It really wasn’t much of a cliffhanger, was it?
Seriously, did any of you think, when the Gallagher clan decided to murder Frank by tossing him off a bridge into the Chicago River at the end of Season 6, that Frank was going to die? Frank Gallagher, who is played to the hilt by award-winning actor William H. Macy?
No, of course not.
Season 7 kicks off a month after the finale of the previous season. As always, our favorite characters are trying to pick up the pieces from the series of disasters that ended the previous season.
Fiona (Emmy Rossum) has become the manager of Patsy’s Pies and is trying to carry on with her life following the debacle of her attempted marriage to Sean (Dermot Mulroney). While turning things around for the better at the diner, Fiona becomes a business owner by buying the laundromat across the street. She ends up selling the building for a huge profit, using the proceeds to become the owner of a local apartment building.
Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is released from rehab, but is still struggling with alcoholism, after seemingly destroying his opportunity for a college education and escape from Chicago’s South Side. He begins a new relationship with Sierra (Ruby Modine), a single mother who waitresses at Patsy’s. Professor Youens (Alan Rosenberg) dangles hope in front of Lip briefly, as he arranges a hearing to attempt to get Lip back in school. It doesn’t go well. Lip sinks further into alcoholism, breaking up with Sierra after he gets into a drunken fight with her ex-boyfriend. At the end of the season, Lip is back in AA with a new sponsor, Brad (Scott Michael Campbell).
Debbie (Emma Kenney) struggles with being a single teenaged mother and resorts to stealing to make money. She ends up in trouble with Child Services when she is caught on video panhandling and fighting with a woman in the street while holding Frannie. Debbie eventually moves in with Neil (Zack Pearlman), the handicapped brother of Lip’s new girlfriend Sierra, acting as his caretaker. Of course, Debbie is using Neil to provide for her and her child, not out of love. Meanwhile, Debbie clashes with the family of her baby’s father, who temporarily kidnap Frannie during the season. By the end of the season, Debbie seems to be taking charge of her future by attending welding school.
Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) has quickly matured into a lead character role. His relationship with Dominique (Jaylen Barron) eventually sours, as most romantic relationships on this series seem to, but it is his relationship with his girl’s father, Sergeant Winslow (Peter Macon), that seems to be pushing his life in a more promising direction. Carl wants to eventually become a cop. Sgt. Winslow advises him to get into military school, which may help make his goal a reality. Carl eventually receives a scholarship to attend military school.
Ian (Cameron Monaghan) discovers that his boyfriend is cheating on him, with a woman. After that breakup, Ian finds a new love interest in Trevor (Elliot Fletcher), who turns out to be transgender. Mickey (Noel Fisher) escapes from prison, and he and Ian are briefly reunited. They make a run for the Mexican border, with Ian deciding at the final moments not to go with Mickey. After Ian confesses everything to Trevor, his new relationship is now questionable.
What about our favorite neighbors? Kevin (Steve Howey) and Veronica (Shanola Hampton) are somehow cheated out of ownership of The Alibi by Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter). This was after the three attempted to run a topless maid service together, while still living as a “thruple,” and after Yvon (Pasha Lychnikoff), the man Svetlana introduced as her father, is revealed to actually be her husband. Yvon suddenly disappears, perhaps murdered by Svetlana, but Kevin and V find themselves suddenly shut out of their own business. Kev gets a job as a bartender at a gay bar to make ends meet.
And, then there’s Frank (William H. Macy) the embodiment of chaos who bounces through his children’s lives like an impaired pinball. After spending a month in a coma—after the murder attempt—Frank wakes up in a hospital. Frank eventually “disowns” his family and adopts a new one at a local homeless shelter. For a lazy man, Frank always seems to be able to pull off grandiose ideas. He opens a homeless shelter in an empty house on the same block as his old house. He turns it into a moderate success, which he uses, of course, to line his own pockets until the new adopted “family” becomes as disillusioned with Frank as his real family. Still, Frank manages to do some good things. He gets Liam into a new private school. Liam (Brendan and Brandon Sims) is still that extra Gallagher who doesn’t have to pull much of the weight, plotwise. If Debbie and Carl are any indication, that will change soon. Then, Frank tries to earn back some goodwill by helping out around the house and assisting Fiona with revamping the laundromat. But, then Monica (Chloe Webb) returns, rekindles things with Frank and then dies. Monica leaves an inheritance of $70,000 in meth for her family. What could go wrong there? Fiona buries her and Liam’s shares of the meth with Monica.
Thus ends another season with our favorite dysfunctional Chicago family. And, this season’s ending feels different somehow. No real cliffhanger (we know the meth in Monica’s coffin will be back somehow). Plus, everything’s not a total disaster the way it usually seems to be. In fact, the ending could be interpreted as somewhat hopeful. Lip seems committed to AA after his rock-bottom. Fiona is now a landlord. Carl is improving himself through military school. Debbie is learning a trade. Ian has put his destructive relationship with Mickey in his rearview mirror. Liam is enrolled at an exclusive private school, thanks to Frank. Even Frank seems somewhat changed after his near-death experience at the hands of everyone who knows him.
The only disaster seems to be the polyamorous relationship between Kevin, Veronica and Svetlana. But, even these three seem to be trying to adapt and cope, in true South Sider fashion.
Too much outlandishness goes on in this series for it to be considered “realistic” or “gritty.” The term dramedy hardly seems to describe this show, which is always willing to sacrifice realism for entertainment value. I prefer to think of it as dramedic fantasy.
I still like the show. I’m committed to watching until the last episode of Season 11.
Firewater’s Give-Me-Liberty-or-Give-Me-Meth Report Card: B+
The show seems oddly weighed down by its own backstory now. With four seasons to go, the viewer never expects things to stay positive for long, and the cycle of seeming-success-to-total-failure is becoming as predictable as every doomed relationship on the series.