Shameless: "Like Father, Like Daughter"
B+

Shameless: "Like Father, Like Daughter"

B+

Shameless

"Like Father, Like Daughter" 

Season 4, Episode 3

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

It was clear that at some point Fiona and Mike’s fever-dream courtship would grind to a halt, likely in a spectacular fashion, likely because of a bone-headed move by Fiona. But man, this was set into motion much earlier than I had anticipated, and of all Fiona’s lapses in judgment, the aftershocks of this one are potentially devastating. Fiona’s fib about the origin of the shattered windshield on her company car barely qualifies as a transgression compared to her introduction to Mike’s ne’er-do-well brother Robbie.

“Like Father, Like Daughter” played like a 1980s slasher film at quarter speed. It’s clear from the moment Robbie bounds in for a family dinner, all good-time jolly and charmingly apathetic, that he and Fiona are headed for a collision with serious ramifications for her relationship with Mike. So I watched with one eye half-open, hoping Fiona wouldn’t make the idiotic choice that she was naturally going to make. During Robbie and Fiona’s flirtatious chat in Mike’s kitchen, I said aloud “It’s not too late to go home. Just go home.” Of course, Fiona doesn’t go home, but when Robbie abruptly kisses her, she does flee to someplace familiar: the warm embrace of chaos.

Fiona has no other choice than to be the way she is. She’s used to mayhem, stress and an ever-crumbling sky, so she’s been well acclimated to the storm, but not to the calm that precedes it. It could be argued that Fiona’s tryst with Robbie was about creating havoc in a situation where there was none, because those are the only circumstances under which she knows how to thrive. That’s clearly part of it, but the psychology is more complicated than that.

Robbie is the perfect weapon to destroy the faithful Fiona. He’s handsome, charming, and has demons he makes no effort to keep buried. If Fiona was out to sabotage her relationship with Mike, just on a lark, she would have found a way long before now. She wouldn’t have succumbed to just anyone. It’s who Robbie is: He’s sort of proud of his flaws, he could have had it “easy” but chose his own path. Fiona’s attracted to Robbie for many of the same reasons she was drawn to Steve, making him especially enticing to her as she deals with the confusing non-ending of her prior relationship. He was exactly the wrong person for Fiona to meet.

That creepy, menacing final scene between Fiona and Robbie suggests this entanglement is far from over. Too bad, since so much is at stake. Fiona’s job at Worldwide Cup gave rise to this unprecedented harvest for the Gallaghers: medical care, discretionary income, and so on. Now, Fiona’s entire livelihood is in the hands of a man who brags about his lack of regard for others the way most guys his age brag about a basketball play they made in high school.

To be honest, I’m not exactly resisting this development, but there is part of me that feels like it’s a bit off-key for Fiona. Not the impulsiveness of it, or the foolishness of it, which both represent classic Fiona. But Robbie telegraphed his ill intentions so early on, I didn’t completely buy that a girl as socially shrewd and bullshit averse as Fiona wouldn’t catch a whiff of what he was up to as early on as I did. Robbie’s insistence on getting them both drunk, as he maintained his sobriety, was a major red flag. I don’t completely buy that Fiona would allow the situation to unfold the way it did knowing what Robbie’s agenda was. I get that this is the girl who, on two separate occasions, did the damn thing while waiting in a drive-thru line. But Fiona is also fiercely protective of who and what is important to her, and I’d think her instinct would be to steer clear of Patrick once she got a hint of his game and protect her relationship from an obvious interloper.

But maybe Fiona is another addict, like Patrick says. I don’t necessarily buy this, but it’s a fascinating idea for Shameless to explore as Fiona continues ignoring Frank’s plight as his condition worsens. What is an addiction, anyway, other than a pattern of behavior developed over time as a way of dealing with the world? Frank’s selfish behavior destroys the people around him, but there was nothing benign about Fiona’s hook-up with Robbie, either. She’s capable of destroying people too. The final shot of Fiona gazing at Frank teeter on excess, but it’s brief enough a glimpse that it works perfectly.

The non-Fiona threads of “Like Father, Like Daughter” also roll out with horror-movie portent, with Frank ingratiating himself to Samantha and Debbie trying in vain to drive Matt “cray.” The Frank stuff with Sammi and weird little Chuck is typical Frank stuff: Frank being a despicable human being, played for comic effect. This time, Frank is trying to romance his daughter into donating her liver to him, an offer she makes with startling speed. (Are shared butterscotch aversions the stuff organ transplants are made of?) Still, I’m a big fan of Emily Bergl and insomuch as one can enjoy a Frank storyline, I’m enjoying this one.

I’m also slowly coming around on the idea of Debbie’s relationship with Matt. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s creepy, but I no longer think he’s predatory. Matt actually seems kind of sweet, priding himself on cooking for Debbie and being the one to introduce her to Eraserhead. Matt strikes me as a guy who is way behind the curve where social development is concerned, and Debbie represents a non-threatening female interest in him because she’s so young, not to mention genuinely interested in him. The storyline will be much easier to tolerate now that the specter of statutory rape isn’t hanging over it.

Sheila is still a bit of a question mark, and it’s beginning to feel like Shameless may have outgrown her. I adore Joan Cusack’s performance, so I certainly hope that isn’t the case, but Sheila’s adventures in online dating aren’t a draw for me.

Stray observations:

  • I’m digging Nick Gehlfuss as Robbie; he’s exactly right for it.
  • Very clever title, given the way Sheila Callaghan’s script points at the immediate similarities between Frank and Sammi before hammering home the less obvious parallels between Frank and Fi. 
  • Mickey is so lovesick over Ian, he’ll literally let any ginger do anything to him, anywhere, for any length of time.
  • Lip’s arc this season is quite sad, as he continues to struggle with his adjustment to college life. The all-nighter only yielded a 77 on his paper. Ouch.
  • There was another “flash mob freeze” shot, which looked as lovely as it did the first time, but I think it was a one-time gag. Plus, to nitpick, was that a frozen guy on a bike in mid-pedal? That isn’t possible.
 

More TV Club