There are many moving gears this season, and Shameless has been through quite an uphill climb in its attempts to keep viewers invested in these divided story arcs. Thankfully, things have begun to pick up steam, and a lot of season six’s earlier concerns are quickly being ironed out – all of which is to say that “Paradise Lost” suggests that last week’s gem was anything but a one-off outlier from a quality standpoint.
And what’s awesome news, because now we’re starting to see the potential of these subplots materializing. Carl’s developing relationship with Dominique took some fresh, interesting routes, Ian and Lip continue to wrestle with their pasts and their vices in tangible ways, and Debbie and the elder Gallaghers are gearing up for a future far more interesting than the endeavors they’ve recently experienced.
Carl’s turnaround in particular has been fantastic (or for the most part at least), and “Paradise Lost” brilliantly demonstrates that with an expertly written meet-the-father ride-along. I liked Dominique’s dad being brutally honest in his evaluations of Carl, and his hard-nosed attitude towards Carl was a great outlet for some visceral dialogue between the two. The pair of memorable standout scenes prior to and during the ride-along – Dominique’s father proudly reassuring Carl that he hates his guts after dropping his daughter home and Carl returning the favor later by calling him an asshole – wonderfully characterize the mutual animosity, while displaying a profound realism that prevents this dynamic from getting sitcom-y or carried away. Even better is the character development that follows, with Carl acknowledging how much of an influence his new girlfriend could be and his sudden interest in police work – which is actually plenty plausible, considering how willing he’s been to be a provider for the Gallagher household lately.
Thanks in large part to Queenie and her little commune, Debbie’s maturation process has been much easier to swallow, but the episode makes a good call in wrapping up her time there in the midst of a monumental moment in her life. It was a smart idea for the show to drop her here and test both her fortitude with nature (if you can even call it that) and maternity because it provides her with a raw perspective on child birth – and the writers are keen enough of these surroundings that they show Debbie gradually dispelling her enthusiasm. (Side note: that midwife with the shitty bathtub as a sort of maternity bed was incredibly disgusting, yet shockingly effective for a sight gag.)
Given the otherworldly maternal practices and daily absurdities that go on in this tiny little community, you can’t really blame Debbie for eventually wanting to bail – and the timing couldn’t have been better, as her water broke moments before Frank’s own personal dilemma suddenly coincided. This week had some fun with Frank embracing the “intricacies” of living within the commune – albeit too much fun at times – and I was surprised to see him actually playing father to Debbie and fulfilling her wish to return home for child delivery. If there’s anything Shameless has consistently nailed, it’s familiar dynamics; seeing Frank voluntarily tend to his youngest daughter’s needs felt nostalgic, and it’s just about as true to the character as the show’s been in a long time. And, in a relieved sort of way, I’m kind of happy his brief time delivering drugs clashed with his knowledge of the opium farm in the commune, since that shootout between Jupiter and Carl’s former employers suggests that perhaps Frank’s investment in both is over and done with.
(Side note #2: Yes, I know I expressed my enthusiasm over Frank’s discovery of Queenie’s opium farm last week, but this episode went nowhere with it which had me wondering if it was just a one-off setting to be blown up or scavenged in an episode or two. I’m still waiting to find out how that shootout went, but I’m guessing I was right.)
The rest of “Paradise Lost” was also pretty solid. Fiona’s eagerness to enjoy a true-to-form marriage process (with a strip club party to boot) was a neat way of bringing Kev and Veronica into the mix – especially since we got to see Kev, Kermit and Tommy all get together for a hilarious guest strip dance. (Poor Kermit for thinking the rest of the guys were going Full Monty with him.)
Lip got kicked out of the sorority home after his matron helped him recall the details of his behavior at a party R. Kelly would’ve been proud to have witnessed, then found himself in a position of firm denial over a potential alcohol problem when he learned he’s now required to attend AA meetings. The downward spiral that has been his life this season has taken some rightfully dark turns lately (with the drinking-centric ones drawing a faint connection to one Frank Gallagher), and this episode perfectly documented it from a tonal perspective. The scene where he gets fired from his matron is one of the series’ finest bouts with dark humor, while that heated verbal confrontation between him and Professor Youens speaks as much to the struggles he’s had adjusting to college life as it does to the lowlife his mentor/now-former employer truly is. Luckily for Lip, there’s light at the end of the tunnel with him nailing that internship interview (seriously, how cool and relatable was that interviewer!?!?), but no shot at redemption or advancement in these more proper surroundings is ever a sure thing with this guy.
Ian has got to be hiding his true HIV results from Caleb, and it’ll be interesting to see if him lying about his mental illness in that EMT application will carry any future implications. I’m still waiting to see a lot of things happen in this story arc – Ian take some form of pills to justify his less-bipolar tendencies lately, Caleb be anything other than a walking plot device, etc. – but I’m currently enjoying Ian piece his life back together, and very few characters in this show deserve a chance at a meaningful career more than he does.
Last, but not least: the birth of little girl Francis. Debbie is officially a mother – but for how long? Did she make the decision to go to the hospital post-delivery by herself just so she can offer her child away (which would be incredibly dark, but very much believable, in my opinion ), or just so she could have a moment belonging only to her and the new baby girl? We shall see, but for now it’s going to be wickedly interesting seeing how this affects her relationship with Fiona, since they’re both under the same roof still and Fiona once again admitted to wishing against Debbie keeping the baby.
Here are a few more things I’d like to point out over this week’s episode:
- There was plenty of tradition going around in this episode. Frank telling Debbie that her child birth needed to happen inside the Gallagher house because everyone else was born there was surprisingly touching, and a very telling reminder of the role this house has in this family. Fiona’s apparent tradition was both amusing and credible, since it basically came off as the show being self-aware of the sex montage between her and Gus last season that led to their short-lived marriage.
- Caleb being in the room with Ian while he was taking the HIV test was flat out ridiculous; how in the world did the doctor allow him to stay at all before asking any questions? And even though it is kinda true that mental health is “none of their business” as far as employers and applications go, Ian’s issue is a special case. And he did spend time at a mental institution, like he said so himself – you can’t just shrug that over!!
- I’ve read a few comment threads after watching this episode, and apparently Lip shouldn’t have been chomping at the bit for credit over Youen’s paper on complex wave functions; professors ripping off graduate/undergraduate students’ theories for personal gain is a rather common occurrence in college. But just imagine if Lip ever took his anger out on a pen:
“You’re taking a shit in my mouth, and saying you bought me dinner!”
- Whether he believes that a social security number has ten digits instead of nine, or fails to recognize the accent in a name like “Fatima”, Kev’s underlying ignorance was absolutely hilarious this week.
- Chuckie took on some form of mountain lion and wound up with just a few scratch marks on his forehead? Yeah, sure Shameless. Suuuuuuurrreee.
Shameless hardly skipped a beat with “Paradise Lost”, as the darker, more grounded storytelling approach in last week’s episode shone throughout here as well. Even though parts of this week’s events included some unnecessary uses of the TV-MA rating, plenty of other bits and pieces took advantage of the show’s signature adult identity – resulting in an hour of television that was consistently enjoyable without cutting the important drama short.
+ Carl’s ride-along
+ Debbie gives birth
+ Lip’s falling out (and potential glimmer of hope)
+ Lots of funny material sprinkled in
– Some of the more “mature” instances ( I.E. Commune sex) were a bit unnecessary