Like many of you, I enjoy seeking out the first healthy discussion board I could find after watching the latest episode of a particular television series. There’s a certain closure that comes with knowing my voice was heard before thousands of other dedicated viewers who either agree or disagree with my opinions, particularly because the episode I had watched aggressively fueled my critical instincts. In the case of Shameless, this has become a normality – and recently, those same instincts that encourage me to discuss it with countless strangers on the internet have also been enough drive for me to review it every week, despite my schedule restraints.
I’m saying all of this because Shameless is my favorite television show and I have no problems restructuring my priorities around getting that one hour necessary to check up on the Gallaghers and her mischievousness. I’m also saying all of this because, as a life-long fan of the series, it’s utterly upsetting seeing it collapse on top of itself. For almost an entire season’s worth of episodes now, I’ve been fighting with the possibility that the show is becoming incapable of sustaining an adequate level of quality. The strength of the writing has fallen off considerably since its fantastic fourth season, and a lot of the characters are being spun around in the same predicaments with little commitment in fleshing them out any further. It’s a sad day when these traits start to frequent in a long-running franchise, and “Pimp’s Paradise” suggests that Shameless is definitely plummeting.
That’s the nice way of putting things, though. In actuality, “Pimp’s Paradise” is a shit-show of poor writing, extreme corner-cutting, and infuriatingly offensive humor. Besides the one element of the entire episode that stands a chance at resonating with us as viewers, the entire hour spanning this week’s proceedings is nothing but a grand demonstration of distasteful, dishonorable, and disappointing television.
If you’ve been pulling for the Gallaghers to band together after winning the house back; keep dreaming. Ian and Lip are still off on their own accord, while everyone else besides Frank and Debbie continue to hold up fences begging to be mended. This show has not figured out a way to make this work, which is gravely worrisome considering how sloppily each individual story arc is advancing. But that’s not even the worst part in all of this: Shameless is feeding us this shit without even properly covering up its tracks anymore. I’m over the ridiculousness of the Gallaghers being back home so easily, but what’s to make of other sudden developments like Debbie moving back in as well? Despite Carl dropping his own investment in the re-purchasing, this is still Fiona’s house, and she refuses to allow Debbie passage so long as she persists on keeping her incoming child. So why is Fiona giving up on all of that so abruptly? We only get a couple of scenes where she converses with the family and realizes that her hold over them has relinquished, but that shouldn’t be nearly enough pull for her to move back in with Sean – didn’t she just fight tirelessly for this house in the first place? What’s stopping her from making her presence felt and taking things over like she’s supposed to? I’m here wondering why the show even bothered taking this place away from the Gallaghers to begin with; all of this conveniently-resolved turmoil just for some pre-conceived solution that goes entirely against these characters. Unbelievable.
Debbie’s living status with Erica is another huge misstep this week – but the exception here is that I never gave a damn about this development in the first place. Shameless continued its downward spiral for Debbie, as she went to extreme measures in her efforts to have Erica retain a bed for her to sleep in – only for those same extreme measures to go absolutely nowhere thematically. Frank’s ridiculous notion for his daughter to offer lesbian sex is as revolting as it sounded, but the show chickens out at the last second when he shoots her a text declaring that she once again has a room of her own back home. In summary: We spent three-four weeks awkwardly watching a pregnant, under-aged teen resort to seduction in the hopes of keeping a roof over her head for no reason. Did I mention yet that none of this agreed with the type of character Debbie’s been written as this entire series!?
Ditto for Lip, who’s fallout following his tasteless fling with Helene has secluded him to the bottom floor of a sorority house. Instead of sleeping around with the women who occupy these living quarters (which would have at least been the most plausible thing he’s done this season), he spent a good portion of this episode wallowing in despair, and crying out for help in a drunken stupor outside his former professor’s home. Oh, and let’s not forget how contrived his current living situation has become. Am I really supposed to believe that not one single authoritative figure knew that Lip painted the walls in his dorm room? No one checked that before? Seriously? And why not give the poor guy some notice before evicting him the same day you bring it to his attention?
Ian’s subplot with Caleb is trash, and this week confirmed that. Their relationship is so paint-by-numbers at this point, it’s like playing a video game tutorial on surviving the relationship gauntlet: first dates, meeting the family, proudly expressing yourself in public around your spouse. It’s like Caleb’s telling Ian, “Hey, look, I wanna go out with you, but first you’ve gotta prove yourself to me by doing X, Y, and Z. Then we’ll be together, and you’ll be a better man for it.” And then Ian gets fed all this talk about how he stood up to Caleb’s family at that wedding, yet all he did was get mildly intoxicated and dance passionately to some crappy music; I’m almost certain that the next encounter between them and Caleb’s parents – his father specifically – would be just as bitter and homophobic as the first.
The one sole aspect of this entire episode that worked was Carl’s plight to find happiness amid the loss of his trusted pal, Nick. Behind all the ill-supervised underage parties and extravagant household items lies a young man with conflicted emotions, unsure of how to properly react to an unspeakable crime he avidly tried to prevent. Just like a week ago, Ethan Cutkosky is more convincing in this relatively vulnerable guise, and there are plenty of small, impactful character moments that rightfully put him in the spotlight. Sean budding in and having a heart-to-heart with Carl was an excellent way of bridging the gap between them, as the theme of coping that represented last week’s episode came back around rather nicely. This episode definitely could’ve used more time molding stories like these, so it’s unfortunate that the show decides to be so preoccupied elsewhere.
Here are some more notes from this week’s episode:
- Kev and Veronica’s one-off vacation was extraordinarily inconsequential, which was really no surprise given how little they’ve had to do this season. I’m not sure if it was even earned, despite how insistent Kev was about getting a break from the Alibi and the kids. Since it’s so harmless, I find this part of the episode impossible to criticize.
- Sherilyn Fenn isn’t given much else to do as Queen besides sleep around with Frank, but that could not have come as a shocker considering how her character was introduced last week. By the way: what was with all that eco-friendly nonsense, and why were Debbie and Liam so smitten by it?
- Chuckie has no business being on this show anymore. He’s nothing but a mentally disabled punching bag throw into certain scenes for cheap, offensive amusement – and there was no greater example of that than his in-class presentation of Mien Kampf (Come on, Shameless. You’re better than that.)
Every week, I tune in to watch Shameless and expect to at least be moderately entertained, but “Pimp’s Paradise” is such a colossal waste of time and effort I regret ever having lost time out of my life over it. It continues the season’s ill-advised structure and perpetuates in it for 50+ minutes, making fools out of us by resetting bland story arcs with plot twists coming left and right, and up and down. Elsewhere, the episode is either forcing the cast into acting entirely out of character, or crafting challenges or solutions that are too contrived or too banal. Shameless absolutely needed to course-correct, but sadly, it’s still coasting in the wrong direction.
+ Carl learning to cope with Nick’s arrest
– So, what was the point of Debbie babysitting Erica’s children?
– And why is Fiona NOT taking over the house she fought for!?
– Lip, PLEASE GET OVER HELENE!!
– Ian and Caleb material is relentlessly cliché, boring together
– Frank, Queen, and Mein Kampf