Tonight’s episode of Shameless is the type of episode I expected to see much earlier in its run, something quieter, a more meditative slice-of-life in which we learned more about the characters’ emotional motivations. And even though “It’s Time to Kill the Turtle” was enjoyable, it felt like an abrupt downshift after so many consecutive weeks of getting-the-gang-back-together capers. Without a fake wedding, a fake aunt, a fake funeral, a fake… something, the episode felt like the show’s engine was stalling a little, and that’s mostly because the writers waited too long to try this kind of script.
Last week, I felt like I was still trying to figure out exactly what Frank’s role is in the family and how each of his children feels about him. After that episode, I gave up my hopes of seeing Frank having to face some serious hostility following the Parents’ Night debacle. But the show sort of ambled back to the fundamental question of what the Gallagher kids expect of Frank and how their relationship with him changes when he delivers something other than what was expected. For most of them, it seems, they know Frank is an asshole drunk and will ultimately bring them nothing but pain, but there is the tiniest fiber of hope that each time he straightens up might be the time that it sticks. And, hell, even if it doesn’t stick, a few days of having a normal father is better than no days at all. When Frank announced he was sober for two weeks as part of a generously compensating medical experiment, Lip was the one most hostile about his sudden reappearance. Which makes sense given Frank showed up to Parents’ Night with his… girlfriend? Booty call? Pre step-sister? Whatever Karen is to Lip.
Under normal circumstances, Fiona would be the one trying to manage everyone’s expectations of Frank, but she had her own fires to put out: a grocery and diaper shortage and no money to fix it and a text message on Steve’s phone that suggests he has a chick on the side. She’s all too willing to let Frank breeze back in and even helps him kill time with a few reindeer games. After a come-to-Jesus talk from Lip, Debbie is ready to return Frank to his original form, because she says it’ll hurt more if they wait the entire two weeks. But I think she just wanted Frank to get back to his usual rhythms as quickly as possible. Regardless of what a person’s normal has become, anything other than normal feels itchy. So I think I finally get it now: Frank is a screw-up, and even when he screws up colossally or in a slightly new way, it’s far more unsettling when he’s reading The Hunger Games aloud and flipping Mickey Mouse pancakes. That explanation helps episodes like “Frank Gallagher: Loving Husband, Devoted Father” go down much more smoothly.
Aside from that, the episode didn’t throw the story forward too far—Ian is still creeping with Mickey and cooling towards Kash, while Lip’s SAT narc is trying to steer him onto a better path. The bombshell though, is Steve’s cushy background. I suspected early on that Steve’s bad boy image might be some kind of trust fund rebellion phase, but I didn’t know that his family was unaware of it. His cardiologist brother thinks he’s in school in Detroit, not stealing cars and hanging around on the wrong side of the tracks. This supports my other initial theory about Steve, that he’s being a tourist in the Gallagher household, which means one day he could tire of it and move on. Considering how much Steve hates Frank, there are some interesting parallels between them.
- Fiona’s interrogation method—the sexual vision exam approach—seemed an effective one.
- I know Mickey is supposed to be scum, but does he literally have to have dark smudges on his face at all times? Jesus, can’t he steal some Cetaphil from the Kash n Grab?
- I didn’t get much about the Kev and Veronica foster home plot. It creeped me out more than a little. There’s just a little too much adult-child sexual contact/innuendo on this show for my comfort.
- I’d like you all to commit to not drinking too. In solidarity. Like schoolchildren when they shave their head for the cancer kid.