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The ‘Shameless’ Dysfunction Watch: Is Boozy Fiona The New Frank?

Showtime

Shameless returned on Sunday night from mid-season hiatus to continue Emmy Rossum’s final lap as a Gallagher after she went down like the Titanic because of the worst day of her life. We’re not sure how much time has passed following the tragic implosion of her house of cards — given that Fiona’s still wearing an arm cast, it’s been less than two months but long enough for her to look like she’s been living hard for several weeks. Clearly, the makeup crew has worked overtime to achieve Rossum’s “rock bottom” look, and she’s relishing a character arc that should allow her to leave the show in dramatic fashion.

Before that happens, this ninth-season midpoint episode (“The Apple Doesn’t Fall From The Alibi”) teases how perilously close Fiona could be to becoming like Frank, given the perfect storm of circumstances. My hope is that, while it’s fairly obvious that every episode from here until season ten will revolve around Fiona — because Showtime has to give Rossum a proper send off and a reason to leave, rather than simply booting the series’ de facto matriarch off the series — other characters will transition into more compelling arcs, so as to continue the show for maybe a few more seasons. Next week’s episode will see progress on that note, but for now, the writers are sizing up the various pairings, whether they’re romantic couplings or affairs of another nature.

Fiona and Booze

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Fiona languishes in her downward spiral throughout the episode and boozes from the moment she wakes up until she sleeps every day. Yet it’s hard to fault her for despising reality at this point. After having tried to pull herself by the bootstraps and away from being a stereotypically South Side girl, she’s backtracked several seasons. Her house of cards has fully crumbled (her investments, apartment building, dog, and awful boyfriend are gone), and she pretty much hates everyone, especially Ford, who mercifully doesn’t show his face during this episode. However, Fiona’s life now sits in a shambles:

– The liquor store clerk refers to her as “my favorite customer,” which tells us most of what we need to know, but also…

– She’s “running” Patsy’s Pies again and doing a terrible job, rattling around and obsessing about gum under table tops, unsettling employees, and mouthing off to customers who complain.

– Bills aren’t being paid at work or at home.

– Fiona’s officially hanging out at Frank’s favorite bar.

– Kevin’s carrying her home every time she passes out/blacks out. We learn that Fiona’s been doing this a lot lately. He unloads her onto the couch at the end of the episode — an ending that feels a lot like the series’ first episode where the cops dump Frank onto the kitchen floor, almost a decade ago.

Showtime

Fiona = the new Frank? We’ve already seen Lip go down this route and regain his sobriety, but it’s still unclear whether Fiona’s drinking is a temporary escape or a full-fledged transition into alcoholism. I’d very much dislike that ending for her character, and the writers are keeping us guessing.

Frank and Ingrid

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This one won’t end even remotely well. Frank has found his new Monica, and he and Ingrid are now super relationship-y. He will do anything to keep her hooked, because he feeds off chaos, so of course he agrees to help her fulfill a lifelong dream of motherhood.

Oh hell, no.

The positive here is that Katey Sagal must thoroughly enjoy playing such a train wreck after the duplicitous badassery she performed for years on Sons of Anarchy. Ingrid’s very impulsive in her non-medicated state and has no ill-will, but my goodness, Frank does not need to be fathering any more children. Well technically, he doesn’t father any embryos, since he did a sperm-sample switcheroo. So, how horrible do you think this will be when the baby (or babies) are born looking exactly like a young Carl? (Ugh, no CGI babies, please.)

Lip and Tami

Shameless

It still beats the hell out of me what Lip sees in Tami after she strenuously criticized his sexual prowess, but here we are. Tami sets out to educate Lip on what it means to be an adult, and that turns into her pushing him to move out of the Gallagher home, so they can have a “f*ckpad.” She can’t stand his home, doesn’t really like his job circumstances, and man, I cannot wait until they inevitably break up, but I sense that he’ll ride this out for awhile. Props to Lip for standing his ground on splashing out for a fancy place when, obviously, he’s needed on the Gallagher front with Fiona so obviously out of commission.

Kevin and V.

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These two used to be a solid standby to add spice to any episode, but the writers have put Kevin and V. on the backburner. For whatever reason, their screentime is wasted with adopting a son who can’t speak English but does one hell of a job singing the national anthem. There’s probably some cultural commentary to be had there, but that’s not why people watch Shameless, right? Nope, fans enjoy relishing the eternal tragicomedy at hand, and Kevin and V. are usually reliable as a raunchy side dish, whereas their current arc is snoozy. Bring back the throuple, already!

Carl and Kelly

Showtime

Carl’s relationship with Kelly is probably the least dysfunctional one he’s ever experienced, even if these two military “brats” are now engrossed with trying to launch a racketeering enterprise. (Some audience member will probably be inspired to pull a similar stunt of pulling the GPS trackers off scooters that are swiftly becoming ubiquitous in mid-to-large-sized cities across the U.S.) Here, the fallout nicely illustrates how the sheltered Kelly and clueless Carl have no idea that electricity doesn’t grow on trees. This also isn’t the most exciting branch of the episode, but at least we’re not talking about Ian and Gay Jesus anymore?

Debbie and Responsibility

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Debbie = the new Fiona? That’s entirely possible, but Debbie’s probably not likely to be as empathetic as Fiona was while raising her siblings. Deb spends the episode figuring out how to (responsibly) grift various utilities into giving her a slight break, yet she’s still gotta round up a not insubstantial amount in a short period of time. This appears to be her new life after Fiona couldn’t carry the family on her back forever, and next week, we’ll see whether Deb’s succeeding or failing on that front. Finally, Debbie’s doing something unselfish, which is cool but also sad, but it’s likely that things will get even sadder, albeit with enough dark humor to keep this season grinding until Fiona waves goodbye for good.

‘Shameless’ airs on Sundays at 9:00 pm EST on Showtime.

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