Last week, I expressed my disappointment in the season premiere’s handling of Fiona’s current plight and her newfound relationship (or affair?) with Sean. All of it just felt so uninteresting and uninspired, with a dash of “I’ve seen this before”, that I initially began to worry that Shameless was simply running out of ideas for our main character. But boy, am I ready to eat my words now. Just one whole Sunday night later, the Gallagher’s alpha – yes, alpha, considering Frank is practically nonexistent these days – found herself running the gauntlet of emotions, objections and revelations in an episode that threw more on her plate than ever before.
This just wasn’t a great week to be Fiona – despite it being a great week to watch Fiona. Taking up Sean’s offer to run the diner as assistant manager, she now has to call out the same co-workers she used to share sly remarks with, and in turn she’s damaged her relationship with her own brother by firing him herself. True, Ian wasn’t the best busboy, and the other waitresses who hold down the fort alongside him do let quite a few things slip under the rug (like, if that chicken was really undercooked, then ewwwwww), but it was startling how quickly and assertively Fiona took on these middling workplace developments. Most important, however, is how, like Lip’s lightbulb moment in the classroom last week, it can show us exactly what a Gallagher looks like when they apply themselves to the world around them. Fiona still doesn’t believe that management is the right place for her (even though she tirelessly fought to help run a bar a few seasons ago), but one can only imagine how awesome she’d be at it if she wasn’t so brainwashed into thinking otherwise.
Which leads me to my next topic point: Fiona’s stance with her own family. If she can barely handle all the backtalk, profanity-fueled insults and dirty looks she gets at the diner just for sleeping with the boss, how will she restore balance with her younger relatives now that she’s pregnant? There’s no easy answer that could solve Fiona’s current troubles, but one thing “#AbortionRules” does extremely well is relate these troubles to both her recent history as the head of the household and the impending collapse of the family’s storied unison. With this brand-new discovery, it’s safe to assume hypocrisy on Fiona’s end, that all she’s spewed out to Debbie in regards to her child-bearing is now moot. Even though doing so is not exactly that easy (Fiona’s advancements for abortion are totally logical), picking sides here is made more difficult than it was before. And since we’re dealing with two women on opposite sides of the age spectrum (Fiona the consenting adult, and Debbie the raging, irrational adolescent), the argument at the center of this brewing conflict opens the door to subsequent clashing – which we saw right outside the Gallagher front porch this week.
However, despite all of this, Debbie doesn’t know that Fiona’s pregnant yet. No one besides Fiona herself knows that Fiona’s pregnant. The one supposed constant in this family has slipped up immensely, with the consequences set to change life as we know it for both her and her loved ones forever – and now she can’t continue to lead by example like she has before because there’s evidence proving otherwise. None of her siblings sans Lip so much as bat an eyelash when she’s around, let alone listen to whatever profound advice she feels necessary to provide. How will things between her and them get any better when her pregnancy surfaces? For me, it’s disheartening to see how disjointed this family is these days, but the worst part is preparing for the type of image they will perceive Fiona through once they are made aware of her news. There’s a good chance that Shameless can get real dark with this dynamic real soon.
In addition to Fiona’s struggles with the rest of the Gallagher clan, we were also invited back into the same interpersonal chaos that made her and Sean so dangerous together a season ago. I like that Sean’s been going to his meetings again, and that they’ve failed to push him away from using heroin. His unwillingness to remain consistently responsible for himself parallels with Fiona’s pregnancy that way. Both individuals have vices they simply cannot control, and these slip ups are a faithful reminder of how wild they really are, no matter how hard they try and prove different. It makes them right for each other in all the wrong ways, and the sex scenes that bookend this week’s episode highlights that beautifully.
Fiona’s addiction to sex (or “at least, in my opinion” her addiction to sex) summons an energy, a calling that Sean can’t shake off. I believe it encourages him to use drugs, even though he’s reluctant deep down. As for Sean, he’s so smitten by Fiona’s presence that he injects some of that same sexual energy within her, causing her to embellish her sex drive and act without her usual consent. For that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby belonged to Sean (although chances are it’s probably Gus’s kid), but most of all: I now have a much better idea of what Shameless is trying to say through their relationship.
Sadly, providing a clearer picture doesn’t always work in this series, and most of tonight’s happenings paid crucially for that. How ’bout this for a juxtaposition: I loved the Debbie/Carl material last week and was ultimately uninterested in Fiona’s situation, but those stances have flipped entirely throughout the course of one chapter. By painting us a more vivid portrait of his new life, Carl’s story arc once again takes one step forward and two steps back. Besides the slightly amusing coupling between him and the awfully quiet Nick, nothing about his new gun trade at school injects any laughs or interest. It’s nice that Carl’s willing to provide hundreds of dollars in cash to help Debbie pay for her pregnancy, or that he’s keeping Nick off the streets (which is a bit ironic considering most of his business conspires on the streets), the emotional connection from the season premiere is gone, and I feel like the lack of stakes pinned to his new lifestyle make these endeavors little more than a distraction from the real action taking place elsewhere.
Many fans of the show are up in arms about this season’s treatment of Debbie, and rightfully so; the parameters surrounding her pregnancy are being wrapped in a whole bunch of nonsense. I’m amazed that she had no idea Derek felt trapped when she started having conversations with him about the baby, and I find it even harder to believe that her school would: A) allow Debbie to take care of a fake, flour-ridden caricature of a child in the middle of class, and B) keep multiple child-bearing teenage girls enrolled without even offering some sort of parental or sex ed class to guide them through the process. So much of this stuff here feels so strained and reached, it’s impossible to take any of it seriously. The fact that almost the entire episode involving Debbie featured her fake flour baby didn’t help matters at all, and mixed with the terribly manufactured shift in Debbie’s personality lately, I was appalled at what went on here. Shameless has a reputation of taking certain subject matter and relentlessly exaggerating it, and this is now starting to become of its biggest failed experiments yet.
Ditto for Frank and his never-ending search to rekindle the love he shared with Bianca before she passed. I already stated how I felt about him at this point of the series, and the way this story arc is being handled this season, and I refuse to repeat myself.
I want there to be a glimmer of hope with the gentrification arc that’s taken place at the Alibi, but it’s meandering too much. Kev and Veronica’s role in all of this is disappointing to say the least, because these are better characters (and actors) than what they’re being written into. I would like them to have more to do than just convince Will Sasso’s extraordinarily offensive Yanis to shut off his damn motorbike, and acknowledge that the bar is the “best-shittiest” in the Southside of Chicago. The only redeeming instances in this section of “#AbortionRules” is how the hipsters are blatantly demeaning the folks at the Alibi (Kermit singing karaoke is the season’s funniest gag yet), and the hilarious banter by way of Svetlana – even the subtle changes to the bar are good for a few chuckles. But otherwise, I’m still not getting the sense – besides the quiet alterations within the bar – that this subplot is going anywhere soon.
Without a doubt, “#AbortionRules” is a grand step down, as it failed to match the heights of last week’s premiere in more ways than one. Plenty of the story threads Season Six has brought to light thus far have fallen into egregious, meandering territory, even though the episode makes great strides to infuse some meaningful life into Fiona’s plight and the struggles between her and the Gallagher family as a whole. I worried that Shameless would start to have trouble sustaining its usual level of quality this season, and this particular installment is an immediate sign of potential decline.
+ Fiona/Sean material once again thoughtful, engaging
+ A few very funny Alibi moments
– What in the world is going on with Debbie?
– Carl’s new money-making efforts
– Hardly any movement with any of the other subplots