Shameless: “Where There’s A Will”
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Shameless: “Where There’s A Will”

B+

Shameless

“Where There’s A Will”

Season 3, Episode 8

Of my responses to this season of Shameless, the most surprising is my evolving take on Jimmy. As odd as it feels to say it, I don’t detest the guy anymore, and I sort of understand where he’s coming from all of a sudden. Judging from the comments on the past few episodes, it seems like I might be in the minority on this, and I recognize that many of Jimmy’s qualities make hating him a completely reasonable conclusion. But the Fiona and Jimmy relationship this season seems all about exploring the doubt and ennui that stem from getting exactly what you thought you wanted, and they are both experiencing that in equal measure. 

Because Shameless is Fiona’s story, it’s natural to side with her and feel like Jimmy is being an ass. (Even Beto says Jimmy doesn’t deserve her.) But I can also understand how Jimmy, who spent the first two seasons of the show insinuating himself into the Gallagher family with brute force, could finally achieve that goal only to wonder if it’s what he really wants, and have only faint memories of why it was so important to him to begin with. “Where There’s A Will” cements the quietly building tension between Fiona and Jimmy in an effective way, suddenly turning the relationship I once found the least interesting aspect of the show into the one I’m most intrigued by.

The Gallagher crisis du jour is about the house, and how to get it in the name of newly appointed guardian Fiona now that Aunt Ginger is officially dead. As usual, there’s a catch: Frank’s cousin Patrick forged his own more recently dated will, and wants to renovate and flip the house even if it means putting the Gallaghers out on the street. So the family goes into firefighting mode, with Lip the Savant absorbing the nuances of probate law, Ian the Pragmatist arranging a Milkovich intervention, Carl the Sociopath pitching a good old-fashioned hit job, and Frank the Slimeball suggesting they accept their fate and snatch the copper pipes on the way out. Making matters worse, neither Fiona nor Jimmy have jobs and are running low on funds.  

That is to say, it’s business as usual at Chateau Gallagher, and Jimmy is starting to wonder if he’s up to it. He agrees to join Fiona at her latest hustle, cleaning up the overflowing septic tank at a slaughterhouse—at this point, it’s safe to assume she’s lucking up on job vacancies left behind by Mike Rowe—but he can’t hack it and runs to the relative safety of a coffeehouse. There, he runs into an old buddy of his from his med-school days and agrees to go out for dinner, resulting in a fratty montage resembling one of those “Well-dressed celebrities enjoy carousing together!” Ciroc commercials. Meanwhile, Fiona is trying to find her siblings a place to live and resigning herself to the fact a former crack den might be as good as it gets if they aren’t able to wrest the house back from Patrick.

Sure, when you contrast their paths this way, Jimmy seems like an unbelievable douchebag who can’t be bothered to be there for his girlfriend when she needs him most. But over time, relationships become mundane, and even Fiona’s disaster-a-minute lifestyle has become a routine that Jimmy has started to tire of now that he’s realizing it’s going to be indefinite. Just like Fiona, when she decided to take up running again in last season’s première, Jimmy is settling into the reality of his situation and has been bitten by the what-if bug.

And as the fallout from the revelation of Lloyd and Ian’s relationship demonstrated, Fiona simply isn’t equipped to attend to Jimmy’s emotional needs. It’s an idea she reiterated this week. “I want normal people problems,” she told him. “Am I getting enough fiber? Why did my friend say that insensitive thing about my weight?” His challenges will never seem as large as hers, and so they still haven’t figured out how to navigate their upstairs/downstairs dynamic, even now that Jimmy has spend a good chunk of time living downstairs.  

Naturally, the Gallaghers land on their feet: After a few botched attempts at warding off Patrick, including an attempted poisoning by Carl, Debbie formulates the winning plan, telling the police Patrick molested her so Fiona can blackmail him into letting them stay in the house. Ain’t it always the way that the simplest ideas take the longest to come to you? But with each family emergency Fiona defuses, she pushes her relationship with Jimmy one step closer to its breaking point, a reality that could leave them in an interesting place by the time the season concludes.

Aside from the strong Fiona and Jimmy stuff, “Where There’s A Will” mostly moves pieces around, and how satisfying that is depends on how invested you are in those pieces. 

Kev and Veronica’s incestuous procreation scheme is, predictably, growing more disastrous as Mama Carol starts getting a bit too attached to Kev, and insisting on a soundtrack and mood-appropriate lighting. (I don’t know that it’s so unreasonable to want to listen to baby-making music while trying to make a baby, but I do see V’s point.) The story’s greatest value is its ability to generate laughs, and most of that value was cashed in two weeks ago. Now that the jaw-slackening visual gag of the mother-daughter sex-Oreo is behind us, there isn’t quite as much there. I will admit, though, that Fiona’s response to V’s request Carol sex up Kev without enjoying it slayed me: “It’s what every daughter wants from her mother.”

The inevitable Lip-Mandy-Karen love triangle gets into full swing this week, as Karen rightly assumes that Lip’s desire to have grudge-sex with her will still trump any of his other priorities, especially as he’s grown tired of his domestic entanglement with Mandy. It’s tragic to watch Lip consciously walk back into Karen’s bullshit, for him to be fully aware she’s manipulating him and allow it anyway. At least Sheila has the excuse that Karen is her wretched kid, so even when Karen does awful things like call Timmy Wong’s mom to come take Hymie away, there’s not much she can do. Lip, on the other hand, could finally pull away from Karen if he wanted, especially now that he’s knows that she hasn’t changed any since the last time he’s seen her. That would be off-brand though, as Shameless is a show all about the relationships people maintain even as its clear those relationships are dysfunctional and corrosive.

Stray observations:

  • As tends to be the case, Frank finds a new mark right before the buzzer, this time in the form of Christopher, a clingy taxidermist who pretends to be an addict to meet people. This oughta be fun.
  • I hope the plan isn’t to reinstall Karen as a regular. I don’t have the energy. 
  • I found the “Retard Nation” story irritating because I didn’t find it funny. Shameless can get away with a whole lot when it can back it up with laughs, but they weren’t there for me.
  • Debbie, on the outcome of the will: “I was molested! It all worked out!”
  • I’ve never watched the original Shameless, but if I’m not mistaken, Carl’s prominence grew tremendously over the course of that show’s run. I could imagine the same thing happening if Shameless U.S. was to run as long, given how his inclination towards chaos best reflects the show’s tone. 
  • As much as I complain sometimes about this show’s over-reliance on shock value, it does afford me the opportunity to type phrases like “mother-daughter sex-Oreo.” I feel good knowing that this review will likely pop up first anytime anyone does a Google search for “mother-daughter sex-Oreo.”

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