Season premiere review: ‘Shameless’ – ‘Milk of the Gods’

A review of the “Shameless” season premiere coming up just as soon as I run to the store for baby supplies…

Last season was by far the darkest “Shameless” stretch to date, but it didn't start out that way. Remember, at this time a year ago, Fiona had her job at the cup company, and the Gallaghers had made it over the poverty line. In general, the warm weather months at the start of each season tend to be a time for wacky hijinks before the snow and the consequences pile up later in each season. So the fact that things are going relatively well for all the Gallaghers isn't automatically a sign that the show is stepping back from the drama and the tragedy that made last season so great; this is just summer in Chicago, when the living is (relatively) easy, and the diner bosses are in abundance.

“Milk of the Gods” doesn't make much of an effort to differentiate Dermot Mulroney's character, Sean, from Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Charlie; there's a throwaway line about how Sean didn't hire her, but otherwise, he fills the exact same function I imagine Charlie was going to, as both a mentor and a figure of attraction(*). It's goofy, and I don't know that doing it this way is any better than simply having Mulroney play the same character – especially given that this is a show that has given us two Mandy Milkoviches – but he's a good actor, fits in well here, and if Morgan wasn't available to stick around, such is life.

(*) Despite JimmySteve popping up, alive and well, in the coda to season 4, he is nowhere to be seen here. As someone who didn't mind him when he was here but didn't miss him when he was gone, I'm in no rush for his return with his new name, Jack.

Beyond Fiona trying to keep things simple and healthy in her new job (which brings us Dichen Lachman as a customer who's very interested in getting to know her) and life (including running again), we see that Ian has brought the Gallagher ethos of making an unconventional family unit work by any means necessary over to Mickey's house, where the two of them and the prostitutes seem to have reached an equilibrium – even as it's clear that Ian's own state of mental balance won't be lasting long, especially since he remains in denial about his condition. Ian was absent for a good chunk of season 4, but everyone involved in the show is aware of how popular he and Mickey are as a couple – they've started selling “Gallavich” shirts and other 'shipper merchandise – and there's a lot of the two of them (and of Ian stepping out and being a self-destructive Gallagher) coming up.

Among the other storylines introduced in the premiere – Debbie being shunned by her ex-friends, Lip taking a blue-collar summer job with one of the Alibi regulars, Vee struggling with the babies, and gentrification coming to the neighborhood – the one I surprisingly found most engaging was Frank and his secret project, which turned out to be the eponymous ultra-beer, brewed in a still in Sheila's basement. I've often viewed Frank as the cost of doing business with “Shameless” – an antagonist for the kids whose stories we have to watch a lot of because William H. Macy's the critically-acclaimed star of the show – but I think this mostly sober but  still despicable Frank suits Macy more than previous iterations of the character. He's still scruffy and selfish and gross, yet he seems more believable as someone the neighborhood in general and poor deluded Sheila in particular would tolerate. And it just seems a better fit of actor and character than previously.

As always, “Shameless” is a show I don't expect to be writing about every week, but there's some really, um, interesting stuff coming up in the next few weeks, so I may at a minimum put up short posts so people can discuss all the ways that things are messed-up in Gallagher-ville.

But as for “Milk of the Gods,” what did everybody else think?