There is a big sense of everything being reset to the status quo in the season five finale of Shameless. Nothing big happens, people shift in the roles they’ve dug themselves, and the Gallaghers regroup, pick up the pieces and start another day anew.
Such is a day in their life.
I really enjoyed much of the finale, even if similarly to the four prior seasons, it went off with a muted lull more than a bang. The only piece that threw me completely was the last two minutes where Sammi returned and chaos was restored to the neighborhood. It was an abrupt ending and one that didn’t gel with the rest of the episode that was on the quieter, introspective side all things considered.
I don’t know how I feel about Mickey and Ian breaking up in the last ten seconds of the episode. They were easily two of the more compelling characters this season and their relationship continues to be a highlight of the show, handled with a skillful voice that understands these two characters and their baggage. This all makes their scene ending so abruptly all the most frustrating. Mickey’s dawning realization that Ian was breaking up with him was beautifully played by Noel Fisher and his “really?” was heartbreaking. Mickey went through four seasons of self-doubt, self-hatred, and abuse before owning up to his sexuality (in a scene that still reigns as one of Shameless’s best). He spent the end of season four and the beginning of season five in a constant state of worry over Ian’s well being. Finally, once Ian returns he get’s his moment to offer some sort of big gesture and Ian’s too tired to care. He’s messed up he tells Mickey and there’s nothing that can be done and Ian isn’t in the state of mind where he can try and fix what they have. For once it’s Ian giving in and for the most part their relationship deteriorates over something that neither of them can control.
If anything can be said about character growth in this week’s episode it seems that Ian, despite his relationship woes, seems to be entering a stage of self-awareness that he hadn’t had before. While running away with Monica he picks up tics that he identifies with all the while remembering why she’s so toxic to be around. One of the most concerning outcomes of last weeks episode were all of the reactions saying that Monica was the only one treating Ian well, ignoring her own ailments and how bad of an influence she was to him and the rest of the Gallagher brood. With Monica we also get another hint into what life was like with Frank and Monica as parents and I’m also intrigued and saddened to learn more about Fiona, Lip, and Ian’s upbringing.
Fiona is also coming upon a forced wake up call from both Sean and Gus. Gus is calling her a friend and Sean is telling her to grow up, that happiness isn’t the only thing that life has to offer. Fiona has learned her lessons but she’s still naive to how relationships work. Fiona and Gus probably aren’t destined for great things and Fiona and Sean wouldn’t make a healthy couple so maybe, fingers crossed, we’ll be entering a season six where Fiona Gallagher gets to learn her lessons and grow from herself and not from any man in her life.
Frank got a wonderful little storyline towards the end of the season with the young Doctor Bianca who learned she had stage three cancer and wanted to live out the rest of her life with no restraints and no rules to tie her down. She and Frank disappear to a coastal cottage where she dances with death a number of times before undressing and swimming out to sea, presumably drowning. Bianca made Frank bearable because it gave him someone to care about other than himself. We saw humility in Frank that I don’t know if we’ve ever seen before, even with Monica. There was no other way that Bianca’s storyline was going to end but I’m still sad that it had to.
Debbie and Lip get short-changed in the finale which isn’t all that surprising. Debbie wants to have a child and we’re pointed out repeatedly just how naive she is, making the entire experience all the more upsetting. However, Emma Kenney kills it when she lashes out at Fiona, calling her out on her marriage with a man she knew for two weeks. Fiona obviously is in the right in this case but some of Debbie’s comments also hit close to home. What’s nice that was pointed out a little bit more towards the episodes end was just how infrequently Fiona has been around the Gallagher home as of late, and how much of the slack Debbie has picked up. She’s more like her sister than the two are able to realize at this point and time, but their similarities makes for a great dynamic between the two. Fiona was forced into playing mom for her younger siblings when she was Debbie’s age and now Debbie wants to build a family at the same age, despite having seen the struggles that Fiona has gone through.
Lip is falling in love with his professor, and Amanda punches him in the face. And that’s a wrap on Lip’s storyline for the season. What a shame. His 10 second scene with Ian at the end where they simply shoot the shit is a nice touch and something the show has been lacking the last two seasons but not enough to make up for just how meandering his storyline has been this year. Lip deserves a storyline like the ones Fiona and Ian get or hell, even the one Frank just got.
And that concludes season five of Shameless! It wasn’t always perfect but it still manages to make me care for its characters more than more television shows. It never quite hit the peak of season four but it was a season that played more with the inner workings of the characters than the hi-jinks that got up to. It was a quieter season (barring Sammi) and it was one that excelled in it’s introspective moments. Scenes such as Lip talking to his student adviser. Sean telling Fiona that they’re just messed up people trying to convince other’s they’re normal, Bianca crying in pain on Frank’s shoulder on the beach will likely be seen as series highlights by the shows end and they’re the moments the show should strive for. It was a season of characters looking for happiness, or a sense of purpose or a clarity of mind and realizing along the way who stays and who goes and what’s achievable or even realistic. They’re a messed up bunch trying the very best they can.
Episode Grade: 7.5/10
Season Grade: 8/10
Until next year! What were your favorite moments of the season?