It’s mystifying to watch a show waltz into it’s seventh season with so little self awareness of what make it so beloved in the first place. Possessing little of the rough and tumble charm and melancholy of the early seasons but all of the gross out humor and then some that half gives the show its title, the season seven premier of Shameless suggests that it should perhaps also be its last. A hollow shell of what the series used to be, Shameless returns with less of a bang and more of a puff of smoke as it boasts everything that is secondary in importance to the survival of the show.
Everyone is starting a clean slate and in order to do so problems are being created where the don’t belong. Few characters intersect instead, as has become a major issue in past seasons, they’re split off into their own storylines. Frank still proves to be an enormous issue for the series and it’s tone as after all of these years of committing heinous crimes against his family we’ve lost any ability to omit even a mere chuckle at his antics. He is, without a doubt, the main villain of the series and has been since it’s conception but now, rather than treating him as the abhorrent figure that he is he’s been relegated to bar pest who can be swatted away, dumped in a river or thrown out with the trash and still survive to see another day. He’s a cockroach infesting the lives of the other Gallagher’s while simultaneously wreaking havoc on the quality of the show itself.
It wasn’t too long ago when Debbie was a favorite character. She was a beloved, precocious little girl who was the only Gallagher with any hope left in Frank. That passed and it was heartbreaking but ever since-especially with the baby storyline-her charms have worn thin which might just come with the territory of portraying an emotionally chaotic teenage girl. Admittedly it’s nice to see her finally back to her craftier methods of getting by with her stealing other parents carriages, but it doesn’t comepletely redeem a character who has taken such a harsh turn in the past few years.
Carl similarly is a character whose issues of the week always feel arbitrary compared to the rest of his family unit and the premiere having his main concern be getting circumcised only reinforces this fact. Unable to write anything of narrative value for him the series is giving Carl all of the gross out humor (barring Frank) and he’d be better used as a piece of the ensemble then his own solo player because of it.
The developing relationship between Kev, V and Svetlana was one of the few redeeming aspects of season six and it continues to be a highlight in this years premiere as their main roadblock doesn’t come in the form of the expected jealousy or other relationship woes but due to expenses, a very normal concept that couples argue over. The humor isn’t that the three of them are in a relationship, it’s how they behave within it and the disorderly way in which they conduct their lives that would like ridiculous to an ourside but makes perfect sense to them. More of them and less of Frank please.
After a few years where it looked like Shameless had forgotten that Ian and Lip were brothers we started being pointed back on the right track when Lip broke down in financial aid over the idea that he couldn’t provide for Ian and the rest of his family. This was further explored when Ian, feeling down on himself, visited Lip at college to less than stellar results. Always one of the more naturally enjoyable pairings on the show it’s a welcome change of pace to see them sharing screen time, even if is while following Caleb only to learn that he’s been cheating on Ian with another women.
While the prospect of Ian going through more relationship woes isn’t all too appealing, it hopefully will allow his character to show up more with the rest of the Gallaghers.
Lip I continue to have a love/hate relationship with as he continues to make such idiotic mistakes, making himself his own biggest hurdle in having a successful and happy life but Jeremy Allen White plays him with such an electric authenticiy that it’s hard to keep our eyes off of him. We are hopeful for a moment that he’s turned a corner and is living a clean and sober life and the next he’s found himself loopholes to fall through. Again, hopefully the brother relationship will take center stage but with Lip and Ian the show hasn’t been able to find a stable focus in a while now.
I cannot and will not accept Fiona’s tattoo as a real thing that I’m supposed to not laugh at. I refuse.
What I am happy about is that Fiona seems to be finally taking her life into her own hands and leaving men in the past for the time being after making one too many poor judgement calls. Emmy Rossum is still remarkable as the head Gallagher and she infuses Fiona with a steely resolve this week that just under the surface hints at vulnerabilty. I’m not so sure that Shameless knows where to take Fiona when she isn’t caught up in some sort of relationship drama but I’m holding out hope that they’ve realized the vast amount of space they have yet to explore within the character.
Not a hugely promising start but, regardless, if we’ve hung in this far we likely adore many of these characters and they’re not easy to give up on. I’ll be back next week and the one after that, hoping that Lip stays sober, Ian stays healthy and Fiona finds happiness, and if Frank is still around I, like the rest of the Gallaghers, will forcefully tune him out so I can enjoy the rest.
We’re back, and it’s okay.