Family is a term that takes many equally valid shapes in this country, and Shameless is waving the flag for understanding just how varied that term can be.
For all its nefarious, seedy activities, Shameless is at heart, a show about family. But the thing about family is that it doesn’t always appear as we expect. And as painful as it is to watch the Gallaghers go through the realization that the average definition of the nuclear family is completely irrelevant to their lives, it’s even more rewarding when they manage anyway.
The season finale picks up right where the last episode left off. Fiona and the kids return home, where she and Jimmy/Steve are left to clean Monica’s blood off the kitchen floor together. It parallels their first ever encounter in the kitchen. That first time, they became physically intimate, and it was clear that Steve was there to stay when Frank came home drunk in the middle of their tryst and he rolled with it. Now, the two share a great, emotional intimacy in the same spot as they work together to scrub the blood and memories from the Gallagher home.
Jimmy (we’ll have to let go of “Steve”) has integrated himself not only into her life, but into her family, and it scares the hell out of her. Ultimately, she accepts him, the way he’s been accepting of her for two seasons. They’re certainly not married, but it’s experiences like this that transcend licenses written on flimsy pieces of paper. Jimmy’s family now.
And we see just what that means when Fiona and her siblings go to dinner with Jimmy's family. They're the picture of the great American family: two parents still married, three attractive children, and money to take care of their every need. But it's broken. Jimmy's father is the same rich man who Ian slept with last episode, his siblings have material success but are clearly unhappy, and his mother needs liquid courage to endure it all. Jimmy's rich, unhappy family is no stranger to television. We've seen families like theirs time and again, but it's the contrast of Fiona's dysfunctionally functioning family that makes this depiction unique and true.
Meanwhile, Jody and Sheila are taking care of Karen’s unwanted baby. Karen comes home demanding they return him to social services because she doesn’t want him. Of course, when the police (one of whom is our old friend Tony) show up, they refuse to follow through on Karen’s request: the baby belongs with his family, not the foster care system.
Karen, the harpie, eventually gives her mother an ultimatum: her or the baby. Sheila chooses the baby and it appears that she’s going to raise her daughter’s bastard with her daughter’s jilted estranged husband. If that’s not the picture of unconventional family triumphing over the typical definition, I don’t know what is.
But the Gallaghers try for a moment to remain conventional. Frank and Debbie use their wiles to free Monica, who’s signed herself up for 70 extra days in the psych ward, but the victory is short lived when she flees with her new girlfriend (Jenna Elfman). Frank is devastated and runs home to find any semblance of alcohol or money for alcohol, settling on Ian’s case of Old Style. When Ian stands up to his thieving old man, Frank strikes his son, showing more concern about getting blasted than his own family. Esti, who’s newly seeking shelter at the Gallagher’s since Marco beat her, officially joins the family by smacking Frank with a frying pan to protect Ian.
By the end, the work together to dump Frank outside in the snow, and inside Lip has returned home to find shelter in Esti’s arms while the kids sleep soundly and Fiona and Jimmy happily share her room once more. While it’s clear nothing will remain the same in Season Three because that would be too easy, the lasting picture of Season Two is a family, however strange, that manages to piece itself back together whether a drug lord’s daughter, illegitimate son, or bout of stubbornness rips them apart. Family is family is family, no matter what it looks like.
Do you think Monica will ever come back? Are the Gallaghers really done with Frank? What about Marco, will he come back? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler
Fiona and Steve or Fiona and Jasmine?