Shameless: "Father Frank, Full Of Grace"
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Shameless: "Father Frank, Full Of Grace"

Just about any television show benefits from binge viewing. There’s an artificial momentum created when watching three- or four-episode mini-marathons of, say, Mad Men or Lost on DVD or on demand. The first season of Shameless is one that I suspect will especially benefit from watching in as few sittings as possible. I’m going to do just that at some point this week, as I think it’ll serve to build an excitement for the second season that failed to appear after watching “Father Frank, Full of Grace.” I’m still impressed by the season as a whole, but this finale left me feeling a little cold.

As I mentioned last week, “Nana Gallagher Had an Affair” felt to me like the completion of a sentence, while “Daddyz Girl” felt like superfluous punctuation. “Father Frank” felt much the same, mostly because it was so focused on elements (the suddenly omnipresent Jasmine, Frank and Karen’s basement romp) that were just introduced. Of course, in the latter case, the sexual tension between Frank and Karen and Lip’s relation to it has been a thread we’ve followed all season. But it shook out in a way that was abrupt, dissatisfying, and too tidy all at once. Too much of the episode was wasted on Eddie finding out about Frank and Karen, then trying to hunt him down. Just last week, Frank shot himself through the hand with a nail gun. We know Eddie is not going to kill Frank. We also know Frank has a fairly high tolerance for pain and can probably take a punch. There wasn’t any legitimate tension or suspense in the pursuit. Weirder still was Eddie’s eventual suicide. It didn’t track for me at all, unless the point was that overreaction to embarrassment runs in the family.

I did really enjoy watching Frank deal with the aftermath of his dalliance with Karen, though, as it bears out what was previously only implied: Frank does have a code of some sort. Throughout the season, there’s been discussion of whether Frank has any redeeming qualities or a hint of a conscience. Now we know he does, and I prefer it this way. I’m sure I’ll be accused of having “American sensibilities” or whatever, but a Frank with some kind of moral compass, however damaged, is better than a Frank with none at all. No one is one way all of the time, and I’d prefer Frank to be a character rather than a cartoon. I also found it interesting why Frank knew what he’d done was so screwed up. Not once did he mention how awful it was to have boned the daughter of his girlfriend, the only person he says is nice to him. It was wrong because Karen was Lip’s girlfriend, and even as much as he’s disappointed his son, Frank felt this particular disappointment was profound. He’s still scummy and totally comfortable with it, but there are lines Frank won’t cross. Or at least, he’ll feel bad about crossing them, which counts for something. Although I didn’t expect Frank to feel so bad he would step into a stream of Lip’s urine, though I found it sort of sweet in some horrible way.

As for Jasmine and what her whole deal is, apparently, we’ll have to wait until season two to find out. As I expected after watching last week, Jasmine continues to insinuate herself into Fiona’s life, much to Veronica’s suspicion and chagrin. Considering how slow to trust Fiona is, I find it interesting that Jasmine could so quickly gain access to the family. Jasmine is, in a way, like the female Steve—mysterious, generous for no good reason, all good-timey, and tightly wound at the same time, with an ulterior motive twinkling in her eyes. It’s too bad for Steve that Jasmine popped up when she did, because when Fiona is given a choice between two people in her life that want to help her because they like her, she ultimately picks the one who doesn’t require anything. Obviously, Jasmine and her creepy husband want something, but no one’s put it on the table yet, so Fiona gets to live inside her secret fantasy in which sometimes people just want to hang out and help and don’t want anything in return. Steve, on the other hand, needs Fiona to change fundamentally. Taking care of the kids is not a responsibility for Fiona; it’s a purpose, a higher calling. That’s why she takes it so seriously and why she can’t fully connect with Steve, who has from day one tried to convince her that the kids are independent and don’t need her as much as she thinks they do. It makes perfect sense that Steve would ask Fiona to accompany him to Costa Rica, but it also demonstrates that he still can’t accept that he’ll never have all of her.

I have to admit, I expected much more of a cliffhanger than Steve getting stood up at the airport. Maybe that's because I never totally got into Steve and Fiona as a couple and because having her jaunt to Costa Rica wouldn't have smelled right. But also, considering how strongly it’s been insinuated that Karen is pregnant, I was surprised to see that go unaddressed. I was also surprised and a bit disappointed to see that Sheila didn’t find out about Frank and Karen’s encounter. While I liked the stuff between Lip and Karen, I’d have rather seen Sheila’s reaction to the affair and how Joan Cusack would play it. And of course, all of this might be coming next season, but somehow, I’d really rather Shameless had arcs that mostly wrapped up at season’s end. We didn’t see any of Ian’s Kash vs. Mickey stuff this week (though his coming out scene with Fiona was great), but I don’t feel like I still want to be watching that story next season. That goes, too, for Kev and Veronica’s emancipated child bride. If Shameless were a network show, I’d have watched this week and last week’s installments and assumed they were result of a last-minute additional episode order. But John Wells and Co. knew they had a dozen episodes to tell their story in, and to use these last two in the way they were used is a bit baffling. Maybe it’ll look better when I watch the season through again.

Stray observations:

  • Frank’s monologue in the bar was terrific.
  • Do you want the unresolved stories from this season to continue into season two?
  • Tony has gotten amazingly unlikeable.

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