Shameless didn’t celebrate its 100th episode much at all and definitely not with a return of any of these beloved characters, but the series took steps toward redemption during the latest episode, “Black-Haired Ginger.” In doing so, the series almost frenetically danced around the possibility of reuniting fan-favorite couple Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey Malkovich (Noel Fisher). Viewers shall not forget the latter’s tearjerking, fugitive departure — and emotional plea for Ian to accompany him — into Mexico during season 7’s closing moments. Fisher has expressed interest in helping Mickey come back if Ian ever needed him, but will this ever really happen? The writers took some ambiguous steps in this episode that are worth parsing out.
As usual, there were plot points flying everywhere (including Katey Sagal’s first appearance), and we’ll touch on a few of those, but let’s actually talk about the Mickey issue. Due to his status as the most nuanced and genuine character to appear on Shameless, one can easily locate Reddit threads that beg for this character to return from exile and (hopefully) motivate Ian to forget about his silly Gay Jesus crusade, something that has felt like a caricature all season long. Did the writers actually do Ian and Mickey dirty in this episode, though?
Ian’s ex, who had been through everything with him, including a mutual coming-out process, along with a traumatic follow-up from Mickey’s homophobic dad (Terry), did not actually materialize in this episode. His specter loomed large, however, as Ian prepared for his felony arson trial with the likelihood that he’d end up doing time, plea bargain or not. It’s important to note, up front, that any effort to produce a reunion (whether on-or-off camera) should be one that honors both characters. That is, there are two possible tactics:
- An impulsive decision by a manic Ian: We know that Ian never stopped loving Mickey, despite a few diversions, and one would hope that the writers won’t couch Ian’s decision to find Mickey as being “a bipolar Gallagher off his meds.” That would be unfaithful to the relationship between Ian and Mickey, who actually helped Ian realize that a medicated life was one worth living, after he kept making increasingly off-the-rails life choices. If the writers had shown Ian using a manic phase to find Mickey, then that disregards the fact that Mickey, criminal or not, was actually a stabilizing force to the most troubled Gallagher. True, the show sent Mickey away while framing it as Ian deciding that he didn’t want a fugitive-associated mess in his life, but fans know the truth of the matter.
- A better way: If the writers decide that a Mickey-Ian reunion is in the cards, one would hope that the decision is a cognizant one on Ian’s behalf. These two adored each other fiercely, and Mickey never judged Ian even when he kidnapped his son while manic. He allowed Ian to rage but pushed him towards meds and vitamins and going out on real dates, despite what his “macho” friends and father would think. In order to remain faithful to both characters’ spirits, any reunion should be one that isn’t borne from Ian’s desire to flee from the law but a decision motivated by his genuine love for Mickey.
Since there was no physical reunion between these two, we don’t know exactly which option the writers would choose, but dominoes were put into place during this episode. This begins with a direct callback to Mickey when Ian knocked on Terry Milkovich’s door, which was a massive undertaking on Ian’s behalf, given that Terry previously forced Mickey to have sex with a woman (at gunpoint) while Ian watched. Terry greets Ian as “rectum boy” while assuming that he’s there to find Mickey (who’s still in Mexico), but when he learns that Ian’s asking for advice about prison, Terry declares, “If I was you, I’d pack my sh*t and run.”
Well, that’s what Ian proceeds to do, and Fiona panics after finding a towel covered in black hair dye, so she begins to desperately try and track down her grown-ass brother. Never mind that Debbie, Lip, and Ford each tell Fiona (in different settings) that Ian has made his choice and doesn’t want to be found, despite Fiona’s insistence that an intervention is needed, so he’ll plead insanity (being off his meds) and bypass the harshest consequences of the law. As a side note, Fiona truly seems blind to the common sense offerings of family members who, in their own way, are also unhealthily codependent as hell. Meanwhile, Ian’s at the train station. Given that he visited Terry, one could assume that he’s en route to Mickey. Yet Ian reappears in the Gallagher home, where he admits to Lip, “Oh, I ran, I just ran back.”
Ian doesn’t say where he started to go. Yet when it comes time for his court appearance, and Ian’s version of God (Shim) doesn’t talk to him upon a final request, Ian answers the judge’s reference to him as Gay Jesus by shutting down the persona. “No your honor,” he answered. “I mean yes. But my name is Ian Gallagher.” He faces the music while pleading not guilty by reason of insanity while explaining that he wasn’t apologizing for sticking up for a young man who was in process of being sent to a “gay conversion camp” by his family:
“[T]he people who were trying to change him were his family, who were supposed to love him for who he was unconditionally, like my family [voice breaks] has loved me. And to not love, that is the true crime. And at the end of the day, everything I did was in hopes that we would learn to love each other the way Jesus taught and God intended and, more importantly, the way that we all need. I understand there are laws, and I broke one. I set fire to a van, and I turned what I intended to be a movement of love into a movement of anger. I went too far, I was crazy to let it go as far as it did. The truth is I am bipolar, I was off my medication, and I was in a manic state, in which I was not in control of my faculties.”
Where Ian goes now (prison or house arrest?) is anyone’s guess. Viewers will continue to hold out hope for a Mickey-Ian reunion, but for now, they received a consolation prize. That is, Mickey would have been proud to have heard this speech and to have seen Ian take ownership of his precarious mental state.
– Throughout the episode, we see Lip struggle with the concept of an unforeseen day off from work, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself while struggling not to pick up a bottle. It’s an exaggerated representation of the eldest Gallagher son still not knowing his own identity and interests outside of taking care of others (he’s no longer responsible for Xan, who’s with mom now), and there are signals that Lip will become a “sober companion” for hire.
– The Ford-Fiona coupling grows more tedious by the episode. Although the bloke is correct in that Fiona shouldn’t have ditched their important plans, it’s hard to believe his claim that he “needs” Fiona … especially after she rightfully points out that he should not lecture her about responsibility after fathering kids around the globe (to “lesbians”) and not caring about any of them. Ford again apologizes to Fiona, but this routine’s getting old, fast.
– Some unexpected fun? The classic-type Shameless moment with Frank trying to grift painkillers in a hospital setting. He encounters a psych patient named Ingrid, played by Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy fans will dig this), who introduces herself by promising Vicodin, only to both sexually proposition and knock the crap out of Frank before fleeing the premises. Sagal is set to recur throughout the season, and Frank looked like he was looking forward to more. Let’s hope this character delivers some much-needed spice.
Shameless airs on Sunday nights at 10pm EST on Showtime.