My biggest complain about “Father Frank, Full Of Grace,” the season one Shameless finale, was that it felt tacked on, since most of the season arcs had been resolved already, and it only seemed to exist to line up the dominoes for season two. (That Jasmine seemed to represent a major component of season two, only to see her stir up a little trouble then vanish completely, bears out the argument that “Father Frank” didn’t do too much to serve the story.) This is definitely not the case with “Fiona, Interrupted,” which ties up the season’s hanging threads, if perhaps a little too neatly at times, and doesn’t lay groundwork for season three so much as it moves all the characters back to their respective starting lines.
As someone who doesn’t cotton to Shameless at its wackiest, it was hard to find fault with the first half of this episode. The Gallaghers deal with the aftermath of Monica’s suicide attempt, and the silver lining of Karen giving birth, which was of course dulled by the revelation that the baby wasn’t Lip’s and that Karen’s contempt for the child she gestated knows no bounds. Everything that followed from the volcanic eruption at the hospital was note-perfect, from Jody and Sheila trying to figure out what they’re going to do with the baby they just stole, to Fiona and Steve cleaning up Monica’s mess, to their attempt to reunite physically, which was cut short by the despondent Debbie and Carl. It’s rare for Shameless to hold a straight face for quite this long, and it was incredibly rewarding to see the show resist flinching with some goofy joke in favor of fully embracing its pathos.
Even Frank and Debbie’s efforts to spring Monica from the mental hospital she’s committed herself to (the first such Gallagher caper we’ve seen in a good while) felt heavier than usual, even when Jill, Monica’s latest convenient lesbian, popped up. To have Frank and Debbie walk in on Monica and Jill (an off-the-hinges Jenna Elfman) was broader than I’d have liked, but I don’t mind this kind of thing as a sparingly used leavening agent. This is especially true when the result of the scheme is so dire—after successfully helping Monica and Jill escape from the hospital, Frank and Debbie are left standing in the middle of the street, bewildered, after Monica says a hasty goodbye to Debbie and the pair speeds off. Monica’s arc provided some of this season’s most substantive stories, but I’m the first to admit that in season three, Shameless will have to invent a new way to shift into high gear that doesn’t involve the itinerant Gallagher matriarch.
Speaking of characters that run the risk of becoming completely unsalvageable, Karen continued her campaign of callous terror after insisting that Sheila and Jody give up her baby. I thought that at some point, the writers would pull Karen back from the brink, or at least give the audience a little insight into why she behaves as unconscionably as she does. But no such luck, as she returns from the hospital and pulls every stunt she can come up with to bully Sheila and Jody into taking the baby to, as she so charmingly puts it, “the retarded freaks home.” After the cops show up to arbitrate, they leave without the baby, and when Karen turns it into an ultimatum, Sheila calls her bluff, sending Karen off to God knows where. I’ll be very curious to see where and how Karen is when Shameless returns from its hiatus, but I can’t imagine an audience revolt if she never comes back. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
The back half of the episode is where its problems start. This has been a great season for Lip, but his refusal to admit that Fiona might have been right to encourage him to finish school and wriggle out of the human bear trap that is Karen Jackson, is pretty irritating. After dealing with Karen’s horrific behavior all season, Fiona was deserving of a full mea culpa. But even though that never came, Lip did finally come to his senses and realize the best place for him was at home, not with the Milkoviches. (Speaking of the Milkoviches, are we to assume the botched armed robbery from last week is water under the bridge? Mandy was pretty pissed off at the time, but she seems to have more than made her peace with it.)
As usual, Jimmy and his relationship with Fiona continued to drag the show in irritating directions. Granted, Jimmy wasn’t nearly as odious as he usually is in this episode, and his emotional sensitivity to Fiona and the rest of the family was absolutely darling. But I still would have loved to see a reconciliation between Fiona and Jimmy in which she really made him atone for his mistakes, rather than treating him like some kind of upper-crust savior. Fiona is a terrific girl, and I don’t totally believe that she would go back to Jimmy based on the notion that no one else would be able to handle the craziness of her life. The issue with the treatment of Jimmy and Fiona’s relationship is that even when Jimmy was in Costa Rica married to another woman, it always felt totally inevitable that the two would eventually reunite. There were very low stakes for any of Jimmy or Fiona’s other dalliances, because it was clear that by season’s end, they would resolve to put it all behind them and continue with a relationship that some viewers still don’t completely understand. (To let the comments tell it, anyway.)
The Gallaghers’ dinner with Jimmy’s family wasn’t particularly illuminating, other than to spell out that Jimmy and his brother Chip can’t stand each other, and that Ned, the Miami-based real estate mogul who was rolling around with Ian last week, is actually Lloyd, a Chicago-based doctor, and Jimmy’s father. This twist was too cute by half, but perhaps the story can be salvaged in season three, as I’d seriously doubt Harry Hamlin signed on for a few brief scenes. And Estefania does what Estefania does best by showing up with bruises on her face, for which Marco is responsible, throwing yet another wrench into Jimmy and Fiona’s plans. (Though, by the way she invited Lip to cuddle with her, it doesn’t seem like Jimmy is chief among her concerns.) She does get to play hero, though, when Frank comes home looking for money and settling for beer, causing him to attack Ian when he tries to take it back. And once again, after a season that went a long way in humanizing Frank, he’s back to square one, passed out outside and out of the family’s good graces.
- There was some discussion in the comments last week about the show’s tendency towards sexual relationships between adults and minors. Ian’s story didn’t bother me last week, but it did bother me this week. Lloyd is really gross, but there’s probably going to be a blossoming relationship with Ian next season, so I should prepare.
- Looks like the show about Sheila and Jody raising the baby is close to becoming somewhat of a reality.
- Sheila on a hiding place for the baby: "How about the attic. Like that movie about the Hebrew girl."
- I had a great time covering this season; thanks for reading!