Shameless: Season 3 — a review

You don’t need additional reasons to hate the character Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy).

You’ll still get more reasons during Season 3, anyway. In most real ways, this Showtime series is about the Gallagher children, not about their father. Frank is more of a force of nature, existing primarily to complicate plots. Seldom are the main story threads about the drunk, drug-addicted, morally bankrupt and perpetually negligent Frank.

During the first episode of the season, Frank regains consciousness after a long blackout drunk in Mexico. He doesn’t have identification to get back across the border, so he becomes a drug mule, smuggling a record-breaking amount of drugs up his keister, earning him the honorific El Gran Caňon. His prolonged absence from Chicago is shrugged off by the older Gallagher children, who know that Frank always turns up, like a bad penny. The younger children, especially Debbie (Emma Kenney), are worried, because they still have naive faith in their father. Debbie develops a more mature attitude toward her father as the season continues.

After making it back home, Frank continues his felonious ways. He uses baby Hymie, Sheila Jackson’s (Joan Cusack) grandchild, in an attempt to scam money. Then, he convinces his own son, Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) that he has cancer, hoping to get an autographed basketball to sell from a children’s foundation. The ploy fails, but Carl gets to go to a summer camp for terminally ill children, thinking all along that his cancer is real.

Frank has been scamming Social Security for all these years, because he buried Aunt Ginger somewhere in the yard when she passed away and continued to cash her checks. When the city announces plans to dig up the yard to work on the sewer, everyone has to pitch in to try to find Aunt Ginger’s body.

The most vile, contemptible thing Frank does this season, in my opinion, is calling Child Protective Services on his own children. This results in the Gallagher minor children being removed from the home by CPS, with Fiona (Emmy Rossum) going to court to become their legal guardian. This causes friction between Fiona and Jimmy (Justin Chatwin), and eventually the two split up again. As the season ends, the viewer isn’t even sure that Jimmy is still alive, since his neglect of his beautiful Green Card wife Estefania (Stephanie Fantauzzi) causes her to be deported, earning him a yacht trip with her drug kingpin father that may not end well.

Season 3 focuses more on the relationship between Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher), which is damaged when the two are found out by Mickey’s violent homophobic father. Mickey is later forced to marry the Russian prostitute Svetlana. Ian, in his personal anguish, steals his older brother’s idenity and enlists in the Army.

Speaking of Lip—that’s Philip “Lip” Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White), whose identity Ian stole—he’s been dating Mickey’s sister Mandy (Emma Greenwell). Lip still has a thing for Karen Jackson (Laura Slade Wiggins), who disappeared for a time after giving birth to Hymie and after having a falling out with Sheila. Karen does return to complicate things, of course, and is seriously injured when Mandy runs her down with a car. Jody (Zach McGowan) is still Karen’s husband, even though he’s been sleeping with Sheila, and he leaves for Arizona with Karen and Baby Hymie, effectively removing the characters from the snarl of story lines. Mandy has been doing more than hit-and-runs, however. She secretly applies to many colleges for Lip, earning him a chance at a higher education.

That’s a few of the high points of the season, but certainly not everything that happens in these eventful twelve episodes. Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey) are trying to have a baby. In frustration, Veronica convinces Kevin to have sex with her mother Carol (Vanessa Bell Calloway) when artificial insemination doesn’t seem to do the trick.

At the end of the season, things seem to be looking up for Fiona, who has a good job with benefits and a potential new relationship. It looks like Lip is going to be attending college. Veronica and Kev are going to be parents. Debbie and Carl are growing up and getting more story lines dedicated to them.

On the flip side, it seems that Frank is experiencing liver failure and doesn’t have long to live. That may be a mixed blessing. But, we know Frank isn’t going to die yet. There’s still eight more seasons to go.

This show balances the hilarious and the tragic in ways few other series have ever been able to pull off. Frank, a character I hate (even while admiring Macy’s performance), is capable of doing something endearing every now and again. And, the characters I love, such as Fiona and Lip, are capable of doing reprehensible things. In that, it can be just like real life. This isn’t real life, however, and the viewer knows that any given state, happiness or misery, is always temporary.

I may have come to this party late, but I plan to continue to play catchup. The series has been renewed for Season 11, which will be its last. It was originally scheduled for release this summer but has been delayed to at least November 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. At my current rate of viewing, I’ll be well into 2021 before I finish Season 10.

This has become a contender for one of my all-time favorite television series already. It is a dystopian Gilmore Girls, or maybe a mostly-Caucasian Good Times without any socially redeeming messages. The show is definitely meant for a mature audience, and may not even be recommended for some adults. Foul language, casual drug use, and occasional nudity are always on the menu, so be warned.

Firewater’s Check-for-Hair-Behind-the-Grill Report Card: A

Things are still entertaining at the Gallaghers.

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