A quick review of tonight’s “Shameless” coming up just as soon as I give you a coupon for a free ham…
In the early days of “The Shield,” Michael Chiklis and the cast came up with a mantra to help get them through the many disturbing scenes in their scripts – many of them featuring acts never before portrayed on television (or in some cases, anywhere on film). Upon encountering such an unsettling moment, someone would call out, “‘The Shield’: It’s so wrong!”
“Shameless” isn’t generally as violent as “The Shield” was (though Jimmy’s father-in-law and his associates have narrowed the gap a bit), but I spent much of “May I Trim Your Hedges?” – even more than I generally do with this sick, twisted, glorious mess of a show – deciding that the only proper response to a given scene was, “‘Shameless’: It’s so wrong!”
This is an episode where Frank elects not to vaccinate the baby in his care so he can spend the copay money on booze, and it’s not even the worst thing he does in the episode!(*) In this case, I would say convincing Carl that he has cancer, just in the hopes Frank can cash in via the Make-A-Wish-type organization, is worse.
(*) Hey, remember the No Politics rule for the blog? Consider that it applies double for any and all discussion of vaccinations and whether or not they have side effects.
It’s an episode that’s also awash in characters giving love(making) a bad name: the pervert Debbie sees touching himself on the bus, the grocery store manager who expects a blow job in exchange for giving Fiona a job, Jimmy being made an unwitting accomplice to his wife’s orgasm, or – in one of the single funniest, sickest “Shameless” stories ever – Lip playing into every underage fantasy of the pedophile teacher next door to prove a point to Ian.
There’s so much aberrant behavior throughout the hour that the lie Kev’s estranged wife tells him about their “son” almost feels like a misdemeanor, even though it sets up a fantastic, hard-earned explosion by Veronica when the truth comes out.
And if “Shameless” wanted to function just on the level of a sick joke, it would still be wildly entertaining. But what makes the show special – and what’s made these early episodes of the new season feel particularly strong – is the way it marries the twisted comedy to some genuine emotion. The pedophile teacher plot spins out of Lip’s frustration that a much older man used to take advantage of his kid brother (and it concludes with Mandy demonstrating just how protective she is of her boyfriend). The Kev/Veronica story hinges on us caring about a relationship that used to be a fairly minor part of the show, but can now take extended screen time away from the Gallaghers and not feel like a distraction.
And all the sexual dysfunction leads to a great, uncomfortable moment at the end between Jimmy and Fiona, who declares, “The world’s messed up. So much ugly shit happens,” before telling her man, “I trust you. That’s bigger to me than, ‘I love you.’ It’s a bigger deal. I trust you.” Until that scene, it’s all fun and games that Jimmy has a Brazilian wife on the side, and even that she forced him to get her off, but when Fiona tells Jimmy that she trusts him – and how important those words are – then it becomes the worst thing he can possibly do to her. And that “Shameless” can shift seamlessly between those two moods is damned impressive.
What did everybody else think?