If you’ve ever been close to an addict, you’re familiar with a specific, invasive feeling that follows you for a lifetime. It’s a fear and anticipation that the ground will fall out at any moment. It’s an undeniable certainty that the other shoe will drop. Perhaps tomorrow, or the day after. It’s a thick, dark braid of hope, denial, and inevitable disappointment that never fully unwinds itself. And if you’ve ever truly known an addict, you know that when things start to get good, they can very soon be proportionately bad.
This is the feeling that pervades the season finale of Shameless. After six seasons, we all know the Gallaghers very well. And we know the hope, denial, and disappointment they perpetuate can sometimes mirror an addiction to trauma and drama. The Gallaghers are caught in a cycle, and, at the culmination of season six, we have hit the bottom of its weird, dark circuit.
For the majority of the season, Lip has been leading the charge to the bottom. Having destroyed every opportunity to succeed at school, he’s alienated himself from not only his peers and professors, but also his intellectual potential. The parallels drawn between him and Frank have only mounted, and this week, as we watch him wake up in a jail cell, puffy-eyed and haggard, it’s easy to see where and when the once-smart, potentially handsome Frank went wrong. It’s quite easy to see Lip follow the same path downward.
It turns out that Professor Youens has bailed Lip out and badly wants him to go to rehab. Lip, not wanting to miss Fiona’s wedding (for which he is extremely hungover), holds him off, but ends up closing the episode with a send-off from Youens as he stands in front of rehab. The biggest question of season seven’s premiere will be if Lip has decided to go. Presumably, the episode will open with the answer.
Maybe it’s because I’ve known addicts, but I’m too afraid to hope that he did.
Still exhausted and refusing help from Fiona, Debbie takes Franny to her first check-up. Though rashed and bruised, Franny is fine, but Debbie is visibly struggling and the doctor expresses her concern. She’s also incredibly caustic when it comes to Fiona, who has remained patient and compassionate. Debbie refuses to come to the wedding, then begrudgingly relents.
It’s not tough to miss the old, naïve Debbie, and simultaneously wonder where this story line is headed. Now that her pregnancy is past and she’s back under the Gallagher roof, Debbie has the opportunity to grow, or fade into the background, or go a little bit nuts like everybody else. Let’s hope it’s the good kind of nuts.
Having dominated the first half of season six, Carl’s receded to a prim, polite version of his once-hood self. He irons his own shirts, goes dress shopping with Dominique, and continues to weather the abuse of Luther, Dom’s father. It doesn’t seem that Luther will wear down anytime soon, and that’s a fair call on his part. I wouldn’t want some formerly cornrowed white kid who knows the ABCs of gun manufacturing to be dating my daughter either.
Repeat it like a mantra: Please don’t get her pregnant, Carl. Please don’t get her pregnant.
Out of a job, Ian argues with Caleb about going back to his EMT squad to fight for another chance. Prideful, he unsuccessfully winds through a strange montage of begging for low-level jobs, from working in a Mexican restaurant to cleaning septic tanks. Eventually, he ends up back at the gay club where he seems determined to get his old job back. It’s unclear what happens in the time that he enters and leaves the joint, but whatever transpires, it drives him back to the EMT station. Predictably, he makes a grand speech about the injustice of being fired despite managing his mental illness. And, predictably, he gets his job back.
In theory, this is a warm, fuzzy plotline. In execution, it comes off as melodramatic and awkward. I like that Ian’s got a boyfriend and a steady job, and hope these things continue for him, but I’m ready for this fraught EMT plotline to be jettisoned by season seven’s opening episode. At the same time, I’m worried about Caleb’s HIV-positive status.
This finale hinges on Frank’s stability. And because Frank is anything but stable, the episode is doomed from the beginning. Black-eyed and more threatening than ever, the absurdist comedy surrounding Frank’s endeavor has dissipated.
Last week, we left him in a spiral that culminated with the hiring of a hitman on Sean. As if that wasn’t enough, Frank sneaks into the Gallagher house through the ducts, urinates in Sean’s boots, sticks his toothbrush up his ass, and steals his money. However, it turns out that the “hitman” is not going to follow through on his end of the bargain. So, Frank buys a gun in anticipation of having to do the job himself.
Sean and Fiona
Where Frank’s story leaves off, Fiona and Sean’s story picks up. In a haze of expedited wedding planning, Fiona is starry-eyed and giggly on the eve of their ceremony. The pair buy a pair of antique wedding bands, take dancing lessons, and even make out in the kitchen as they revel in their pre-matrimonial bliss. It all feels so good.
When the day of the wedding comes, every Gallagher is accounted for with the exception of Frank, who was most definitely not invited. Yet, just as the ceremonies are about to begin, he wanders in, claiming his role as Fiona’s escort down the aisle. As each family member protests his presence, Frank becomes discontent and begins to lash out in his preternaturally calm manner. With ruthless venom, he pithily summarizes each person’s faults: Lip a drinker; Ian a gay, manic-depressive; Fiona, a slut; and so on. As he arrives at Sean, the creeping feeling suddenly invades with a quaking blow. Sean’s been shooting heroin, and is, in fact, high at that very moment.
Emmy Rossum beautifully plays the aftermath of Fiona’s disappointment. Hard, soft, horrified, and devastated all at once, Rossum’s good-bye scene with Sean is one of her best since getting strip-searched in season four. The crushing disappointment that Sean is just another version of Frank has cloaked her view. The chipper, optimistic girl of season six has been obscured by a hardened and world-weary woman.
- The camera work at the beginning of the episode was a weird and wonderful break from the usual, wasn’t it?
- Because I don’t care about Frank, I’ve rarely wondered about his backstory. But Lip’s downfall has led me to become curious about how and why Frank is the way he is. I wonder if we’ll ever get a glimpse into his past?
- Will Frank survive the plummet off the bridge? I hope he at least broke an arm or a leg, or both.
- V, Kev, and Svetlana seem happy. But I have a burning/mundane question: Where are their children in the midst of all this thruple sex?
- Is Dominique’s mother absent?
- Thanks for hanging out this season. It was an exhausting, albeit wacky one. See you next year.