This week, Shameless finally delivers on the season’s promises. “Refugees” is a clunky episode marked by awkward dialogue and annoying new alliances, but as the Gallaghers are suddenly flung far and wide across Chicago, the pace picks up to a sprint. A few windows close, and new doors open.
For five-and-a-half seasons, Fiona has wrung herself dry trying to provide for the family while maintaining relationships with men who pine for her affection. The family has been intertwined by drama for years, each stormy tableau threaded together by her steady hand.
Times have changed. Now that Carl, Lip, and Ian are focused on their own situations, most of Fiona’s attention has been directed toward Debbie’s pregnancy dilemma — and that ordeal quickly devolves into a lost cause as Frank expands his slimy influence.
Debbie and Frank
After forcing herself upon a family whose cancer-stricken mother has (bewilderingly) fallen under Frank’s spell, Debbie has a roof over her head. Unfortunately, she moved in with a poor sense of judgment. I’ll just get this rant out of the way now: I find Debbie’s devolution to be very strange. Is she so desperate for love and attention that she must throw herself into oncology clinic bottom-feeding? The answer may be yes, but I can’t see this storyline ending in any way except tragedy. Debbie will realize that Frank is pimping her out for his own domestic comfort, right?
Frank has always known that Debbie has a soft spot for him, and though his weaseling seems characteristic, it’s also unpleasant to watch because we know Debbie is at his mercy. But who knows, maybe she’ll have the kid and come to her senses. With that said, I like Mrs. Wexler’s unexpected quirkiness. It’s reminiscent of Sheila, whom I still miss. Let’s hope for more groupie/Melissa Etheridge affair stories.
The piece of “Refugees” that I appreciated most was Veronica’s reintroduction as a strong, vociferous character. She’s been a consistent background supporter through Fiona’s tribulations, showing up with Adavan and tissues whenever required, but this episode pushes her to the forefront after Kevin decides to earn karma points by taking in literal refugees. V can come off as hardened and bossy, too often an archetype of the stereotypical, snappy black woman. But here, she’s soft and hard in all the right places.
First, she puts Carl in his place after he makes a dick joke. Still playing the hood rat from juvie (even after angelic Dominique tells him it’s unattractive and purposefully ignorant), Carl begins testing the waters of the adult world. He comes on to older women and attempts to buy an apartment … then V makes it clear she’s tired of his “minstrel act.” (Unphased, he ends up coopting her frustration.) Later, we watch V as a caretaker, bathing her five Burmese child soldier refugees, taking special care with the luminescent little girl with a bullet wound in her shoulder. It’s hard to say where this weird aside is going, but for now, it’s a nice diversion from Frank, Debbie, and even Lip’s trials.
After Amanda reveals Helene’s indiscretions, it seems the professor sex debacle is finally winding down. However, I suspect it might motivate some bad decisions in the future. I can’t let go of Helene’s nonchalant suggestion that Lip kill her husband, who shoves Lip off the porch when he shows up to explain the revelation. I don’t think Lip will necessarily attempt murder, but I don’t doubt he’ll make some tipsy late-night mistakes after sentimentally browsing through Klimt paintings. (Could Helene be any more immature? She and her husband are either incredibly stupid, or suspended-by-association within the Gallagher family matrix of magical thinking.) Meanwhile, the gay fire department-curious Ian has found residence in Lip’s dorm, just as we assumed he would.
Fiona and Sean
The most sensitive relationship throughout the Gallagher eviction is the unsteady energy between Fiona and Sean, whose connection seems to be built upon the understanding and acceptance of one another’s flaws. Sean offers his home to Fiona, with the condition that Carl stay elsewhere for the sake of his own young son, Will. Offended and upset, Fiona somehow forgets that her little brother was convicted of drug trafficking, rolls in dirty money, and carries a loaded gun in the presence of their toddler brother. Her defenses come down, though, when Carl and Nick find their own accommodations. (As predicted, Nick’s bike is stolen.) Perhaps a harbinger of good times to come, Fiona and Sean come together with their two boys in a pillow fight that seems almost too sweet to be true.
- Fiona still hasn’t gone through with her abortion. Is this meant to put us on edge, or actually suggest that Fiona might have a child? The latter seems incredibly messy, but messiness is the Shameless way.
- The coffin shopping scene is the only mildly humorous part of Frank’s cancer concierge charade. And because it’s so silly to see two people in a casket, you almost forget he’s hoping she kicks the bucket soon.
- Apparently, Ian is abandoning Mickey. I have a feeling Mickey isn’t gone forever, though. Even a brief appearance could provide closure to what was once the show’s most fraught and meaningful romantic relationship.
- Chuckie is wandering the South Side of Chicago … eh.
- The Alibi Room is empty, but Svetlana perseveres. Bless her Russian heart.