S2E6: The sixth episode of Shameless’ sophomore season proves one thing: it’s all our parents’ faults. This week saw the return of two great forces for the Gallagher family: Fiona’s ex, Steve, and the ex-con grandma, Peggy Gallagher. How two people could cause so much of a ruckus would normally be beyond me, but this is the Shameless realm, and here, people are nuts – to put it bluntly. Some folks may have been put off by the side of Frank that his mother unleashes – the side that has a giant, loud-mouthed reason for his wanton behavior – but it didn’t turn him into a totally sympathetic character. He remains a completely pathetic, self-serving bastard – but we at least understand how he got to be that way, and that no matter how terrible he is, there is always someone worse.
“All my life I waited for that phone call: ‘Peggy, he’s not your son, there’s been a mix-up at the hospital.’” -Peggy
For every mark you can make against Frank, double it. Former meth lab matron Peggy Gallagher is released from prison because as the government sees it, she’s about to kick the bucket anyway. But if her stalwart racism, potty mouth and lack of anything even close to decorum are any indication, she’s not one to throw in the towel. The kids have never met Grammy, but when she starts doling out fifties to keep them silent, they’re inclined to think she’s not half bad. But it’s Kev’s reaction that acts a sign of how god-awful she actually is: to put it lightly, Kev hates her. After bribing Kev for the use of his car, Peggy shows up at Sheila’s to make Frank drive her to her “errand” and Sheila’s ecstatic to see her – of course, she’s not excited enough to overcome her fear of places beyond the upstairs section of her house.
And it seems that this episode is determined to rack up the marks on Frank’s record in Sheila's eyes. He begins the episode by trying to convince Sheila to put him in charge of Eddy’s trust, but she shoots that down because she’s no dummy – Frank is an alcoholic. And if his bed-wetting wasn’t enough of a black mark, his mother certainly is. Peggy blasts Frank for being with Sheila while Sheila is listening on the stairs, saying “I’d rather nail a hooker down on Wacker.” Such a delicate flower, that Peggy. Frank does his best to rush her out of there, but the awful conversation continues when Frank tries to tell her about the Gallagher kids – she says she couldn’t care less. And we can see where Frank gets his tendency to abandon his family – she’s just a 100 proof version of that.
Her “errand” is to finalize and extortion plot with a local plastic surgeon. The doctor won’t cave, so she takes Frank to a park and tells him to find two kids from the picture she stole from Dr. Noah’s desk. Just as he berates her for being the terrible kind of human being who would kidnap someone’s kids (but not without a flash of consideration about a possible cut he could get from the deal), she collapses and needs her meds. When she sends him to get her meds, she takes a moment to tell him she wishes he wasn’t her son, and we find more ammunition for Frank’s…condition. He goes to the surgeon to warn him about Peggy’s plan and the doctor gives him all the cash he has – it just happens to be 130 grand less than what Peggy wanted. Frank gives Peggy the money (after skimming a bit off the top) and she’s pissed. She drives a screwdriver into his leg and makes him give her the remainder. All this aggravates her condition, and Frank didn’t get the prescription of course. This offers her one moment of “compassion” in that she chooses to not stab him a second time. Frank’s actions will never be forgivable, but at least it makes sense that he’s such a mess with an ogre like Peggy for a mother.
“Get her out of here.”-Sheila
“I can’t do that.” –Frank
“Because she would kill me and feast on my flesh.” –Frank
Then comes the wedding reception for Karen and Jody. Lip shows up drunk, fresh off his fruit-flinging display at Ian’s place of work, and ready to give Karen a piece of his mind. He does, and it reeks of bitterness; relinquishing his attempts to be with Karen, Lip tells her she should get an abortion. All this time, I’ve said Lip doesn’t deserve what Karen has done to him, but this was low even for someone as beat-upon as Lip.
Sheila’s having a hard time too – she can’t drink on her medication, but she’s breaking and feels she needs the help. The mixing really opens Sheila up and she airs the family’s dirty laundry, down to Frank potentially being the father of Karen’s baby. This turns into a fight between Sheila and Peggy, and Sheila goes so far as to call Peggy a “a loud, mean vicious bitch.” But Sheila’s bravado doesn’t last long, because Peggy whips out a pistol. Before she can shoot, Steve (who shows up with his Brazilian bride) knocks the gun out of her hand while Frank calls the cops. We think they’re about to catch her with a gun on probation and send her back to prison, but Officer Tony goes outside and tells them to leave. Sorry, Frankie, that would be way too easy and Mama Gallagher is way too good of a pot-stirrer. Later, we see Frank drunkenly stumbling like a lost little boy, standing over his mother with a gun pointed at her head and I was legitimately worried that after the summer he’s had he would actually pull the trigger. He doesn’t – even horrible Frank can’t being himself to take out the she-devil that is his terrible mother.
“It’s tough. My parents suck too.” -Fiona
The next morning, Debbie tells Fiona about Steve’s Lake Shore life, prompting Fiona to leave him quite the voicemail: “Hey, Jimmy, it’s Fiona, I just wanted to say, ‘Go f**k yourself.’” That will certainly get the message across. And as Peggy sits in the kitchen, she hands out gifts to Carl, Debbie and Fiona. Carl gets a video game, Debbie a brand new laptop, and Fiona 500 dollars to help with taking care of the kids – someone got short-changed. Peggy assures Fiona it’s not a bribe, she’s just making up for lost time, but I’m still fairly skeptical, especially after she tells Frank that he “came out a loser.”
And on top of those cruel words, the jig is finally up at Sheila’s. When she announces that Eddy left his money to Karen, which signals that he really did love his daughter, Frank freaks out and Sheila finally gets wise and kicks him out. Then he comes home to a terrible mother. Despite all the horrible things he’s done –and the fact that the Sheila situation was something he brought on himself – you can’t help but feel bad for the poor bastard. Fiona overhears Peggy’s comments and ignores a call from Steve to sit on the steps with Frank and share a beer with him. And that’s what takes this show from hilarious and wildly entertaining to just plain great. At its heart, it has, well, a heart. These nutty Gallaghers maybe be a gale force wind of insanity, but they’re feeling, aching people when it comes down to it. And nothing proves that like the return of the grandmother from hell.
Do you think Peggy is going to be around for a while? Do you think Fiona and Steve will find a way around his marriage of requirement? How adorable is it that Debbie is so protective of her big sister? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler