The Gallaghers are notorious for mounting extraneous adversity and overcoming impossible odds, and for six seasons now Shameless has almost painted them as this family with enough bark-back to appear impenetrable to whatever society throws at them. However, there are strings that needed to be pulled and measures that needed to be reached in order for them to survive for so long. As hard as the real world has hit first, they’ve always had the resources and dexterity to hit back harder – until now. Shameless finally decided to lift the curtains from under them this week, as America’s scheme-iest family lost to the inevitable advances of the real world for the first time. In a huge way.
It’s a decidedly daring move for the show because the togetherness of the cast has been what’s carried its success from the start, and now it has to find the flexibility to carefully course correct into a more separate family dynamic. Despite the season planting the seeds for some form of divide amongst the Gallagher clan, last night’s big move requires the show’s writers to “change the game”, so to speak, as these characters are bound to be further apart than ever. We’re are now definitely witnessing a season with the potential to be dramatically awe-inspiring, especially if Shameless is up for the task and willing to tackle it’s latest development head-on.
And that development is the loss of the Gallagher household; sold in an auction where the bids are too high to match, and gentrification is breathing down the family’s necks without them even noticing it. Defeat of this caliber was imminent for years: Fiona never owned the house because of Patrick’s stake on the mortgage, and once a large wad of quick cash could force him out of the picture – like it did here – it would only be a matter of time before the Gallaghers would have to truly fend for themselves. My immediate surprise is that it actually happened. The house itself is such a crux to the entire series, the mere thought of it being ceased away hardly ever crossed my mind as a probable event. The breakfast table conversations; the congested living room birthday celebrations; the constantly occupied bathrooms – all of them gave the home a resounding voice, an all-important personality of its own. But its most defining feature is its comforting presence: the ideal that no matter how shitty life as a Gallagher can get, there was always that one place any one of the clan members can turn to and be thankful for having still.
The swirling animosity between the siblings themselves stands as the only logical excuse for the show to even consider this move, but I like this decision. It’s time the Gallaghers open their eyes a little for a change and rely more on being honest, responsible citizens (although, in fairness, they’ve generally been doing a better job in that regard lately). And something big had to go down that would encourage them to finally look at and embrace the world from a different, more common point of view: one that actually sees them paying their debts to society. If anything, they are much older than they were when we first met them, so it’s sort-of about time for them to grow up and play by the rules.
Fiona’s fight to win over the mortgage was fascinating in its realism, and another reason why the failed auction route resonated with me so well. There were things about her I never would’ve guessed were true – like the fact that she’s lived her whole life without ever investing in a credit card – that rung true to the character and opened up more opportunities for hope to swoop in and save the day. On top of that, her calm yet wildly uncertain approach to the situation heightened the suspense of her failing to come through. It makes perfect sense for Fiona to pawn off Gus’s grandmother’s ring and deny Carl’s illegally-allocated funds, but you can see that those decisions affect her spiritually because of the overwhelming volatility of the house’s current standing. There’s that sense where it appears Fiona is acknowledging her upbringings through a deeper lens, realizing how her family’s more cunning tactics are only poised to take them so far these days. If she’s to win this house, she feels it necessary to do it the right way, or else the greater consequences at hand – like, say, she gets the house with a $130,000 bid and can only loan $100,000 from the bank – won’t prove it worth the effort. Therefore, when we see the universal disappointment in the Gallaghers’ eyes after seeing the winning bid fall to another suitor, Fiona’s wind up being the ones that say the most.
And, sure, maybe she has had too much of a say in many of the family’s judgments; who’s to go out and defend such a belief, anyway? End of the day, though, those judgments are what’s best. Just like how she rejected Debbie’s insistence to bear a child of her own, letting the house go could possibly mean Fiona’s tired of keeping this family together just so they can live off of pulling the same – or maybe even worse – shit they’ve pulled from conception. Like us, the fans, perhaps she wants more forward progress. Or maybe she simply doesn’t want to rage another battle with society, where everyone’s reaching back into the dark corners of extortion, risking education and future careers just for immediate perseverance. It’s not like she doesn’t love her siblings or doesn’t care enough to keep the house; she made it clear that she was fighting to keep a roof over everyone’s heads, but she’s also more willing to make the tough calls than before. For that, I must say I’m impressed with Shameless‘s work with Fiona over the last couple of episodes. It has made an example of character development out of her, as she has absolutely flourished into a truly consenting, self-aware adult over these crucial circumstances.
“Going Once, Going Twice” is an easy episode to review, particularly because Fiona’s plight to keep the house thematically rubs off on everyone else and allows the proceedings to remain both tonally grounded and consistent. Carl’s subplot wins out in that regard, as he continues to grow into accelerated adulthood with Nick – who finally speaks words this week! – while learning how to be a proper gentleman around Dominique. While I’m still not convinced that a girl like Dominique would ever give a guy like Carl the time of day, I loved how Nick’s dialogue of his past led to Carl gifting her with a bike to ride home with (as he creepily lingers behind). In addition, his rapport with Nick is really something, and the connections between childhood and adulthood that they individually complement provides the weight and sadness it hinted at in the season premiere. Kev and Veronica losing their Alibi Room audience (and Svetlana – nooooooo!!!) to the South Side’s latest new speakeasy was the type of pay off I was hoping for from the gentrification angle, and this C-story works in its own share of pathos by glossing over the overwhelming ignorance this troubled neighborhood has become known for. Even Lip’s nonsense trip with Helena paints their relationship in a new light, as Helena finally came to her senses and now seems prepared to cut ties with this affair. I still don’t give much of a damn about this affair, and I feel like Helena’s presentation being rudely interrupted by that asshole attending the conference was a terrible way to show her vulnerabilities, but I enjoyed the way her highly-intoxicated state told Lip everything he wanted to hear before her usually sober self shut him down the next morning. I’ve always personally felt that Lip’s had that coming since he selfishly dumped Amanda, and it felt great seeing karma come back around.
Debbie and Frank’s subplot hit a dead end this week, and the simple fact that Shameless is treading right back into both the “Frank finds a new home with a family that’s just lost or will lose a loved one” and “Debbie falls for older guy who’s not sexually attracted to her” bits comes off as incredibly lazy in the least sense. I’m already losing interest in – and respect for – Debbie as she pushes on with this pregnancy, so the show having her loop around the same dilemmas she miserably broke out of before is the last thing I’d want to see here. As for Frank, it’s better that he’s included in Debbie’s shenanigans instead of going off on his own, but the allure of this budding relationship quickly dries up before the episode concludes. Both characters appear content with moving in with that new family, so it seems like we’ll have no other choice but to accept these developments and hope that they come to an abrupt close.
One last thing: Thank GOD Yanis is dead! I personally found his being burned alive on that electric wheelchair to be only slightly amusing, but I’m just glad that Shameless has gotten rid of this racist, infuriatingly obnoxious, P.O.S. character.
By reverberating the same themes of dwindling hope and glaring disappointment throughout every character arc, “Going One, Going Twice” becomes both easy to swallow tonally, but hard to digest when it goes for the kill. Thanks to the central issue surrounding the Gallagher home, we got to see Fiona continue to mature into her responsibilities, while the others either learned from or paid for their usual ways. Not all of it was interesting, and there were definitely a few occasions where the episode absolutely fell flat in its approach, but all of that was offset by some solid fantastic ending that must have certainly shocked the entire Shameless fanbase – but rightfully pushes the season forward into some potentially powerful material.
+ Fiona’s fight to keep the house
+ Carl and Nick
+ Gentrification influence
– Debbie and Frank falling into the same old nonsense again
– Lip’s trip with Helena was largely a waste of time