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It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way

The cast of Shameless
The cast of Shameless
Photo: Paul Sarkis/Showtime
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The opening scene of the Shameless series finale has the entire Gallagher family gathered around a barely alive Frank on the living room couch. As he lies on the verge of death following a heroin overdose, the family matter-of-factly assesses the situation. Liam reveals it may have been a suicide attempt due to his dementia-related depression. The older kids reminisce about the numerous times this has happened before. Carl asks if there’s any coffee. Frank may be on the verge of shuffling off this mortal coil, but none of his children can entirely decide if this is a significant moment or just another day in the life of being a Gallagher.

As this scene unfolded, I wondered if John Wells is self-aware enough to realize that he created a metaphor for the end of his television show. In his dementia-riddled state, Frank is the embodiment of Shameless: constantly forgetting what’s happened in the past, incapable of coherently explaining his present, and unable to grasp social cues that he’s overstayed his welcome in our space. And we, the audience, are the rest of the Gallaghers: we know deep down that we should care about a show we’ve been watching for a decade ending, but we can’t seem to muster that emotion given the state of the show’s storytelling, and our instinct is to just go about our day.

But by the time I reached the end of “Father Frank, Full Of Grace,” I realized that I was misreading the metaphor. Sure, it’s safe to say that the remaining audience for Shameless carries a significant amount of ambivalence toward this show after it fell off a cliff creatively in recent years, but the show’s fans are passionate about that ambivalence. While not all viewers embody the extremes of love and hate embodied by the Gallavich fans, the soap opera DNA of the show is built to invest us in these characters even as the sitcom antics of more recent seasons pushed us away. Without suggesting I am representative of the average viewer of the show, I watched this finale with all the tension of desperately wanting the show to tap into what it once was, co-existing with my building frustration with the show it has become. It’s an emotional cocktail none of the show’s characters embody in that opening scene.

When the credits rolled on Shameless’ final moments, though, I realized that in this metaphor the Gallagher children aren’t the audience: they’re the writers. Because in the end, the failures of this series finale stem from the fact that when Shameless reached its final breath, it was John Wells and the rest of the writers room who seemingly couldn’t make up their minds if they were invested in the show coming to an end. It was ultimately the writers who, faced with the task of bringing 11 seasons of television to a close, delivered a series finale that doesn’t just poorly memorialize the show it once was, but even manages to dismiss the gestures to closure they developed in this final season.

And while I’ve known for a while now that my investment in Shameless and its characters was not the same as Wells and his writers, I naively wasn’t prepared for a finale that suggested I was this much more emotionally invested in these characters than the people responsible for making it.

“Father Frank, Full Of Grace”—which shares a title with the first season finale, and I’m 50/50 on whether that was on purpose or Wells just forgot he already used it—commits to the one story development that has been clear throughout Shameless’ final season: Frank Gallagher is dead. He doesn’t die of his heroin overdose, as it turns out: instead, he ends up wandering the streets of Chicago disoriented and alone, and when he’s eventually brought to the hospital by a priest he’s diagnosed with COVID. With Frank sporting his shiny new “Do Not Resuscitate” tattoo, the hospital doesn’t rush to save him, and when his “frequent flyer” hospital file proves too impenetrable for the emergency room staff to find emergency contact information, Frank eventually dies, alone, while his family goes on with their life.

If you’re wondering if this was a fitting end for Frank Gallagher, you’re asking the wrong question, much as Shameless is focusing on the wrong story. I understand the instincts behind Frank’s death serving as a bookend for the show, but as I said when Frank’s voiceover returned in the season premiere, the idea that Frank is the center of this show is toxic, and has been for nearly its entire run. The notion that the show’s characters should ever be viewed through his lens ignores how absent he has been in their lives, and more importantly how that absence has gone from a story point—explaining the family’s estrangement with him—to a meta-commentary on the show’s decision to send Frank off on wacky adventures that rarely connect with the rest of the family. Frank dying alone is the most thematically successful part of this finale, but it’s also utterly meaningless given how much of a drain Frank has been on the show for at least half of its run, and thus it doesn’t matter if it was a fitting end. A fitting end for Frank does not move Shameless any closer to delivering a satisfying conclusion.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

This creates an uphill battle for the rest of this finale, then, given that Wells has no desire to offer resolution for any other story. Wells has said for years that he believed Shameless could run forever, because there would always be stories about poor people struggling to get by in the South Side of Chicago. He’s not wrong that the reality of these characters and their ages meant that their story was never going to “end” with a finale, barring an effort to go full Six Feet Under and flash forward far into the future. And so I honestly understand why there would be an instinct to almost “freeze frame” the Gallaghers in an average day as opposed to delivering a giant climax: Mickey’s surprise anniversary party for Ian is an excuse to bring all the characters together in one place and celebrate in a spirit befitting a finale, but the episode otherwise resists the convergence of other narrative threads introduced throughout the season and throughout this finale.

The problem with this approach is that while it works in the abstract, in practice it is absolutely infuriating for two key reasons. First, to deliver this type of “day in the life” finale, you need to actually resolve the stories that generated conflict in the season that preceded it. In retrospect, I think the writers believed that this was last week’s episode, when Lip’s attempt to sell the house failed. But despite the penultimate episode ending with Lip frantically trying to find someone to talk to, there’s no fallout: Debbie’s a dick about it as the family grabs breakfast, but there’s no emotional breakdown of what the family has gone through, or what it means for their future. A neighbor eventually appears out of thin air to offer to buy the place for a fraction of what Lip could have sold it for, but Lip only tells Ian about it, and the rest of the family never gets a chance to weigh in. The pending house sale was tearing this family apart two episodes ago: Lip was on the verge of relapsing further after his life turned upside down, Debbie was anxious about being on her own, Liam thought he was being abandoned, and Mickey was literally fighting Lip over being forced to move. But suddenly, because Wells wants to freeze frame their lives, all of that just stops without resolution, wasting any opportunity for it to say something meaningful about these characters and their journeys.

The second problem is that the audience is not just left hanging about the sale of the Gallagher house. Wells doesn’t just stop Shameless during a normal “day in the life,” but instead throws out a grab bag of possible futures for each of them that he has no interest in resolving. It’s one thing for there to be one big, unanswered question: there is power in possibility, and in the audience pondering over what direction they think a character will take on the next stage of their journey. But this finale is chock full of indecision, and none of it is remotely interesting enough to justify the weight of the cumulative absence of resolution. Kevin and Veronica are definitely still moving to Louisville, but do they want to sell the Alibi to a developer when it still means so much to them? Maybe Carl and his former partner (Joshua Malina) will buy it and turn it into a cop bar? Will Debbie stay in Chicago, or will she run off to Texas so her daughter can be an accessory to even more crimes with the psychotic ex-con that held them at gunpoint? I don’t care about the answer to any of these questions, but I do care that the lack of an answer means that none of these character arcs get a proper conclusion.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

In every case, bread crumbs from previous episodes this season that I instinctively understood to be building to a significant moment of character development were, in retrospect, supposed to be character development. And with Kevin and Veronica, Carl, and Debbie, this mostly just reaffirms that has been clear for multiple seasons: these characters are dead weight. The writers lost track of how to tell stories about the Alibi that connected with the rest of the show, and Kevin and Veronica suffered as a result. Carl’s shift into adult storytelling was never managed successfully (to the point they had cadets murder his terrible girlfriend offscreen instead of figuring out another way to transition to a new story), and his sudden turn into “A Cop, but Robin Hood” is complete nonsense. And since I’ve written some version of it in every review for the past two seasons, I will simply say that Debbie Gallagher is an awful person, and to have her place her daughter in immense danger because she’s horny for a criminal is in many ways a perfect distillation of the character, if not the comeuppance I would have preferred. I wanted the show to try to do something to convince me that I was missing something with these characters, but I wasn’t exactly crushed when they didn’t: it’s been clear for a while that whatever resonance this finale was going to have, these characters weren’t going to be a part of it.

Ian and Mickey represent the opposite side of this coin. Even if the finale didn’t revolve around Mickey’s surprise anniversary party, it is easier for us to leave Ian and Mickey in a form of stasis because the show treated their wedding at the end of last season as a “happily ever after,” the culmination of a lengthy and frankly messy as hell journey from the beginning of the show. While the show struggled with how to tap into most characters’ history in later seasons, “Gallavich” was the one anchor that—at least broadly—connected the show as it was to where things began. No matter what twists and turns their story took, it was always grounded in the story of a closeted teen and his bully on a journey of shared self-discovery, and the show has leaned heavily on that well of long-term storytelling in recent years as they do with the anniversary party. How can someone complain about the show’s lack of long-term storytelling when Ian and Mickey are happy and in love and celebrating their anniversary surrounded by loved ones in the same space where Mickey finally came out back in season four?

Allow me to demonstrate: we can complain because unfortunately for Shameless, they had absolutely no idea how to tell stories about Ian and Mickey as a married couple in the period between that “happily ever after” wedding and this heartwarming anniversary party. Nothing about their stories this season makes a lick of sense. The show rattled off a collection of uninteresting “married couple problems” throughout the season, but each one felt less and less connected to the characters’ histories. They were coming into conflict over things they had apparently never discussed before, as though the period after their wedding was just spent making whoopie and...that’s it, really. Despite their wedding carrying the weight of their journey, once they were married that history effectively disappeared. They could still count on a basic level of emotional buy-in from the audience, but the writers struggled to generate above the bare minimum, when they had ample opportunity to leverage and expand on the narrative capital on offer.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

And this brings us to the big “unresolved” issue that this finale introduces for Ian and Mickey, as they start sorting through Kevin and Veronica’s yard sale items and Ian becomes fixated on a crib. Ian thinks they should take it. Mickey is confused why he would want to do that. Ian admits that he wants a baby. Mickey has apparently never realized this. Somehow, after a year of marriage, this is something that just never came up. The show doesn’t even offer an explanation—like COVID, for example—to try to explain why this is. They have time to stage an absolutely pointless political conflict with a Trump supporter at the furniture rental store that makes absolutely no sense coming from Ian, but they don’t have time to try to offer some explanation for why this baby conversation never happened in the previous year of marriage? But as Mickey rejects the idea and starts to get emotional, I warmed to the idea that this was a way for them to acknowledge their complicated history, and was willing to accept this contrivance if it allowed them to touch on the fact that Mickey already has a son, as a result of the trauma of his father forcing him to impregnate Svetlana.

So you can imagine my surprise when an emotional Mickey instead sputters something inane about his father beating him and unresolved daddy issues. There were lots of moments in this finale that I thought were bad, and poorly thought out, but nothing made me angrier than the script having the memory of a goldfish, unable or unwilling to allow Mickey’s hesitation to become a father to connect to anything that didn’t happen a handful of episodes ago. It’s not something that has to come up all the time: it was traumatic for Mickey, and it makes sense that he might not want to relive it all the time. But to introduce this story and ignore that he already has a son, and that Ian helped co-parent that son, and that Ian once kidnapped that son and took him on a joyride while he was in a manic phase of his bipolar disorder? It’s insulting to anyone who has even half-paid attention to the show, and knows when something is being ignored for no good reason (unlike some other omissions which we’ll get to). Also note that the show doesn’t bother to have Ian explain why he wants to be a parent given his own complicated family history: he just “wants a baby,” because he saw a crib, because the writers have so little imagination that “well, after a wedding comes a baby” was their only instinct on how to gesture to their future as a couple. It’s an embarrassing display of the fundamental disregard the show has for its own past, and for the audience whose investment in that past has defined their relationship with the show.

It’s a reminder that the soap opera and the sitcom are not compatible genres: both feature sensational storytelling, but whereas a soap opera wears its messy history as a badge of honor, sitcoms are more likely to just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. My reviews over the past few years have documented my frustration with this, but this moment with Ian and Mickey was the point it boiled over. And naturally, that frustration carried over into the episode’s other storyline I actually cared about, which was the future offered for Phillip Gallagher. As last week’s review documented, I knew that he was not going to get an ending worthy of the character’s potential, but this is another case where Wells’ insistence on gesturing to a potential future does more harm than good. After failing to sell the house, Lip resigns himself to entering the gig economy, borrowing a motorcycle and schlepping food to hipsters for an Uber Eats stand-in. And as he delivers food, he starts to see pieces of his former life: a tech start-up not unlike the ones he did work for while he was in college, and a day trader bro with software problems and a $4000 deal on the line that Lip clears up no problem. But all he gets for his help is a 10% tip, a reminder that he’s just the delivery guy, and there’s no place for him in this enormous historic home with a fancy car out front.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

And yet despite seeing these glimpses of a life he left behind, the finale suggests that this inspires no self-reflection from Lip. After years of completely ignoring that he was once a genius headed for a brighter future until alcoholism derailed him, Shameless finally comes back to it and all we get is Lip graffiting the guy’s car? He doesn’t even think for a second that his skills at intuitively understanding a stock trading program could be marketable? There isn’t even a brief moment where he wonders if there would be some way to salvage his past college credits? Much as Lip seems weirdly okay with the deal for the house falling through, seemingly having given up on trying to renovate it, his brief glimpse of an alternate life mostly resigns himself to the idea that he has different priorities now. And just in case we didn’t understand this, the show has Tami decide she’s pregnant again, raising a host of questions about birth control and fiscal responsibility that I doubt Wells even considered. Instead, he just threw another baby into the mix to make it easier to swallow that a lobotomized Lip has effectively given up on the upward mobility that so defined his earlier years, with the added bonus of implying that maybe Ian and Mickey could raise the baby.

As I wrote last week, it’s fine that Lip didn’t escape the South Side, but the character’s motivations have been wildly unclear, and thus the consequences of his failure make no sense. Indeed, of all the show’s characters, I feel like Wells’ finale is most confused about who Lip was, both as a person and in his relationship with other characters. It’s nice that Lip and Ian get a moment alone at the party—we don’t get the same for any of the other characters—to reflect on their sibling bond, but the overall theme of their scene bugged me. Beyond the fact that Lip is apparently now willing to sell the house for $75,000 in a rapidly gentrifying market, my biggest issue is when Ian explains that everyone is ceding the decision making to Lip because he’s “the closest thing to a father we ever had.”

It’s an idea that seems like an acceptably earnest observation for a series finale until you think about it for two seconds, at which point it collapses. Although all of the elder Gallaghers took on the responsibility of caring for and looking after their younger siblings, to frame this as paternal doesn’t actually have much evidence to support it. Lip was in many ways trapped: he was too young to be a father figure to Carl, Debbie, and Liam, but he was also too old to be their peer. His relationship with Ian, however, was never paternal: he was always just his big brother, which is itself an important role, and not one that needs to be reframed through parentage simply because the show is ending and Wells wants to make this all about Frank when it’s really not. And while more recently Lip has taken on a more paternal role with Liam, that was primarily because of becoming a father himself, and for Ian to be the one making this observation instead of Liam makes negative sense. Wells seems to realize that Lip is the lynchpin of this family at this point, but the finale fails to present a clear understanding of how or why this is the case, and again fails to recognize the messiness that underlies his place of responsibility within the family.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

But whereas some of the choices in “Father Frank, Full Of Grace” defy reason, it’s actually pretty obvious why Wells is insistent that Lip is a father figure for his siblings: it’s because he believes the show is about how their lives are defined by their absent parents, and the actual surrogate parental figure left the show two seasons ago. It is indeed time for us to address the issue of Fiona Gallagher, and it’s important upfront to acknowledge that this is one problem that may have been out of the show’s control. Yes, Wells and the writers are responsible for writing Fiona into a hole too many times, and driving Rossum to quit abruptly at the end of the ninth season without giving them time to build a proper exit ramp. And it’s on them that they chose to write the character off so completely that, beyond a phone call when Fred was born, the characters neither speak to nor mention Fiona outside of the non-canonical “Hall Of Shame” special where they are inexplicably recording testimonials for her appearance on a reality TV dating show. This “out of sight, out of mind” approach to the former lead of the show is not without precedent—The Office did similarly with Steve Carell—but this is a family drama, not a workplace sitcom. And heck, even The Office brought Michael back for Dwight’s wedding, while Fiona didn’t even send a goddamn card to Ian and Mickey’s. Her complete erasure never made sense, and it was always going to create a burden for a finale that would, inevitably, have to address Fiona in one way or another if it was to try to bring the show full circle.

What we don’t know—although I imagine the postmortems that are now online when you’re reading this will have some insight—is whether we would have gotten a return from Fiona if not for COVID-19. Before the pandemic, it seems feasible to think that between the show’s need for closure and Rossum’s seemingly genuine affection for her castmates (at least as far as her social feeds are concerned), they could have made it work. But with the pandemic in place, bringing someone in for a quick cameo is next to impossible, especially when that person is starring in and producing her own show in its own production bubble. And so the ideal scenario—Fiona showing up at the anniversary party since she couldn’t be at the wedding—was realistically taken off the table, and I’m willing to acknowledge that this may be one of many instances in which the insane world we’re living in compromised the story they wanted to tell (which is, honestly, why I couldn’t in good conscience give this an “F” that I know some of you were rooting for).

However, the pandemic is not an excuse for continuing to erase Fiona from the narrative even as she appears frequently in Frank’s walk through memory lane leading up to his death. He stops by Patsy’s in search of Fiona as he stumbles through the streets after waking up from his overdose, and he mistakes the Emergency Room nurse for Fiona as he begins to lose consciousness. And in his flashbacks to moments of family togetherness in the Gallagher house, we see Fiona alongside her siblings, and for a moment the truth about this family dynamic is restored. But despite this, Fiona’s name was never brought up in the conversations about selling a house that we have every reason to believe is under her name, or in the questions around Liam’s guardianship. To the bitter end, even when it made no sense, the show pretended that Fiona was completely off the grid in order to paper over the fact that Rossum had left. To be honest, I wasn’t completely convinced this was an act of spite before this finale, but then Fiona was left out of Frank’s suicide note voiceover that brings the episode to a close. In the end, it’s hard not to see this as an act of disrespect toward Fiona, Rossum, and audiences who cared about the nine seasons of the show she anchored.

The final moments of Shameless are told from Frank’s perspective, as his ghost walks through the Gallagher home, watches over his family in the Alibi, and then floats up into the Chicago skyline while his family watches a car burn just like they did at the end of the series’ pilot. And while I’ll save some of my more specific objections for the stray observations, the core problem is that this ending pretends Shameless is the same show it was ten years ago despite the fact that the whole problem of recent reasons was their inability to recapture the essence of that show. Shameless was always going to struggle to evolve: they were lucky to get as far with Rossum as they did, frankly, and while the show never fully solved how to tell stories for the aging siblings the fact they managed to get through eleven seasons growing alongside them is a considerable achievement. There’s no question that the alternate timeline where Warner Bros. doesn’t sell the streaming rights to Netflix, the ratings don’t stabilize, and the show ends three seasons earlier while Rossum is still part of the cast would have resulted in a better ending, but it’s possible many of you reading this were first exposed to the show due to Netflix, and wouldn’t have a lifelong connection to some of these characters if not for that. I’ve never been one to suggest that a bad finale erases the good of the show that came before it, and not even this ineffectual nothingburger of a finale changes that.

Image for article titled It’s a real shame Shameless went out this way
Photo: Showtime (Paul Sarkis)

However, it also demonstrates that even when a show spends three seasons doing everything in its power to convince you it’s a shell of its former self, it’s still impossible to go into a series finale without believing that the spark can be recaptured. Even though I knew it was entirely unlikely that Rossum had been able to return, I still held out hope that maybe they would find a way to acknowledge Fiona’s importance to the show. Despite knowing full well that there wouldn’t be enough time for Lip’s story to reach a meaningful inflection point, I had not given up on the idea that maybe we’d flash forward to a vision of a life where Lip had remembered the promise he once held. And although I knew that the Gallavich fans had fully come to terms with the happy ending offered last season and seemed to see this season’s meandering journey as a disposable epilogue with a few GIF-able highlights, I still wanted to believe that Shameless would be willing to honor the complexity of their connection rather than simply resorting to cheaper forms of (not unwelcome) fan service.

Obviously, that didn’t turn out well for me. However, I want to emphasize that Shameless didn’t have to be exactly what I wanted it to be. I may have had some ideas of how I imagined a finale to this show would function, accumulated over a decade of watching and writing about the show, but I was open to anything that felt like it captured the spirit of Shameless at its finest. But over the past five years and six seasons, I’ve tried to articulate why the show’s approach to telling this story stopped working, and the truth is that “Father Frank, Full Of Grace” makes my argument for me. It embodies all of the problems—the lack of history, the inconsistent tones, Debbie being terrible—that plagued the show in the last half of its run, a microcosm of the “sitcom” John Wells was dead set on making all along. It demonstrates no awareness of these problems, but rather embraces them as apparent strengths, and acts as though the audience is so invested in this world and its characters that it requires no closure or character development to bring this decade-long relationship to a close.

In past headlines, I’ve insisted that both Fiona and Lip Gallagher “deserved better,” but what this finale proved is that in the end it was the Shameless fans—day one fans, Gallavich fans, Netflix fans, even the incomprehensible Debbie fans—who deserved better than this. And hopefully, unlike John Wells, those fans will be able to hold onto their memory of better times, and let that be how Shameless sits with them in the years to come.

Stray observations

  • I was already absolutely livid at the idea Heidi was just hanging around throughout this entire episode, but then I realized that in the callback to the pilot she is supposed to be standing in for JimmySteve and I am so deeply offended on behalf of JimmySteve and Justin Chatwin that I honestly can’t keep writing about it without losing my mind. I’m interested in hearing a defense for some of the choices in these final episodes, but I simply will not entertain a single justification for this utter nonsense. Let us never speak of her again.
  • One choice I’d love to hear a defense of: reintroducing Carl’s condom-allergic hookup looking roughly eight months pregnant in the previous episode and then not even mentioning her in this finale.
  • Speaking of pregnancies, much as with Fiona’s pregnancy and subsequent abortion earlier in the series, TV shows never want to acknowledge the practical realities of birth control when they’re dead set on introducing a pregnancy into a story. At a time when money is tight, and in the midst of a global pandemic, what precisely caused this lapse, presuming they were not trying to get pregnant? We saw them have sex only once, and it was spontaneous enough that maybe they didn’t use a condom, but is she not on birth control? Wells has no desire in addressing those realities, which isn’t a new problem, clearly.
  • Speaking of not addressing those realities, was I the only person who was less concerned about Frank dying and more concerned that his COVID diagnosis meant that the entire family had been exposed to him in the previous days, and should probably not all be gathering in close contact indoors?
  • Not to speak of Debbie any more than we have to, but I was struck by how despite the fact that Ian is the one with a bipolar diagnosis, Frank suggests that it is Debbie who reminds him of Monica in his suicide note. It made me wonder if Wells was gesturing to the idea that some form of chemical imbalance could explain away Debbie taking her daughter along to help a woman who introduced herself by holding her hostage complete an errand. Anyone else get that impression?
  • I wondered what the cast photo we used for the feature image on this review came from, and turns out it was the final “Previously on Shameless.” A nice final button on what was a cute gimmick that I imagine a lot of people who binged the show ended up skipping on Netflix (presuming that auto-play jumps over it).
  • Speaking of gimmicks, I don’t know what convinced them that “Frank’s body is so booze-soaked it explodes in the incinerator at the crematorium” was the best note to leave on, but it was a reminder that the mid-credit scenes were very hit and miss over the show’s run.
  • Remember how last week Carl was literally doing a TikTok challenge in the street, but this week he slanders “TikTok hipsters?” I know we’re in a global pandemic, but I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for some basic script supervision.
  • Tami has spent much of the season adamant that Lip do what was best for their family and sacrifice his own desires, but suddenly here she doesn’t care at all where they live, and it’s entirely up to him? So everything about her personality was dictated by the needs of Lip’s story, and it changed on a dime once she no longer needed to be a source of conflict? Kate Miner did the best she could, but the show never figured out how to flesh out Tami, and it showed this season in particular.
  • Shameless loves to live in a world out-of-time, but John Wells just couldn’t help himself here: if this is March 2021, which that terrible “stop the steal” scene establishes, then Ian and Mickey were technically married in March of 2020 in the middle of COVID lockdowns, which means in Shameless’ alternate universe COVID arrived later, a decision I presume was designed as an attack on me personally and y’know what? Fair. I might even deserve that.
  • I sure hope Ennio Morricone’s estate is able to do some good with the money they got for having his music debased by being associated with “Carl the Parking Cop.” Remember when this story was supposed to be a commentary on police violence, and now the Alibi is going to become a cop bar? Cool cool cool.
  • Although he directed many of the show’s finales, Wells in fact gives up the director’s chair here in favor of Christopher Chulack, who returns to the show for the first time since 2016.
  • Although they weren’t important enough to merit a full goodbye scene, I thought the moment where Kermit tries to get Tommy to dance was at least a nice final grace note for the Alibi bar flies.
  • “YOU HAVE A CHILD. HIS NAME IS YEVGENY”—I did *not* receive a text from my downstairs neighbors asking who I was yelling at, so they must have been asleep.
  • I often wish that I were present when key decisions in the creative process of television production are made, both to better understand specific choices and to help explain the inner workings of the industry to my students. But I don’t know if there’s a situation where I’ve felt this more strongly than the decision to have the entire Gallagher family and attendees at Ian and Mickey’s anniversary party spontaneously break into an a capella rendition of Spoon’s (excellent) “The Way We Get By” as though it is some kind of South Side sing-along anthem. Please, someone help it make sense.
  • Here’s one thing that makes sense, though: despite the mounting evidence of my descent into madness, I’m nonetheless going to miss writing about this show. This is the fourth series finale that I’ve written about for The A.V. Club, and each time I’ve been acutely aware of the immense privilege of being able to work through my experience with long-running shows alongside a passionate audience of people coming to a site like this one in search of a conversation that goes beyond what one liked or didn’t like. I didn’t realize when I agreed to take over from Joshua Alston five years ago that this journey would be as long and arduous as it turned out to be, but I also had no idea how much these reviews could come to resonate with the increasingly complex groups of fans and anti-fans Shameless has garnered over the years. I know these reviews have likely had their own anti-fans for their granular breakdowns of genre and narrative in lieu of taking the show and its story at face value, but I’ve focused on solving the “puzzle” of the show’s struggles because that’s what I would want as a viewer wrestling with disappointment over a show’s decline. And I’ve been immensely gratified by how those who have kept reading have responded to these reviews, and the idea that these reviews were a part of your journey with the show is a tremendous gift to a critic like myself. And while Frank’s parting words worked to try to frame his family in his own terms, I want to use my final words to say that above all else, I hope you’ve come to terms with your personal relationship to Shameless as it finally reaches its conclusion, and if I played even a small part in that it is an honor I do not take lightly. Thank you all for reading—and yes, even those of you who would defend Debbie. This is no time for grudges.