others are.

Early in the Season, we were introduced to Carl’s new love interest Dominique. For the first several episodes, any action involving Carl was primarily driven by his desire for Dominique. However, in the past two episodes, we saw very little of her and the show focused more so on Carl’s relationship with NIck, which was enjoyable, emotional, and a breath of fresh air. When Nick murders the child, Carl has no idea what to do, and his charade of being an independent, hardened criminal is gone with the wind. He runs to find Fiona, the one piece of stability in his life. The show allows his character to be run by a relationship outside of love interests – by family and by a friend who has committed an unthinkable act.

Now, let’s look at the other characters. Fiona, who had her abortion this week, is coping with the fact that she just lost the house she grew up in and her family is scattered. This alone should be enough to drive action. Yet, her storyline, instead revolves around the necessity to have Gus sign some papers so she can buy back the home through the bank. Gus out of nowhere has transformed into a vengeful guy, hell bent on getting back at FIona for leaving him despite his ambivalent approach to their relationship last season. And to cope with Gus refusing to help her out, Fiona runs home to Sean. Rather than have Fiona reflect on the family and maybe have her relationship with her siblings drive some action, she is totally reliant on her ex and current love interest, which is bullshit. I say again, as a strong woman who we have watched go through the ringer, why can’t she be even a little independent?

We find Lip being forced to go through disciplinary boards to his sexual relationship with his professor, who Lip fell head-over-heels in love with. I literally have run out of things to say about Lip. His character should have been the most dynamic of any of the Gallagher’s since he was actually able to make it out of the South Side and into a great college thanks to his brilliance. Yet, in between in-your-face reminders from prominent intellectuals of Lip’s bright future, his character is controlled by women. Last season, all of Lip’s action revolved around Amanda, who it is now clear was only introduced so she can drive action this season through her absurd revenge on Lip. Why is it that Lip couldn’t give the show a different perspective through his potential social mobility and college life? Why couldn’t he function as something for his younger siblings to aspire to and be a second rock to the family? Why must he just bounce around from woman to woman, Karen to Mandy to Amanda to Helene?

Now, we turn to Ian, whose character arc has been one of the most emotionally captivating, from coming out as gay to being diagnosed as bipolar and everything in-between. For the first time, he was out of a relationship due to Micky’s incarceration. It is clear he still is having trouble finding a place he fits in ever since his diagnosis. Introducing the firefighters was a great way to help Ian find a home and camaraderie. So, why must that storyline now be driven by his romance with Caleb right off the bat? Shouldn’t Ian still be reeling a little bit from his lover of 3+ years being thrown in jail? I don’t understand why he couldn’t have first gained a level of comfort with “Chicago’s Fire Island,” confided in them his difficulties with Mickey and dealing with being bipolar, then through that comfort began a relationship. But, no, his character is just thrown right into another relationship.

Finally, there is Debbie, now an in-home nanny and officially having a girl. I have praised Emma Kenney’s performance and the much-improved arc of Debbie this season but now it appears that her character too must be ruled by sexual encounters. After being told she will no longer be needed by her family, she appears ready to be in a lesbian relationship with Erika Wexler in order to remain her nanny. It is just too much.

But, hey, at least business is booming at the Alibi Room again. Good for Kev and V.

Thanks to Fiona finally accepting Carl’s money, the Gallagher’s will now buy back their home and return to the house they grew up in. The past few weeks have delivered strong emotional punches and performances, but the show has suffered from being incredibly scattered and its over reliance on romantic relationships. Hopefully, returning home will bring some stability to the show, which I can only pray, will allow our favorite mess of a family to focus on something beyond the person they’re fucking. The Gallagher’s deserve it and so do we.

By Matt Atwell

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