The ninth season of Shameless wasted multiple episodes during the early part of Emmy Rossum’s final season, but to be fair, the actress didn’t make her announcement until several episodes filmed. Clumsily, then, the series began to run Fiona off the rails while preparing to bid farewell to the de facto matriarch. Last week, the show also said goodbye to Ian (in a fitting fashion) while Fiona endured the worst day of her life — leaving her on the brink of losing every financial asset, including her home, before finding out that her boyfriend is married, and crashing her car in a bone-shattering accident — and in the mid-season finale, “Down Like The Titanic,” she’s tasked with picking up the pieces.
It’s not pretty, obviously. Yet the process also leaves the audience to consider exactly how fragile Fiona’s web of prosperity, both personally and financially, really was, and whether the writers will allow her to ever rise above the family’s South Side, Chicago upbringing on a long-term basis. As such, Shameless is circling back to one of its most tragic periodic realizations — that for many people, despite trying their damnedest, it’s exceedingly difficult in the U.S. to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.
Not only that, but the very group of people that Fiona should be able to depend upon, her family, isn’t immediately there for her. It’s somewhat disturbing that her five siblings and one sorry dad, for whom Fiona sacrificed her young adult years and education, don’t bother checking up on her for over 24 hours, even though it’s entirely unlike Fiona to miss an event like Ian’s prison departure. Eventually, Debbie steps up, aghast at how her older sister can’t stop “ugly crying” through blackened eyes and stitches after being barely able to drag herself from a bathroom floor. She then resolves to work some vengeance on Fiona’s behalf. What’s the most “Gallagher” way of doing so? Debbie and friends publicly humiliate Ford while baring his ass in front of Patsy’s Pies.
This, of course, does briefly perk Fiona up, given that she can shoot a paintball gun at Ford’s vulnerable backside. However, she quickly reverts back to the shambolic, drunken state where she’s been for the entire episode. Fiona can’t believe she’s once again living at the Gallagher household, and although she’s found an unexpected reprieve from one of her investment partners, the gesture was couched within an ugly reality. Max, the head of the group of financial go-getters, volunteers to take the apartment building off Fiona’s hands at an over $100,000 loss. There’s a bittersweet, two-pronged message there: (1) Max is a knight-in-shining-armor figure who saves Fiona from foreclosure; (2) He also comments on her “hotness” while taking advantage of her overdrawn state to further rip her off. To add even more insult to injury, Fiona’s dog decides to stay with the building. This is, arguably, the most devastating development possible.
Throughout these ordeals and even before Fiona drowns her woes in alcohol, she’s in such a state of shock that she can’t stop laughing and madly grinning through her tears. After agreeing to commit insurance fraud to dispose of her totaled vehicle, Fiona barrels through a grocery store while getting drunk and buying party supplies to welcome herself back home. Rock bottom is indeed the most pathetic of states, and she’s avoiding reality while preparing for the most inevitable reality. Soon, she must soon resume attempting to shovel herself out of an essentially inescapable hole.
At what point, however, do we consider Fiona somewhat responsible for her plight? She had already taken out two mortgages on her apartment building while precariously relying upon an immediate investment return. And even though she grew up surrounded by unhealthy relationship dynamics, Ford threw up so many red flags that it’s difficult to understand why she trusted him. As this mid-series finale ends, Fiona sits by herself in the family backyard, hysterically giggling and wondering aloud how this all happened. Yet viewers will be waiting a while to see how she handles the aftermath because Showtime won’t air new episodes until January, possibly because the show’s writers reconfigured the season’s ending after Rossum announced her departure. Really, it’s anyone’s guess how they’ll send off such an instrumental character. My take? They’ll finally bring back Jimmy/Steve for an episode (and hopefully, he’ll have gotten his act together), and the two will leave to build a new life together. Clearly, she deserves that happy ending, given that the series has proven inept at giving Fiona her due even when she’s riding high.
The rest of the episode contains loads of filler but also gives clear signals that the show’s two “dads” are diving into relationships that won’t end well. Narcissistic Frank’s now integrating himself into the life of his next victim, Ingrid, and he appears to be on the road to someday regretting what he asked for. Katey Sagal’s relishing the role of a bipolar therapist and, while she and Frank are enjoying their hijinks, there will be the inevitable downslide and violent behavior to come. As for Lip, he’s the true father figure and still sober, but sadly, he’s now being sidetracked by Tami, the terrible human being who criticized his sexual abilities after a wedding hookup. Run Lip, run.
Shameless airs on Sundays at 9:00 pm EST on Showtime.