Monday, January 20, 2014

The Luck You Got: A Shameless Recap

You guys...

Shameless is back!

Shameless airs Sundays at 9PM on Showtime.
Let me just start by saying it's been way too long since the Gallagher's have graced our TV screens (over 9 months to be exact) so I needed to watch the Season 3 finale in order to refresh my memory about what happened last with Fiona, Frank, and family.

I remembered how amazing that finale was, but I forgot how many questions it left unanswered! Before I get too ahead of myself, allow me to give all you Shameless newbies out there a warning: SPOILERS LIE AHEAD! Seriously, if you haven't ever watched the show before, start your marathon now - it's only three short seasons and in my opinion, it is extremely worth your time.

The series premise, in a nutshell: Fiona (played by the criminally underrated Emmy Rossum), is the high school drop out and teenage matriarch of the Gallaghers, a family just trying to get by in Chicago's South Side. With an absent mother, an alcoholic father (the so-disgusting-it-hurts, Frank, played by comedic genius William H. Macy) and more kids than she knows what to do with, Fiona desperately tries to keep things from careening off the rails no matter what it takes. When Jimmy, a mysterious car thief, enters the picture, Fiona struggles to let her guard down and trust someone for the first time. Ok, that's all you need, now get out of here and get watching! For everyone else: Welcome to Season 4...




Shameless - Season 4, Episode 1: Simple Pleasures

The show's theme song, "The Luck You Got" by the High Strung (which accompanies one of the best opening credit sequences on TV) seems even more relevant than usual when we first return to the Gallagher home for Season 4. It's been three months in TV time since last season's finale when Frank left the hospital with a likely death sentence, Ian tried to escape a broken heart by enlisting in the Army, and Jimmy took a potentially deadly boat ride with Nando and the Brazilian mafia. Now, it seems like we're a world away from most of last season's drama: Fiona is succeeding at World Wide Cup, Lip is attending college, Kev and Veronica are preparing for Carol's baby, and Frank is keeping his distance. The Gallagher's seem to be more stable then ever, but we're talking about Shameless, so needless to say, this harmony doesn't last.

It seems like all the Gallaghers are trying desperately to change, play a new role, or juggle being two different people at once. Debbie, played by the wonderful Emma Kenney, is acting like a sarcastic, bratty teen toward Fiona, but when we see her out with her new friends, she's still clearly the most sensible and innocent one of the group (it was so painful to watch Debbie go through this terrible stage - I wouldn't be 13 again if you paid me - but seeing her attempt to flirt with a guy over Dance Dance Revolution was almost too adorable for words). Debbie has grown up a lot since last season, and in two excellent moments - the girls fighting for mirror space and their simultaneous late night text sessions - we begin to see how much of Fiona has subconsciously rubbed off on her, and what conflicts this is sure to cause between them down the line.

Then we have Fiona, who is trying to be a good employee, finally dressing the part and acting like she understands the differences between different retirement plans (good luck with that one, girl - it's all a mystery to me), but her wild and risky side comes to the surface as her relationship gets more serious with her boss, Mike. Meanwhile, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is attempting to play the role of a college kid, but his slacker tendencies and already-over-it-attitude are keeping him isolated, lonely, and in danger of failing out. Now that Debbie has become more jaded and angry about her father's abandonment, even Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) has inherited a new role at home: caretaker for the recently returned (and dying) addict, Frank, who has been acting the part of the rejected father since season 1. Now that he's lost everyone else's sympathy, he's putting on this sad show for Carl so he'll help him "survive" which just means to get as much alcohol...let's just say transferred...into him as possible. 

This season, it looks like everyone is trying to fit themselves into an unfamiliar mold but with only surface level results. Carl can't really care for Frank - he needs to be in a hospital or a rehab, not in the hands of his 11-year-old son. Lip can't be the college student everyone expects since he won't let go of self-destructive side. And Debbie won't ever really be like her new friends who put their virginity on sale on the internet (although she did price hers at 1 million dollars) because that's not who she is. Even Fiona, who seems like she's the most well adjusted in her role, still shows signs of restlessness and the desire for a life with someone like Jimmy rather than the clean-cut Mike.

Speaking of Jimmy, it's been three months since that fateful boat ride, and still no sign of him. While we know a lot more than Fiona does regarding his whereabouts, it's still unclear whether Jimmy is alive or dead (and if he is dead, which I sadly think he is, Justin Chatwin better get on another TV show ASAP because my love for him knows no bounds). At the same time, Ian (Cameron Monaghan), is also missing, but we're the only ones who know that he's officially enlisted in the army with the help of Lip's ID, while the rest of the family has no idea where he went. Fiona doesn't seem too concerned about his disappearance yet, but as the season continues, I'm hoping for Ian's return (even if that just means more time with Emma Greenwell's Mandy on screen).  

If this episode is any indication, it looks like we're in for a slightly darker season ahead. I like that the writers aren't afraid to go to some deeper, angrier places than before, but I'm concerned that it might be too much of a gut punch if we get episodes like this every week. Thank god for one of my favorite couples on TV, Kev and Veronica (played by the hilarious Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton) and the always perfect Joan Cusack as Sheila, for bringing the comic relief we've all learned to expect from the series. 

There's not much on TV that makes me feel the roller coaster of emotions I get from watching Shameless (except Parenthood because, duh) and getting to spend time with these characters again really brought me a lot of joy. So much so that I can't just abandon writing about it all season, come on! So check back every week for a mini Shameless recap - don't worry Sheila, I won't give too much away. 

Thanks for reading, everyone! Check back next week for more midseason TV reviews!

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