A show like Shameless is difficult to evaluate in the episodic review format. At least initially; “El Gran Canon” establishes that the rule is for Shameless seasons to get off to a toddling start. There’s yet another time jump as was the case last year, and with an ensemble of this size, a big chunk of time has to be devoted to checking in with the many gnarled limbs of the Gallagher family tree. So, for what it’s worth, “El Gran Canon” did that. I now have an idea what the Gallaghers have been up to since I last saw them. But as was the case with the season two premiere, I wasn’t left especially excited about the season to come. Is there not a way to do a Shameless premiere that would get me…I don’t know…amped?
It isn’t just the leisurely pace that’s at issue here, it’s that one of the show’s main characters is still it’s most problematic. I’m talking, of course, about Frank, who begins season three coming out of a stupor in Mexico and spends the episode figuring out how he’s going to get back to Chicago. Anyone who has seen Shameless before could have guessed the result would involve something going in Frank’s ass, and as many times as this show has done a version of this plot, I can’t imagine anyone still finding Frank’s rectal adventures interesting or funny. But the bigger problem is that Frank’s place in the narrative is always so tenuous. It doesn’t exactly make sense to keep Frank in the rest of the family orbit; he doesn’t much care for them, and with the exception of Debbie, who kept a vigil in the nearly five months since they had seen him last, the feeling is mutual. At the same time, I still have no interest in Frank unless he’s bumping up against the rest of the family.
It seems like Frank will be integrated sooner than he was last season though, as he finds a way back to Gallagher Manor and finds the family running like a well-oiled machine. At least, to the extent the Gallaghers know how to do that. It helps that Jimmy is playing the househusband role with a level of enthusiasm that Fiona finds unsettling. Everyone seems fairly content and well-fed, and the desperation doesn’t feel quite as heavy as it typically does. No one wants Frank dead, Liam is not in peril, Jimmy is not twisting Fiona in knots with his disappearing acts. Not only are things going better for the Gallaghers than usual, no one seems to fear the storm that is bound to follow the calm.
There are some complications though. Ian is still apparently carrying on with Jimmy’s dad, and they appear to be developing a relationship even more disturbing and inappropriate than Ian’s unwise entanglement with Kash. Mickey Milkovich is apparently getting out of jail soon, and Ian seems convinced that Mickey, his “boyfriend,” will want to pick up where they left off when he returns. I’m not so sure. Lip is facing charges for stealing a laser he used in a robotics competition. So…y’know, that happened. He’s still smart but refuses to do anything with what he’s been given, much to the chagrin of any older person with whom he comes into contact. Sheila and Jody are losing sleep with a new baby in the house, and no one’s heard from Karen, which is apparently a bad thing somehow.
But the real trouble is brewing with Fiona and Jimmy, the relationship that I have the most complicated feelings about as it has become the backbone of this show. Truthfully, I was encouraged by the direction things were going early in the episode. So much of Shameless is about Fiona, a young woman whose life has been largely defined by attending to the needs of others, figuring out what exactly it is she wants for her own life. It’s a clever direction to put Jimmy right where she thought she wanted him, only for her to find out she may have been happier with Slim Jim Steve. Of course, Shameless has to be Shameless, so Estefania’s cartel king father Nando shows up to kill his daughter’s beau and force Steve to help dispose of the body. Oh, and also to let Steve know that Fiona is a fun side project, and his top priority is maintaining Estefania’s citizenship. Maybe this is the streak of excitement Fiona’s looking for.
Fiona will have enough on her plate though, now that she’s lost her job doing hazardous material clean-up (a blessing in disguise if ever I saw one) and has taken up Meg’s offer to promote a night at the club. Shameless is at its best when it shows how someone like Fiona is constantly faced with perilous choices. She wants something more for her life, more than wading through knee-deep shit, or any other kind of employment a GED would afford her. But, just as sure as a Frank solo adventure will include some kind of butt play, Fiona will make a financial choice that seems like a good idea at the time, but will prove far more complicated than she expected. I suspect Fiona’s entry into the world of nightlife promotion will leave her bruised, and when the family finds out the money that was intended to pay their property tax bill went into this scheme, the fallout could be massive.
- So…regarding Lip and Ian’s heist of this laser…did no one think to send the cops to their house to find the thing? It was important enough for the security officers to give chase, but then it’s just a clean getaway?
- I’m not speaking to the Kev and Veronica story. Just…not doing it.
- Mickey prefers girl-on-girl porn. How about that?
- Ian: “I sort of have a boyfriend.” Lloyd: “I sort of have a wife.” Um…not to mention a son that is boning Ian’s sister. Too, too, too much.