A review of the “Shameless” season finale coming up just as soon as I put the baby in the clothes dryer…
Because “Shameless” straddles the line between genres, and because the show on average is much funnier than most of the Showtime shows that get submitted to the Emmys as comedies, Fienberg and I often like to argue that despite its length, this is a comedy with occasional serious moments.
This last handful of season two episodes has both of us wanting to rethink that assessment. Though there were still silly moments, they tended to come from peripheral characters like Estefania or Jody, and even Jody wound up being taken seriously more often than not by the end. This was a dark, dark homestretch for the season, with Monica and Frank blowing through the squirrel fund, Monica’s graphic suicide attempt at Thanksgiving dinner, the revelation that Karen’s baby had Down syndrome and wasn’t Lip’s, all the developments regarding Mandy Milkovich’s baby and her abusive relationship with her father, etc.
But it was also a great stretch for the show. Just because I’ve tended to view it as a comedy doesn’t mean the cast, writers, directors, etc. weren’t more than capable of turning in very strong dramatic work. Most of Emmy Rossum’s best material in the first season was on the heavier end of things, and she was predictably fantastic in these last few episodes, never more than in the way Fiona just leaps into Lip’s arms when he finally returns to the house, and the family.
Really, everyone was terrific throughout these episodes. I got choked up early on in the finale when first Debbie, and then even Carl (not always the budding sociopath) interrupt Fiona and Jimmy’s(*) lovemaking because they can’t deal with what they saw their mom do earlier in the evening. And though Joan Cusack is playing one of the show’s broadest characters, she got to do some very good work as Sheila(**) decided to choose her fragile grandchild over the daughter that everyone has been so slow to acknowledge may be the coldest, most selfish character on a show that includes Frank Gallagher.
(*) Do we call him Jimmy for good now? Want to take the temperature of the room on this. He gave up the Steve identity to Marco, he’s back in touch with his family, etc., but still… Jimmy doesn’t sound right after two years of Steve. Hmm…
(**) Have I already forgotten the moment where Sheila becomes okay with leaving the house again after the falling landing gear incident?
And speaking of Frank, how gratifying was it to see Estefania brain him with the frying pan, followed by the Gallagher sibs and Jimmy wordlessly carrying him out of the house and dumping him in the cold where his useless drunken ass belongs? They won’t be done with him for good, both because William H. Macy is the nominal star of the show and because the nature of this family is that they keep giving both of their parents chances, long after they’ve ceased to deserve them. But after a season in which Fiona and Lip both spent a lot of time pondering an exit strategy from the house and all that responsibility, it felt right that we end with Monica in the wind, Frank in the snow, and only the Gallagher siblings and trusted friends Kev, Veronica and Jimmy (and, I guess, Estefania) inside the place.
It’s not healthy for any of them, really. But it’s family, it’s all they have, and so long as they keep it to this tight circle and can keep troublemakers out, they can make it work.
There were times where I wasn’t sure exactly where this season was headed, but they brought things home (literally, in Lip and Jimmy’s case) so, so well.
What did everybody else think?