Shameless: “Simple Pleasures"
B+

Shameless: “Simple Pleasures"

B+

Shameless

"Simple Pleasures" 

Season 4, Episode 1

There’s a simple explanation for the durability of the iconic opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities: The best of times and the worst of times almost always overlap. Solutions to old problems come with their own spring-loaded traps, pitfalls of which you can never conceive when your perspective is compromised by adversity. It’s the reason The Notorious B.I.G.—may he rest in peace—didn’t know what they wanted from him, or understand why the more money he came across, the more problems he saw.

Fiona and the Gallagher clan have a lot in common with the late Biggie these days, with everything rosy on paper, while between the lines there’s ambiguity, anxiety, sadness and strife. That made for an interesting season premiere of Shameless, a show known for toddling out of the gate and working its way up to a sprint by season’s end. “Simple Pleasures” had the silhouette of a standard Shameless opener—light on red meat, heavy on context and breadcrumbs—but with so many questions dangling over the show, it felt heavier than a Shameless premiere usually does.

This is about as stable as we’ve seen the Gallaghers in the show’s history, at least where it regards the provision of basic needs. Even Fiona can’t help but crow a little, dropping crisp Lincolns on the terrifyingly adolescent Debbie and Carl with the discretionary income her Worldwide Cup gig has netted her. That’s a big deal. The Fiona Gallagher we’ve seen has been burned far too many times to declare a winning streak prematurely, which is what made her relationship with Jimmy such a tough go. She couldn’t help herself from looking a gift horse in the mouth, and it’s hard to blame her because she’s lost about 2,000 years’ worth of Trojan Wars.

Gallagher Manor has come up in the world, but this is where the rubber meets the road, and the look on Fiona’s face when the sheaf of retirement fund documents hit her desk was classic. Rich people problems are problems all the same—something that Fiona has never understood, hence her difficulty connecting with Jimmy.

Fiona has, again, the best and worst of it though: Now she has rich people’s problems and poor people’s problems. The Gallaghers are doing better, but they’re still below the poverty line. Frank isn’t as much of a distraction now, with his physical health at its low, but he’s still in the house, sucking up resources, waiting for someone to light his fuse. Fiona’s relationship with Mike is going swimmingly, but there’s the whole shitting-where-you-eat thing to worry about, and her lingering feelings for Jimmy. There’s always a catch.

Veronica and Kevin are in a similar situation, as they get the good news that Veronica is improbably pregnant, but only after impregnating Carol in The Threesome That Must Not Be Discussed. But Kevin was grousing about the money Carol’s pregnancy was costing them, so what to do now? Oh, and Stan’s dead, too.

Lip is off at school, surprised to find himself getting poor grades and disappointed, with academics being the only area in which he’s had sustained success. But Lip’s issue has always been his refusal to upshift. He’ll rise to the level of competence and stop, even if he has three-quarters still in the tank. I’m looking forward to seeing if Lip is willing to take the opportunity to be challenged, and while I hate the way Karen went out, I’m glad to know I’ll get a Lip story that doesn’t revolve around whether or not he’s sleeping with her.

“Simple Pleasures” delivers on the title’s promise for those generally enamored of the Gallaghers and their grungy, ribald universe, but it had to be disappointing for viewers who came looking for some answers to the major cliffhangers in “Survival Of The Fittest.” Jimmy is still missing in action a week later, as is Ian, who has since enlisted in the military, unbeknownst to the rest of the family.

I have grown a begrudging appreciation for Fiona and Jimmy’s relationship over the years, even though I’m not quite a Ian and Mickey ‘shipper (but I understand how someone could be). But even as a viewer who wasn’t looking for immediate closure to those stories, the absence of those two characters discombobulated me. Regardless of where you land on those relationships, they give the show most of its emotional underpinning, so there was an odd hollowness about it, despite being a pretty strong premiere by Shameless standards.

At least Ian will certainly pop back up at some point, since Cameron Monaghan is still credited as a regular. Jimmy, though? Yikes. I’m still dubious about a completely off-screen death for Jimmy, and while Justin Chatwin doesn’t get a mention, I’m not ready to accept that means the character is dead.

Revenge omitted Madeleine Stowe’s name from the opening credits of its season two premiere for the sake of misdirection after leaving her character’s fate unknown. I could easily see that happening here. But that’s still Jimmy’s pale butt at the end of the credit sequence, wriggling out of his jeans so he can grab a sink-quickie with Fiona. If Jimmy is dead, I think the producers should superimpose a tombstone over his butt. It’s the tasteful thing to do. 

Stray observations:

  • This was a nifty-looking episode, written and directed by John Wells. I really dug the montage of Fiona and Debbie prettying up. Anyone know the name of that song? Shazam was stumped.

  • I know Debbie is just a television character, but I am experiencing genuine parental anxiety over her adolescence. I don’t like that Eddie kid. I don’t know. There’s just something about him that doesn’t sit right with me.

  • Carl, to Fiona’s request for Bearswear: “I have a ‘Fuck Jay Cutler’ t-shirt but it might have blood on it.”

  • Fiona has had sex with a guy while waiting in line at the Wendy’s drive-thru. Twice. That happened twice.

  • Fiona did not enjoy having sex with Mike. Did I read that right?

  • The Milkovich scions are both heartsick over their respective Gallagher beaus. Though, to be honest, I’m over Mickey at this point.