I’m not reviewing “Shameless” every week, but tonight’s episode was particularly strong, and I have some thoughts on it coming up just as soon as I’m married, but only legally…
“Can I Have a Mother” was co-written (with Steven Schachter) by William H. Macy. I have no idea if Macy pays any reaction at all to reviews of this show (most, but not all, of which single Frank out as the show’s weakest link) and wanted this script to do some damage control and make Frank more sympathetic, but it certainly worked out that way.
We got a brief glimpse of Louise Fletcher as Grammy Gallagher late last season (so brief that I’d honestly forgotten it happened until I talked to my friend Google), but this episode was largely about her, and how much worse Grammy is than Frank on all but his worst day(*), and how each Gallagher generation is slightly kinder and more self-aware than the one before it. Frank is Grammy without the ruthlessness (and is therefore much less effective a criminal than she is), and Fiona and Lip are Frank with more loyalty to their siblings. (Though Carl could ultimately turn out to be worse than any Gallagher before him.) Frank is a drunken, selfish sleaze, but he didn’t turn out that way by accident, and watching Frank try time and again to win his mother’s approval (or, failing that, to outscheme her) made me feel for the guy for one of the few times in the history of the series.
(*) His worst day, of course, being that time he murdered Butterface in hopes of inheriting her pension. And I could see Grammy doing that without the brief hesitation Frank showed.
And yet the episode wasn’t entirely a pity party for Frank. While we got that marvelous scene where Sheila got into it with Grammy at Karen and Jody’s reception, defending Frank with more guts and brains than he has, we also got Frank completely and utterly blowing it with Sheila by throwing an unavoidable tantrum after learning that Karen inherited Eddie’s money. So often on this show, Frank manages to avoid the consequences of his actions (Butterface doesn’t find out he killed her, the airplane wheel scares Sheila back into the house before she can visit the bar, Fiona and the kids pay off his taser bet and reclaim Liam), but here he was exposed for the leech he is, and had to move back home at the exact moment his hated, monstrous mother has also set up shop there.
And just as we saw in the fourth episode when Fiona hid out with Frank when Craig’s wife was looking to beat her up, this one climaxed with Fiona and Frank bonding a bit over their commonalities. That Fiona can empathize with Frank about having horrible parents when he’s one of the horrible parents in question added just the right amount of bitter to the sweetness, and was a fine scene for Macy and Emmy Rossum.
And, of course, Fiona has been on a self-destructive, Frank-like path for much of this season, which here included her having sex with Steve in a bathroom and understandably chasing Adam away. On the one hand, I preferred James Wolk in his brief screen time to what Justin Chatwin did last season (and for a bit this season), but I like the idea that Fiona messed up with what’s arguably the better guy for someone she’s more comfortable with – only for Debbie to finally hit her with the information that Steve is really Jimmy.
Just a strong episode all around, and that’s without getting into Ethel running away from Kev and Veronica, or Lip and Ian’s ongoing fight.
What did everybody else think?