There’s something to be said for leaving a long-term relationship that presents a chronically unsatisfying situation rather than exhibiting something devastating enough to “justifiably” walk away. One recognizes the telltale signals, and the inevitability that things won’t change, and one cuts losses while forgiving oneself for preemptively jumping ship. This may or may not be the case with Emmy Rossum’s decision to leave her role on Shameless after nine seasons (and finally getting equal pay compared to male lead William H. Macy). Yet one thing is clear — her character, Fiona, is the glue that’s held this mess together, during good story arcs and bad. As such, Fiona deserves a sendoff that’s deserving of her stature. Will the series writers will give her one? That’s becoming increasingly unlikely while they fritter away Rossum’s final episodes.
Rossum’s announcement arrived shortly before the season 9’s premiere, so sure, a lot of balls were already in motion. And on such a crowded ensemble show, it’s easy to understand how difficult writers may find it to work in a farewell tour for one character. Yet the series keeps focusing upon dead-end and grating character arcs, including running Ian’s “Gay Jesus off his meds” persona into the ground. Likewise, the show’s still wasting too much time on errant patriarch Frank’s rinse-and-repeat behavior and latest get-rich-quick schemes. This season, Lip’s the only sibling with a consistently compelling arc, all while Fiona continues to simply be saddled with awful relationships. Perhaps Rossum, who never received an Emmy nomination here even when the writers did give her meatier fare (while Macy gets a nod almost every year), simply wants to stop playing out the same tired stories.
Case in point — her latest boyfriend, Ford (the Irish carpenter and baby daddy to several lesbian couples, not to mention the guy who claims that his secret second phone is for having chats with mom), spent this latest episode acting like Fiona’s real-estate success was a true threat to his manliness. And bless her little cotton socks, Fiona’s finally getting tired of his dismissive protests that her latest property investment is a major mistake, even though it’s an almost guaranteed monetary win. Still, one wonders whether this would truly be the hill that the Gallagher matriarch would choose to go out on.
If Fiona’s going to fret over something that distracts her from success, shouldn’t she be worried about young Liam, who’s having a hard time adjusting to public school after Frank’s STD fest caused the boy to lose his academy scholarship? Or wondering why no one seems to be watching Debbie’s baby? Or doing anything else but rolling her eyes at Ford’s foot-stomping rather than giving him the boot. Rossum recently discussed how Fiona continues to be drawn to unhealthy relationships not because she enjoys them but because “it’s a comfortable and familiar feeling.” It’s a shame that writers can’t allow her to grow, rather than unhappily stick around with a two-dimensional grump.
From an audience standpoint, it’s also not terribly compelling that the tables have turned between Fiona and Ford. She pursued a relationship with him last season while he insisted that he’s not a “labels” kind of guy. Now, however, Ford’s admitted that he’s jealous because Fiona’s going to sign business partners with Max at a hotel bar. “I don’t know what the fuck we are,” Ford complains. “So now you want a relationship?” Fiona asks, astounded. She tells him off for being ridiculous, but the writers don’t let her take a break from him. Instead, she returns home that night to find a trail of something romantic (rose petals? it’s hard to tell) leading into her apartment. Ford’s waiting naked in bed with champagne, and she declares, “Pretty f*cking good apology.” She’s been there, done that, too many times.
It’s a sadly predictable outcome, which is odd from a show that once prided itself upon veering toward the unexpected. Fiona’s reverted to square one, feeding her addiction to narcissistic men, and Ford — even though on the surface, everyone adores him — fits the bill as well. He’s a masterful controller who keeps some of that behavior covertly under wraps. That is to say, Ford’s not a druggie or a criminal like the boyfriends who came before, but he’s arguably more insidious while undermining his girlfriend’s budding success. Perhaps the writers are trying to communicate that Fiona’s simply incapable of admitting to another failed relationship. That’s frustrating, and this character deserves more than to be stuck in a rut with a wet blanket.
Meanwhile, the episode’s title, “Weirdo Gallagher Vortex,” comes from a line uttered by Lip’s old sponsor, Brad, while Lip’s trying to persuade him to help save Xan from the Department of Child and Family Services. Brad refuses to get sucked into said vortex, which probably makes him the wisest character of the episode. Other balls are also flying around, including V. being the only character to evoke the old Shameless seasons by whipping out her old dominatrix outfit to help Carl get into West Point (it’s funny). Debbie’s questioning whether she’s bisexual, but that’s outweighed by Ian’s silly quest to talk to Shim (a gender-neutral reference to God) and decide if he’s really the Gay Che. No wonder the show’s Reddit threads are full of people hoping Mickey will come back. The show hasn’t seen a multi-faceted character since his departure, and the writers aren’t granting that depth to Fiona.