The arc of a Shameless season is not traditional. Rarely do we get cliffhangers, quick builds, or totally unexpected twists. This is partly because it’s all relative. The show is so ridiculous that what might seem absurd in another world is totally fair game in the land of the Gallaghers. But also, it’s good at planting breadcrumbs that lead us toward the next episode. “A Yurt of One’s Own” is a great example of this progressive build, each family member’s path blossoming or decaying with the strange ebb and flow of Shameless’s quirky rhythms.
Frank, Debbie, and Queenie
The last few episodes have brought Debbie and Queenie closer together, and “A Yurt of One’s Own” solidifies their union as family. It’s also brought their storyline to the forefront of the waning season. Debbie has always craved someone who would take care of her and show her how to move forward in the world — and Queenie, in all her patchouli-scented optimism, is Debbie’s beacon of hope. As the two escape to Soaring Consciousness, Frank swings himself into the van, narrowly escaping from the coke dealers he screwed over last episode.
Upon arrival, Debbie is treated like a pregnant queen, gifted her own yurt (emptied of masculine energy), and taught about the almighty orgasm. Queenie, who just wants everyone to come, drops some knowledge about just how important a good pre-sleep climax can be, and within a few minutes, Debbie discovers the piece of her sexuality that she’d been lacking — pleasure. Her initial horror at the commune lifestyle quickly transforms into acceptance, and soon, she’s chanting and exchanging namastes like a yogi. Recognizing Frank for the leech that he is, Debbie sloughs him off to maintain the feminine balance of her yurt. (Which, we must remember, is temporary. No doubt reality will set in once she’s required to live like the common, un-pregnant folk.)
But commune living is all too much for Frank. Though he’s happy to pee on himself when it suits his own purposes, he’s is horrified at the amount of feces and shared labor he’s expected to handle for the good of the group. After a day digging in compost and generating electricity, he’s ready to leave Soaring Consciousness — and Queenie with it. Especially once he discovers that Queenie is pledged to a geriatric orgy appointment each evening. Ever-committed to keeping Frank happy, she reveals that shoveling shit is necessary to enlightenment; the commune is cultivating a sea of poppy plants in order to turn a profit on some opium, acquire a patch of land in Kauai, and create an island oasis of their own.
Dollar signs flash in Frank’s eyes, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that ruin will soon befall this stinky band of hippies.
Fiona and Sean
Also back in the limelight are Fiona and Sean, whose relationship teeters in the balance after Sean’s son, Will, discovers Carl’s gun. Fiona, understanding the gravity of Sean’s anger and fear, tries to mitigate the damage, but to no avail. This transgression is too much, even for Sean. Though she doesn’t often express it, Fiona is self-aware enough to know that she is a difficult partner — more often than not awash in a sea of relationship issues and family obligations. She knows that it’s not normal, and she allows Sean to take his space, ending things tearily. But not before reminding him that she too accepted that he is a difficult, troubled partner.
In the midst of their trials, Gus shows up again, cordially requesting an amicable divorce. Fiona is willing to play ball, but there’s a catch: Gus’s engagement ring is still at the pawnshop and the price has increased three-fold. In a whirlwind of legalese, she employs a billboard lawyer (fantastically played by Oscar Nuñez) and leverages her position to deflect from the ring. While the lawyers argue, Sean shows up at Gus’s fancy law firm, ring in hand, and proposes to Fiona. Much public kissing ensues.
The back-and-forth tension of Fiona and Sean’s relationship is substantial. Dermot Mulroney’s rugged and somber Sean is an edgy foil to high-strung Fiona, and the two are well-suited to understand each other’s deep wounds and flaws. So well-suited, it seems, that they can get over themselves for just long enough to see that they should move forward before diving back into another hurricane of drugs, guns, and sex. I fully believed their breakup was imminent, but in the way only Shameless knows how, the misguided choices continue. And we, its shameless fans, would have it no other way.
Headed toward his own collegiate kind of meltdown, Lip is deep into the boozy blues. Unfortunately, those blues have taken a turn toward pure self-destruction; Lip chugs alcohol at every chance he gets. The girls and nights have begun to run together, and — after a particularly nasty sorority bash — he ends up in the hospital with acute alcohol poisoning. In denial about his brush with death, he spurns the girl who called 9-1-1 on his behalf.
At this point, it’s quite easy to see how Lip could spiral Frank-like into addiction, plagued by the cocktail of his own sentimentality and intelligence. What could draw Lip back to the straight and narrow? Ian? Carl? Fiona? One might think waking up to that $2,000 hospital bill would be rock bottom, but Lip doesn’t see a bottom in sight. I hope someone finds him before the bottom does.
Shameless is not afraid to reintroduce the past, even if it seems like a non sequitur. In this case, Ian gets a call from Mandy, whom you may remember as Lip’s ex-girlfriend, Mickey’s sister, and Ian’s one-time beard. She’s locked in a Chicago hotel room, hopped up on crank, and begging Ian to come help her remove a dead body from an escort date gone wrong. Blonder, skinnier, and still very sad, Mandy struggles to reconcile her past with her future, having taken up sex work, while glimpsing what a normal life could have been through experiences with clients that “are like boyfriends.” But when things go wrong, she regresses to her old impulses instead of doing the right thing (i.e. calling the cops). With Ian’s help, she is able to see reason, then they share a strange few hours reminding one another that their upbringing doesn’t need to dictate their futures.
What does Mandy’s reappearance signal? For me, she has always felt like a doomed character, and this weird, somewhat forced scenario strengthens my suspicion that her end will not be a happy one. I suspect it’s also a harbinger of Mickey’s reintroduction, which will further complicate Ian’s idyllic developments with Caleb.
Much of season six has been centered on Carl’s battle to find his place within the Gallagher’s South Side universe. After last week’s resolution, Carl’s role recedes a bit. Sans cornrows, Carl looks like a teenager should — slightly gawky, limb-y, and downtrodden. With his hair slicked back in a bumpy ducktail and a new vocation as a dishwasher in Sean’s diner, Carl’s ego has deflated into typical teenage angst, a relief for everyone in his gangster wake. However, Dominique likes normcore Carl, and plants herself as the queen of his world with a proposition to lose their virginities together. With the undoing of their innocence, it becomes clear that starry-eyed Carl will soon be on the straight-and-narrow to satiate his newfound sexual appetite, keep Dominique around, and please her strict father.
In a rare moment of masculine connection, “A Yurt of One’s Own” winds down with a heartbreaking scene of the Gallagher brothers meeting in the kitchen: Lip, home after his hospital stint, drinking a beer not hours after nearly dying of alcohol poisoning; Ian, reflective, following a brush with his past life as a sex worker; and Carl, sweaty and wild-eyed, after tossing his chastity to the wind. Each one of them silently roils in his own internal turmoil, gulps it down, and steels himself for whatever conflict will surely come next.
Kevin, V, and Svetlana
Off in their own orbit around the Alibi, Kev, V, and Svetlana are dealing with the blowback from an immigration officer showing up and threatening Svetlana’s deportation. In one of Kev and V’s more interesting story lines of the past couple seasons, V volunteers to marry Svetlana to make her legal, which promises a rich mine of material for episodes to come.
- Kevin on Svetlana: “Her dad sold her into sexual slavery. Pretty much put her in a bad mood for life.” Another breadcrumb about Mickey’s return?
- Chuckie is attacked by a mountain lion. Maybe it scraped off that nasty swastika and replaced it with a badass slash wound.
- Who keeps a condom in a violin case? But who cares, I guess. I’d rather see Carl having teenage sex than see him committing teenage murder.