S2E8: Shameless has a knack for throwing the wackiest, most heartfelt episodes at screenwriter Mike O’Malley (who you may recognize as Kurt’s dad, Burt Hummel, from Glee). First, he sets up the relationship of convenience between the late Dottie and Frank and then he delivers an episode that features euthanasia. He also wrote the Season One episode in which Fiona almost loses the kids because of her absentee parents and her lack of actual custody of her siblings. O’Malley tackles the tough stuff. This week, the series follows a seemingly simple enough theme: parenthood. However, nothing is ever that simple for the Gallaghers – a fact we well know and love.
Not only does the strangest part of the episode outshine the Fiona/Steve hook, but it’s almost sweet in its disturbing absurdity – don’t worry, we’ll get there. Of course, being that this is Shameless, the story lines are numerous; yet, even when we’re dealing with the flatly awful Karen or the caricature of a South Side delinquent that is Mickey Milkovich, some emotional element creeps in. And that, my friends, is why Shameless is so much more than a cacophonic romp.
“I hear you have cancer. I hope it’s painful.” -Sheila
Because of the chemical explosion, terminally ill Grammy is staying at Sheila’s where Frank has apparently been graciously allowed to return. Frank waffles between being upset at losing his mother and ecstatic as being free from her grip (an issue reflected his numerous reminisces about growing up with her), but Sheila is just plain elated. The woman did say horrible things about her before trying to shoot her.The whole invalid peeing a bucket in Sheila’s pristine living room bit isn’t really helping much, either.
While Karen goes to school, Sheila lets Jody in from his camp outside the house and they two of them wind up taking care of Grammy when she has a nasty fall as soils herself. Jody secures her high-grade painkillers and Sheila is inspired by his ability to care for Grammy. Watchin all this makes her want to get Jody and Karen back together A.S.A.P. and she starts to have sympathy for Frank’s dying mother. They start to bond and Grammy asks Sheila how she does “the nice thing” before apologising for pointing a gun at her. But then, Grammy accepts that she’s dying and wants to speed it up. Jody takes her out to mail money to her sons (excluding Frank) and she sneakily rolls herself into the street while he isn’t looking. A city bus stops inches from her chair and Jody rolls her back. It’s certainly a shocking theme to take on, but when you bring into consideration the fact that just last week, the woman was having Carl help her make meth, it suddenly seems pretty tame.
And now, for the weirdest scene ever – a scene I’m sure will be outdone on this show, maybe even next week. I’ve said this phrase numerous times about Shameless. Sheila agrees to help Grammy off herself. They eliminate plastic bags and settle on smothering her with a pillow. And I wasn’t sure something like this could be funny, but watching Sheila sit on a pillow on Grammy’s face while screaming “Go into the light!” is too strange to not elicit a confused chuckle at the very least. If we wanted to feel righteous, we wouldn’t be watching a show that by its own claim is devoid of shame. Frank is elated by the news of his mother’s death, but later finds his wife and breaks down crying. Perhaps this bundle of perplexing emotions will bring the living hurricane back into the Gallaghers’ lives? (Episodic previews say “yes.”)
“Front door was locked so I came in the back. No pun intended.” -Frank
But his mother isn’t Frank’s only problem this episode. He catches Ian and Mickey having sex and being that he homophobic against himself, Mickey goes crazy trying to keep Frank from snitching. Frank couldn’t care less, but Mickey gets his buddies to agree to take Frank out.
Ian tries to warn Frank that Mickey is going to kill him, but Frank doesn’t take it seriously. So Ian tries to call off Mickey, but he won’t do it. He’s afraid of his father or his goonish friends finding out, insulting Ian by calling him “nothing by a warm mouth.” This plot offers the flip side of the teen sexuality coin that Glee attempts to tackle every week. Glee does it well, don’t get me wrong, but Shameless takes the kid gloves off. For Mickey, it’s not about changing schools or just keeping a secret – his identity is literally ripping him up from the inside. The self-loathing is palpable.
When he finally decides to let Frank go and throw himself back into juvee by punching a cop, that point is driven home. He’s rather be in juvenile hall, where he won’t have to figure out how this aspect of his life fits in or complicates things. There, he’ll be safe from his community’s homophobia – of course, he won’t be safe from his own.
“S–t is what we all go through. You gotta get up and get s–t done.” -Fiona
Lip is still determined to drop out of school, but he’s a veritable genius. Fiona won’t let him waste it, so in order to get him to go back, she agrees to go back and get her high school diploma too. At the registrar, the counselor suggests Fiona take the GED test instead of racking up the 38 credits she needs – clearly bringing Liam with her to class isn’t going to be possible.
Even with the Fiona deal, Lip isn’t set on staying. And Karen’s behavior doesn’t help. She flippantly talking about all “this baby stuff” and says she’s giving it up for adoption. He goes with her to the adoption agencies, but when she learns there’s no money in the baby-cooking business, she almost gives up until they are referred to a family attorney. The guy sets them up with a pool of potential parents – focusing on their deep pockets. Lip is concerned that the families may be rich, but that doesn’t mean they’re good parents. Could this be where his aversion to success is? His counselor says he could get a scholarship to Yale or Harvard and make something of himself, but perhaps he doesn’t see that as the mark of a good life. Since his father left him, the mark of a good life is more about being a parent to his unborn child. Frank’s mistakes could be creating this resistance in Lip.
“We’ll figure this out, just don’t give up on me.” -Steve
Carl’s football coach is arrested for exposing himself, Steve steps up for the coaching gig in an attempt to stay obnoxiously involved in Fiona’s life. His theory: become indispensable so that when he figures out the whole Brazilian marriage debacle, Fiona will be ready to take him back. It’s presumptuous, but we all know Fiona wants him deep down.
In the meantime, however, he’s determined to make things super uncomfortable. Thank God his wife’s commentary (via subtitles as she chats on the phone to her Brazilian lover) is so hilarious. It cuts the incredible tension of the whole set up. After practice, he brings Carl and Debbie back and says he and his wife cook a Brazilian dinner for them the next day. The funny thing is, as much as Fiona resists this, she’s got so much else going on that this situation becomes almost normal by default. It’s certainly a nice way to make us feel like the Steve storyline is progressing without actually giving us a real result. Hopefully we’ll get something a little more tangible in the near future.
“I’ll pull my weight, but I’m not going to be the golden goose.” -Lip
“Your job is school. School or leave.” -Fiona
And with Grammy dying and the final scene of the episode in which Lip moves out, there really isn’t room for any real Steve and Fiona action. She’s offered more hours at the club, and a potential spot at the new upscale place as an assistant manager. She says she has to watch Liam – giving up her own potentially brighter future in order to take care of a child. Lip later points out her hypocracy after he purposely gets himself expelled. He says Fiona wants him to be the “golden goose” and go to college, but she won’t do it for herself. But this is where Fiona loses it: she’s sacrificed everything for the family. She really, truly has. She took the role of housewife so they could have brighter futures, his job is to use his God-given brain. But Lip doesn’t see it that way. He feels used and he’s mentally charred from his experience with Karen the she-devil. If this little harpy is the reason Lip loses out on a future not determined by stealing toilet seat covers and selling weed to 13 year-olds out of an ice cream truck, this show is going to be a very, very dark place.
Do you think Lip will come back eventually? Can Steve and Fiona ever work it out? Or is he stuck in his drug lord mandated marriage? What’s going to happen to Frank now that he’s consumed by grief and happiness at the same time? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler