The Shameless relapse rankings attempt to chronicle the Showtime series’ chaos by overanalyzing characters’ resistance to development on a weekly basis. That is to say, the Gallagher family and friends may be highly relatable and entertaining, but their dysfunctional tendencies and general inability (or outright refusal) to escape the codependent cycle beg for further discussion, and we’re happy to do so. SPOILERS will happen.
Here are this week’s rankings — from least to most trainwreck-y — from the season 9 premiere, aptly titled, “My Penis May Have Helped Heal You.”
If any character deserves a high five and future spinoff, it’s poor Liam, who’s actually the Gallagher most likely to someday pull away from the rest of the gang (although he’ll require a lifetime of therapy). The kid’s still attending a fancy private academy while his grifter father, Frank, stealthily robs his classmates’ families. At the end of season 8, he stood apart from the rest of his family by being the youngest child to ever refuse to help Frank pull off his crimes. Liam doesn’t get much face time in this episode, but he does take a bold stand by attempting to return some stolen wares to their rightful owners.
Debbie’s finally semi-happy during this episode. She’s thrilled to have a welding job, so she can support baby Frannie, but she discovers that her male colleagues, unfortunately, are all being paid more despite their qualifications and level of experience being equal. Absolutely enraged, she goes to absurd lengths to make her point, even wearing a giant diaper (and delivering an effective performance of “relief” in the above screencap) to prove how ridiculous her supervisor’s “bathroom time” excuse really is. Debbie finally receives a promise for equal pay and walks away like a champ. But will she take a further stand during the next episode after her boss called her “Jugs”? Stay tuned.
8. and 7. Kevin and V
The Gallaghers’ neighbors may be about to lose their minds, but they’re probably the most functional they’ve ever been as a couple after their mutual sexual awakening last season. In addition, they’ve lost their troublemaking, Russian third wheel, but to their dismay, this departure led to an unwanted side effect because the couple can’t get their twins to calm the hell down. How did Svetlana manage to tame the pair? Vodka, most likely, but to Kevin and V’s credit, they don’t resort to liquor, even after cracking a joke to that effect. Instead, Kevin runs the twins into exhaustion with a rousing game of fetch, which might be the healthiest parental move ever displayed on this show.
Carl’s come a long way from his nihilistic, drug-dealing early days, and he sort-of evaded Hurricane Kassidi by returning to military school. Coming into this season, Kassidi was poised to be Carl’s downfall, largely because (as pointed out by Fiona) he had married “a f*cking psycho” and a younger version of his abhorrent mother (because he was impressed that “no one’s ever loved me this hard”). Yet of course, Kassidi followed him back to school and set up camp outside the academy fence, alternately wearing fatigues and saluting him or dressing like a cheerleader and screaming a profane anthem.
Naturally, this causes problems, and Carl tries to explain to his superior that “Gallaghers have always attracted crazy.” That doesn’t fly with the military, and these “personal issues” stand in the way of a promotion. Carl audibly vents, which leads to a wild turn of events when the cadet that Carl picks on most tries to score points by murdering Kassidi and proudly promising, “Don’t worry … no one will ever find the body.” So, what now? As dark as this story arc has turned out to be, Carl now has a shot at building a healthy future for himself (if he doesn’t end up being pinned as an accessory). However and although Carl declined to reward Kassidi’s stalker antics as much as humanly possible, and he clearly realized his mistake in marrying her, we’ll never know if he would have ever ended this unhealthy relationship on his own.
5. Random Cuckolded Husband At The PTA Meeting
We don’t know this guy’s backstory, but one can safely assume that he worked out some sh*t in this scene while tackling Frank. Read on for more context…
It’s difficult to seriously rank Frank at all because, by default, he’s simply a garbage human being. Still, his wandering penis ends up being the namesake for this episode, and he manages — in his own weasely way — to help some other characters achieve growth. We greet the errant Gallagher patriarch while he lies in his favorite place (his own vomit) on the family kitchen floor. Soon, he’s out the door to go sleep with multiple members of Liam’s school PTA, and all affected parties are later called out for a “sexual epidemic.” Of course, the implication here is that Frank, who has slept with every woman in the room, gave everyone an STD cocktail, and although the group wants to tear him apart, Frank successfully delivers one of his con-artist speeches. Yes, he convinces the couples that their cheating is symptomatic of a greater problem than simultaneous gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis.
In doing so, Frank fashions himself as a marriage counselor, causing more than one couple to come back together and resolve to stay that way. He also manages to avoid broken bones but still gets a little something of what he deserves — a swift kick in the groin.
The eldest Gallagher son entered this season in precarious shape. Although he’s admirably maintaining sobriety, Lip’s lost himself in codependency and can’t stop putting everyone else’s needs above his own. His inability to stop rescuing people leads to becoming surrogate dad to a friend’s niece, Xan, and then Lip dives into a potential downward spiral due to a disastrous, puke-filled closet hookup (Tammy) at the wedding of his previous sponsor, Brad. Lip’s already in a vulnerable recovery state and doesn’t even know himself, and Tammy later rips his guts out in the harsh daylight.
At Brad’s urging, Lip had decided to ask Tammy on a real date, and he was utterly shocked to be turned down in the most brutal fashion. She lashed out while telling Lip how boring he is, and she adds, “You f*ck for sh*t.” It’s hard to believe someone could be so cruel (especially in a public setting), and Lip will have a difficult time patching up his ego, especially when it never existed in the first place. He was “just trying to be a nice guy,” which is characteristic of his cluelessness when judging character. And while there’s really no excuse for Tammy’s behavior, her cruelty likely sets Lip up to undertake the hefty self-analysis that he’s been avoiding for too long.
Fiona’s a ball of stress, as usual, and a lot of this has to do with her current boyfriend, Ford, who I’m still convinced is somehow her worst romantic choice (even after a career criminal, a junkie, and the guy she married after a few dates). As if to reinforce the fact that Fiona realizes this inevitability but ignores warning signs, she spends the entire episode consumed with jealousy over Ford’s secret second cell phone. Ford (played by Richard Flood) insists — and this makes no sense — that he somehow has a separate phone to take calls from mom, and Fiona ends up dropping the phone in the toilet before resolving to believe his lame excuse. Then they sort-of make up after he makes a peace-burrito offering. Given that Flood was promoted to regular status this season, we can presume that this mess with Ford (who is, after all, a “collector” of adoring women) will get messier before too long.
More troublesome on an immediate basis, however, is how Ford makes a damn good point when he tells Fiona that she shouldn’t bail Ian out of jail. She’s eager to potentially sacrifice her apartment building to rescue a family member, and this is completely normal behavior for her. Yet even the other Gallagher siblings don’t understand why she’s so eager to put herself on the line again when Ian has refused to get his act together. “Does any of that sh*t matter?” Fiona asked incredulously. “How many times have we bailed out family before? Isn’t that just the cost of being a Gallagher?” When she’s greeted with dead silence by Lip, Debbie, and the rest, Fiona wears an expression of something resembling realization. We’ll see how this works out.
Yes, Ian wins the honor this week of being the most “off the hook” Gallagher among stiff competition. He’s in jail after his Gay Jesus persona flew off the rails, leading to arson and other felonious acts. Clearly off his bipolar meds, he doesn’t even see jail as a problem because, hey, he’s got a revolution against “suppressors” to lead on behalf of all LGBTQ inmates. This leads Ian to not even appreciating Fiona’s efforts to bail him out, and the episode’s ending implication is that she decides to leave him in jail, after all. The season trailer indicates that Ian eventually surfaces back at the household, where he admits that his persona, which evolves into Gay Che, has taken on cult leader-like tones. For now, though, he wins this week’s relapse ranking.
‘Shameless’ season nine returned this past Sunday night on Showtime.