I doubt that I will ever suggest that I’m growing more fond of Frank Gallagher. He remains one of the most reprehensible television characters I’ve ever seen. I am, however, a fan of William H. Macy, the actor who portrays him. He’s conducting an acting clinic every time he appears on the screen. There’s a reason he’s always being nominated for awards. He even wins occasionally.
Season 2 of the US version of Shameless delivers more of the same chaotic dysfunction surrounding the Gallagher family as the first. Only this time, I have a better understanding of who all of the characters are at the beginning of the season.
The season kicks off during the summer with the appropriately-titled episode “Summertime.” It’s a few months after the end of the first season. Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is trying to get over Steve (Justin Chatwin). Lip (Jeremy Allen White) and Kevin (Steve Howey) are selling pot and alcohol from an ice cream truck, although Lip remains interested in Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins), who is now attending Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings with a fellow addict, a tattoo artist named Jody (Zach McGowan). Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is still working at the convenience store for Kash (Pej Vahdat) and Linda (Marguerite Moreau), but he’s looking forward to Mickey’s (Noel Fisher) release from jail. Debbie (Emma Kenney) and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) are running a daycare in the house. And, Sheila (Joan Cusack) is working towards curing her agoraphobia, which scares the hell out of Frank. Frank, of course, gets himself into another jam while using baby Liam in a panhandling scheme. So, business as usual.
From these seeds of chaos total pandemonium grows. Plus, it’s all entertaining to watch.
Steve eventually returns, but not without additional plot complications. He’s married to Estefania (Stephanie Fantauzzi), a drug dealer’s daughter he was forced to marry in order to bring her to the United States. His new wife is still in love with someone else, and Steve wants to rekindle things with Fiona. In addition, Steve’s real identity as Jimmy Lishman finally becomes common knowledge in the Gallagher household. To add some spice to this already-complicated relationship, Ian begins having sex with an older man who turns out to be Lloyd “Ned” Lishman (Harry Hamlin), Jimmy’s father.
Before Steve/Jimmy’s return to the show, Fiona develops a friendship with Jasmine (Amy Smart), who takes a too-serious interest in Fiona’s life and eventually leads her into more complications after seeming to be a positive influence in the beginning.
The story arcs in the season are almost too numerous to tick off one-by-one, and I wouldn’t want to ruin everything for you. I will tell you that Karen is pregnant and Lip is convinced the baby is his, but she marries tattoo artist Jody instead. But, everything isn’t exactly as it seems. By the end of the season, Lip is in a new relationship with Mandy Milkovich (Emma Greenwell—a different actress than Season 1). Karen delivers her baby, which she intends to give up for adoption, but things in this series rarely work out as planned.
In addition to Steve’s return to shake things up, we are dealt a couple of additional wild cards this season. Peggy Gallagher (Louise Fletcher), Frank’s mother, is released from prison and moves into the Gallagher house. If even humanly possible, she’s a worse person than her ne’er-do-well son. Monica Gallagher (Chloe Webb), Frank’s wife and mother to all the Gallagher children, also makes a return, leaving a swath of destruction in her wake and one of the most memorable television Thanksgivings that I’ve ever seen.
At the end of the season, it’s apparent that the series writers have laid the groundwork for future storylines. Lip seems intent on ruining his future, while Fiona is trying to improve hers. Hope and hopelessness are always vying for dominance in the series. The viewer wants things to work out for the Gallagher clan, but at the same time we want additional complications to prolong what’s going to be a long second act. As in any good ensemble show, if there’s any particular story thread that you dislike, you don’t have to worry about spending too much time with it. There’s a lot going on in this series, and we’re always jumping to other story threads.
I still enjoy Shameless and am continuing to watch it. I still hate Frank, but enjoy the other Gallaghers and their extended family. I find myself most attentive when spending time with the Fiona and Lip story arcs. The other characters are also great, but, as of today, I’d have to name Fiona and Lip as my favorites. The writers must agree because a lot of scenes revolve around these two.
This series executes a precarious highwire act between comedy and drama. While the premise may read like a typical working-class sitcom, there is little typical or sitcom-like about the show. It is made with adults in mind and includes a lot of foul language and situations, sexual and otherwise, you probably don’t want to have to explain to your children. I can’t promise you that the bad guys are always punished or that the good guys always win. While not exactly gritty enough to be a realistic drama either, its darker elements give more weight to the drama side of the “dramedy” label that these sorts of shows usually get stuck with.
So far, it’s never been boring, which is about the highest praise I can give any series.
Firewater’s I-Wouldn’t-Be-Here-Unless-I-Was-Desperate Report Card: A
Good time family fun. Just kidding. This show’s one redeeming quality is that it is entertaining. If you’re looking for a morality play with a lasting message, you should probably look elsewhere. Unless you’re looking for examples of bad behavior.