Fiona Gallagher is really a quite marvelous creation. She’s beautiful, tough, clever, hard-working, loyal, and giving. She makes awful choices sometimes, and her talisman is broken where men are concerned, but she’s charmingly damaged and easy to root for. The world of Shameless is a large one, what with the Gallaghers themselves, their co-conspirators, and their romantic entanglements, so the temptation to turn it into an equal-opportunity ensemble show is an understandable one. But it really clicks together when Fiona is at the center of the universe. Any episode that pushes Fiona to the fore is automatically going to appeal to me, and “Father’s Day” definitely did that, but it also successfully braided together some hanging threads and renewed the interest in some characters and storylines that had started to wane.
Season two has been relatively light on scenes of Fiona doing her best to raise her family. She’s been busy dating and finding cash-filled purses and such, but compared to the fierce mama bear of season one, Fiona has seemed a bit distant lately. In “Father’s Day,” Fiona feels like the nucleus of the family again, and even though she’s as conflicted as ever about having the responsibility thrust upon her, she’s managing the situation as only she can. Even just tiny beats like Fiona prying away the tools Carl and Little Hank are using to drill a peephole onto Double-Bag Bev go a long way toward making the show relatable and appealing. She had a great collection of faux-parental moments in this episode, including the fantastic scene in which Lip fills her in on the Karen situation. “I’m not your mother,” she reminds Lip before smacking him upside his head in a motherly way. Meanwhile, she’s trying to help Debbie navigate puberty; Debbie has taken an interest in the irredeemable Little Hank, which is further proof that she’s taking after her big sister for better and for worse.
But the pressure of her domestic situation is still pushing Fiona to look for ways to escape, if only temporarily, a need that has only become stronger since her relationship with Steve. This week, she accompanied the wealthy and married Richard to a schmancy wedding, after pretending Adam’s address was her own. When he arrives to pick her up, Richard accessorizes her outfit with a pricey necklace. There were echoes of Pretty Woman throughout the whole thread, which lent it a certain sadness and poignancy. This was a different experience than being with Steve, and by design. Fiona’s had a taste of being the southside girl whose poverty and desperation is fetishized by a rich guy. This time, she wants to be someone else, a Princeton grad who lives on Lakeshore Drive. Predictably, the fantasy ends before it really begins when Richard’s douchebag friend accosts her. Richard is understanding though, and they even bond a little on the limousine ride back to her actual address. Perhaps she’ll think back on this when she finally learns the truth about Steve, who at the end of the episode casually reenters the picture looking to talk to Tony. Sometimes, the temptation to be someone else for a little while is too strong to resist.
The rest of “Father’s Day” was held together by the aftermath of Eddie’s body finally washing up. Sheila, who has confined herself to her bedroom after the landing gear incident in last week’s tag, is driven further into the void after hearing the news. True to form, Frank immediately starts trying to scam himself a piece of Eddie’s pension and insurance money. There’s been a lot of debate in the comments on whether it’s okay to laugh at Frank’s horrific behavior, and whether it’s okay that the writers intend for such behavior to be laughed at. Maybe I’m a sicko, but William H. Macy cracked me up playing Frank’s crocodile-teared plea to Sheila to give him the information he needed to fill out Eddie’s paperwork. As I mentioned in last week’s review, I feel confident that the writers understand the need to keep Frank on a leash of some sort with regard to how often he’s successful at doing something terrible, and that has released me to see Frank’s misadventures in the way John Wells and his team intend them to be seen.
All that said, I’m still trying to parse my feelings on the resolution of Frank’s dalliance with Karen. The police track Frank down and arrest him, which he assumes is related to Eddie’s death, which it is, but only tangentially—the butch lesbian detective (this show loves its butch lesbians) is more interested in the infamous Daddyz Girl video. After questioning Karen, the detective releases Frank, after having admitted that she did sort of rape him. I’m confused on how to feel about this, mostly because I never really worked out how I felt about that incident initially. It was technically a rape perpetrated by Karen, but something about Sheila’s willingness to interpret it that way rubbed me the wrong way. Plus it was such a major event, all things considered, that this muffled explosion of a resolution didn’t seem fitting to me. Is Jody seriously never going to punch one of the Gallaghers?
Maybe Jody has too much on his plate, being a newlywed and all, as we found out this week that he and Karen quietly eloped, and plan to raise her baby together. The Lip, Karen, and Jody love triangle has been a slow burn for me. Only in this episode did the stakes of the situation for Lip become clear to me because now there’s a child involved. Before, it was a story of a confused kid who didn’t know how to handle it when his casual sex partner found someone who saw her and treated her as more than that. But now that Lip knows Karen is pregnant, it’s a story of a confused kid who desperately needs to insinuate himself in his child’s life so as not to end up like his father. The scene between Frank and Lip was fantastic too, as Frank’s “neglect is a gift” rationale made far more sense to me than I would have expected, and demonstrates again that as incorrigible as Frank is, he’s still enough of a human being at his core that he has to rationalize his behavior to himself. That’s an objective opinion though, of course, Lip sees his father as a superlative loser and would sooner die than wind up like him.
The smaller stories this week weren’t offensive, but didn’t completely work. I’m still really invested in Debbie’s journey into womanhood, though it drives me crazy that she’s chosen to focus on the irritating Little Hank. I also could have done without Kev and Veronica’s story, which felt incredibly stale, as it was beyond obvious that Kev had a perfectly reasonable explanation for the woman he was visiting. (Though Veronica’s erotic flashcard lesson was a sweet payoff to an otherwise inconsequential story.) The episode was a treasure trove of one-liners though, so kudos to writer Etan Frankel for cramming in so many zingers that even when the story wasn’t quite where I needed it to be, the dialogue always was.
- Etan Frankel is the pen name of the celebrated conceptual artist Nate LeKnarf. Fine, I made that up.
- I’m still completely indifferent to Steve, apparently. His return didn’t feel to me the way I know it was supposed to feel. It was anti-climactic for me.
- Not much Ian this week, save for the fight between him and Lip. Ian’s fury towards his brother didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but kids can be capricious.
- I was happy about Sheila’s progress in curing her agoraphobia, as it meant she was about to be able to affect the story in a more dramatic way. Not sure where the landing gear setback leaves us.
- After Mandy gives Debbie her makeover, Mr. Milkovitch says “Who’s your friend?” Gross. Even Frank sexing Dottie to death was funnier than that.
- Malik got his dad to stab Ethel’s former husband in prison. I predict the second weirdest grounds for a breakup since Dwight euthanized Angela’s cat on The Office.
- Debbie to Lip: “The heart wants what the heart wants. Do I have to explain that to you of all people?”
- “Sheils, even Osama had to come out of his cave sometime.” “And look what happened to him.”
- “If anybody offers you candy, that’s code for crack. Apple Jacks, Crunch ‘n’ Munch, hotcakes, jelly beans, fries, caviar, crackers, dip…all crack.”
- “What does Holly Herkimer have that I don’t?” “Besides HPV?”
- “Just remember, if you’re gonna sit on my face, I have that sinus thing.”