*NOTE: Since I’m now back in school with the winter break over, it will be much harder to write TV reviews going forward. So, my reviews will be a lot shorter, and the focus for each one will be on the main story elements of each episode. I will try to briefly cover everything else that goes on, but up until the school year is over, I will not be able to go as in-depth as I usually am. For those of you who were looking forward to me writing reviews for certain shows (like Shameless here), I apologize for not prioritizing better, and I will make a conscience effort to review as many episodes as I can on a weekly basis.*
“The Two Lisas” was a huge episode for both the new season, and the series as a whole. Debbie lost her virginity, Mandy left Chicago with Kenyatta, and Sheila has also run off into the sunset (with The Black Keys’ “Gotta Get Away” oh-so fittingly playing in the background) while her home was literally burning down in her trail. All of which makes “A Night to Remem-Wait, What?” the type of follow-up that carries almost too many high expectations for its own good. For the most part, those expectations are met.
Let’s start with Fiona’s character arc on that front, as it remains the most fascinating this season. Her new-found love interest is a whole lot more than just a fancy beard with an acoustic guitar, and in the span of only a couple of episodes, Gus P-fender has quickly developed into an excellent match for Ms. Gallagher. It was easy warming up to Steve Kazee’s honest and gentle performance last week, but he gets so much more fleshed out here I found myself rooting for him getting married to Fiona. Their chemistry is too strong, and the fact that they spent the whole episode playing off of each other’s suddenly mutual affection made each moment they spent together feel real and special. The spark was there in “The Two Lisas” and it ignited instantly here.
For as much as a plot device the wedding may seem, it’s also not forced or implausible. Even having watched this episode two times, the suddenness of it all still surprises me, but everything leading to the wedding was shockingly natural. This is a couple who’s smitten not just for the sake of being smitten. There’s a surreal level of attraction, and it is consistently on display. Hell, there’s even a montage of Fiona and Gus screwing, playing music, and laughing. I understand if some don’t agree with them getting married so soon, but at the very least we got to experience a genuine connection between them that helps justify it.
What all of this should mean is that FIona’s finally gotten it all figured out with her life…right?? She didn’t look too sure of her current situation at the end of the episode, overlooking her new husband and the realization that her life as she knows it possibly won’t ever be the same again. But it’s not her relationship with Gus that seems to be in doubt; it’s that self-assurance she’s instilled within herself to prove she’s no longer a wild, drug-crazed danger hazard. The marriage may have been the result of true love accelerating at an obscene pace, but it also might be Fiona simply constituting a point that Sean addressed a couple weeks ago. The latter would be sad to see unfold, as we all know how poorly she’s managed to justify herself in the past (see: season four with Mike). Yet, with Jimmy/Steve lurking in the reigns, we probably should be preparing for things to fall apart. Shameless has always been full of surprises, though; just watch last week’s episode. I’m not expecting this new Fiona-Gus dynamic to last forever, but I can’t imagine a scenario where the show decides to take the easy way out and conveniently throw Jimmy/Steve back in and swoop Fiona off her feet, either. In any event, this is an amazing story arc that has really helped carried this season so far.
Thankfully, the rest of the episode followed suit — somewhat. Frank’s latest escapade is reminiscent of those of the boys from the Hangover trilogy, where he spends an entire day retreading various sections of Chicago – following a drunken stupor the night before – looking for whatever remains of his six-figure insurance settlement. The results are a mixed bag, with the good coming from some hilarious banter between him and returning guest star Alex Borstein’s Lou, and the bad including a couple of predictably vague flashbacks and such. Shameless can and (plenty of times) already has proven that it can be effectively raunchy and outrageous, yet that spirit and energy never truly surfaces here. Frank’s wild night was about as rambunctious as any night could get, but that’s the problem; Shameless rarely settles for “just as much as any other”. Things should’ve been (and felt) crazier than anything we could have ever imagined, which kind of made putting the pieces together at the end a whole lot less rewarding.
The rest of this week’s material was rather solid in comparison, though. Veronica’s orgasm at the club wasn’t much of a big deal in my opinion, but it’ll be interesting to see how Kev reacts to it next week with her fessing up to it. I’ve been hoping for their story arc to take off (or, in other words, for their marriage to face that big hurdle I was anticipating) and chances are there’s a big verbal fight somewhere around the corner (Side note: Kev is a fantastic dad, and the show made a brilliant decision in having him go all out to provide for and protect them, dodging a “runaway father” trope I’ve seen way too many times already.) Debbie’s learning how to box, which might be useful for her in the future now that her “rapist” persona is becoming popular amongst her peers. Her (supposedly) new love interest, Derek (Luca Oriel) is a cool kid, and his offhand sarcasm (like when he casually lied about being raped in Juvy) makes him a nice new addition to the series cast. I’m excited to see this dynamic play out more in the coming weeks.
Lip’s trip to Miami wound up becoming more than a meet-and-screw with Amanda, as we saw him make nice with her father for the first time. Considering how their last encounter involved Jason paying him off in return for avoiding Amanda forever (which turns into an hilarious running joke here), it was a pleasant surprise seeing their joint knowledge of engineering bring them together. And, like Fiona and Gus’s relationship, this budding exchange doesn’t come off as something designed just because; these are two guys who’ve found something in common that they’re both very passionate about. Moreover, Jason’s internship offer opens a brand-new window for Lip and his skills, which adds a bit more intrigue to his future life decisions going forward.
Carl’s off selling dope these days, in a character arc I’ve yet to even bat an eye lash at recently. Although he shared a nice moment with Frank as he tried to understand the difference in pot package sizes, he’s ultimately become a cheap version of any one of the West Baltimore boys from The Wire. Instead of Shameless fleshing him out and giving us more insight into why Carl’s so smitten to juvenile delinquency (Frank as a father figure is no longer a valid enough excuse at this point), it keeps portraying him as a running joke; a satirical poster boy for all the adolescents in Chicago who’s lives are influenced by drugs and a lack of adult-inspired discipline. Furthermore, I wish the show didn’t handle him so comically, since Ethan Cutkosky’s one-note delivery hardly ever lands. Maybe it’s time for this version of Shameless to start ripping some pages right off the UK’s depiction of the character; that Carl was far, far more fascinating to watch as the seasons went by.
“A Night to Remem-Wait, What?” isn’t on the level of quality that last week’s “The Two Lisas” so excellently displayed, but it’s a strong episode that narrows the focus on the Gallaghers more than the series has in recent years. Fiona’s abrupt marriage leaves plenty of question marks, but it’s hard not to want to see it unfold with Emily Rossum and Steve Kazee playing off each other so well. We also got Lip getting along with Jason, Debbie falling for the new kid, Derek, and Ian’s biploar impulses (this week involved hoarding) beginning to test Mickey’s denial. Suffice to say, things should begin to get a little more interesting in the next couple of weeks.
+Mrs. Fiona P-fender!
+Lip and Jason bonding a little for a change
+The new Debbie-Derek dynamic is plenty interesting
-Frank’s crazy (and his tour of recollection) didn’t work as well as it should have
-Carl’s still shockingly underdeveloped