What can I tell you about the U.S. series Shameless that I haven’t already said in my reviews for the previous five seasons?
Season 5 was the series low point for me, so far. It was still good, just not as good. Season 6 is better than it’s immediate predecessor. Maybe not up to the standards set in the earlier seasons, but still better. While that may not be a ringing endorsement, it’s still something. Better than a season of Last Man Standing, at any rate.*
*Side note: I’ve never actually watched an episode of Last Man Standing. My opinion that the sitcom sucks is based solely on network promotions I’ve watched for it. I’m assuming that they’re showing off their best material in the commercials. That material sucks. By the transitive property, the series itself must suck. I never have to waste the time it would take to prove this theory by actually watching the series. As God-fearing Americans, we have a right to believe whatever we want without having evidence to back it up. It’s one of the amendments to the Constitution, I think: I’ve been meaning to read it.
In case you’ve never watched Shameless, and then oddly decided to jump into the series by reading a review of the sixth season, the premise is that the poor, dysfunctional family of Frank Gallagher, which includes six children, lives and learns in the South Side of Chicago in spite of the obstacles facing them. The chief obstacle being Frank himself, who makes an artform out of neglectful parenting as he spends his days drunk, high and/or committing criminal acts.
An ensemble series such as this one lives and dies on the strength of its main characters and their individual storylines.
The series has always, wisely, centered around Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum). The central seasonal arc is mainly hers. Fiona is still married to Gus as the season begins, but she’s already in a relationship with her boss at Patsy’s Pies, Sean (Dermot Mulroney), where Fiona has also been promoted to assistant manager. While her love life seems to be improving, the Gallaghers are evicted from their house. Fiona faces divorce turmoil with Gus, while finding herself temporarily homeless until the matter of their house is decided. Sean proposes to Fiona, and she accepts. Fiona spends the back half of the season preparing for her wedding to Sean, which occurs in the season finale in typical Gallagher fashion. ‘Nuff said.
Lip Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White) begins this season still in a relationship with his professor, Helene (Sasha Alexander), but that is soon torpedoed by his ex, Amanda (Nichole Bloom). Both Lip and his professor face disciplinary action over the affair. Lip loses his dorm and his job. Helene, to save her own job, breaks off all contact with Lip, while Lip descends into full-blown alcoholism. Lip ends up getting expelled from college after acting out violently. Professor Youens (Alan Rosenberg), who is also an alcoholic, convinces Lip to attend AA meetings.
Carl Gallagher (Ethan Cutkosky) is released from juvie early. He intends to embrace the criminal life, selling guns in school and getting involved in the drug trade. His large friend from juvie, Nick (Victor I. Onuigbo), serves as his partner and muscle. It was nice to see Carl beginning to get a meatier role to play. He begins dating a classmate, Dominique (Jaylen Barron), whose father is a cop; he loses his virginity to her. When Nick overreacts to another kid stealing his bike, Carl finds himself on his own again and no longer wants to be in the criminal life.
Debbie Gallagher (Emma Kenney) decides to keep her baby, but the baby’s father Derek (Luca Oriel) cuts and runs, not ready to be a parent. Fiona tries to talk Debbie into getting an abortion so that she doesn’t ruin her life, and she refuses to support her sister. Ironically, Fiona also finds out she’s pregnant and doesn’t know if the father is Gus or Sean. The point is moot because Fiona opts for an abortion. Debbie’s main source of support surprisingly turns out to be her father, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), who spends a lot of time this season mourning the death of his ladyfriend doctor Bianca.
Sammi’s mother Queenie (Sherilyn Fenn) comes to the city after Chuckie (Kellen Michael) is released from juvie. Debbie and Frank join Queenie at her rural commune, where some of the stuff they grow isn’t strictly legal. The commune stuff is entertaining, but it is only a side trip, a distraction, and doesn’t really affect any of the main story threads. Disillusioned with Queenie’s utopia, Frank and Debbie return to the South Side in time for Debbie to give birth in the kitchen of the family home, which—thanks in large part to Carl—now belongs to them, for better or worse. Debbie names her baby girl Frances “Franny” Gallagher, after Frank.
Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) begins dating a firefighter and lands an EMT job by the end of the season. With Mickey in prison, Ian’s storyline becomes relatively sedate, although he is temporarily in trouble for lying on his application about having a mental illness.
Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) is facing deportation with Mickey in prison. In order to keep Svetlana in the United States, Veronica (Shanola Hampton) legally marries her. V, Svetlana and Kevin (Steve Howey) begin a polyamorous relationship. The way things go in this series, how do you think this will turn out?
I think I’ve touched upon the highlights of the season. As with any ensemble show, this series is more about spending time with characters you love or love to hate than what actually happens during the season. I found Lip’s slide into Frank-ness to be heartbreaking. He was the one we all expected to escape the South Side for something better. I can only hope this downturn in his life will prove to be temporary.
Debbie’s character developments seem a bit more permanent. She’s a single mom now, before she’s old enough to vote. But, as with Carl, she’s getting more to do, plot-wise. And, in the Gallagher family, that seems to mean that things are going to get tougher for her before they get better. Carl’s sudden change of heart and his decision to walk the straight-and-narrow will also get tested, I’m sure.
Liam Gallagher (played by Brendan Sims this season, I think) just began walking and talking in Season 5. He’s not really a story generator yet, although if the developments with Debbie and Carl are any indication, his time is coming.
That just leaves Fiona and Frank to talk about. Without giving away what exactly happens during the finale, I ask only that you remind yourself of Fiona’s history with relationships so far. Does the phrase “happily ever after” even enter into the equation?
And, Frank? After what happens happens, all of which is Frank’s fault, of course, he is kidnapped by Ian, Caleb, Carl, Debbie, Veronica, Kev and Svetlana. He’s then thrown from a bridge into the freezing river in an attempt to kill him. Like Rasputin. End of season.
I doubt they’ll fare any better than those Russians did, but this is our Season 6 cliffhanger.
Some of the storylines meander a bit, and a few of the plot developments begin to seem repetitive and/or cartoonish at times. Some reviewers have written about this show’s gritty depiction of poverty. But, I don’t think we’re really getting that here. As I’ve said before, we’re getting Hollywood poverty here. Yes, things are messy, but not actually squalid. Some bad behavior seems to be glamorized too much. Some of the sexual content seems gratuitous.
Plus, I had a problem—from a logical standpoint—with Ian’s new boyfriend Caleb (Jeff Pierre) being involved in the attempted murder of Frank. I understood Ian, Carl and Debbie. Even Kev, V, and Svetlana. But, Caleb hardly knew Frank. I understand wanting to support your partner, but murder seems to be taking it a bit too far. At least too far for credibility.
Still better than last season.
Firewater’s Forget-That-Barbecued-Greek Report Card: B+
Frank just may be immortal. Think we’ll see him in Season 7?