Showtime’s Shameless recently reached a pivotal point when Emmy Rossum’s Fiona Gallagher, the matriarchal glue that presumably held the family together, left the building. In Season 10, the obvious challenge will be to not only maintain the same level of family shenanigans as usual but also sustain the emotional core that Fiona represented. Will the series succeed or flounder? We’ll hash that out here each week.
The U.K. version of Shameless ran for eleven seasons, and there’s not much reason to believe that Showtime’s version on this side of the pond won’t reach that milestone and beyond. However, such a long-running series could arguably be accused of dropping the ball by not having any known spin-offs in the works, and this does seem like a missed opportunity, right? Well, it feels like this week’s episode, “A Little Gallagher Goes A Long Way,” torched its best chance at a future spin-off with perhaps its only qualifying current character. I’m not talking about Veronica or Kevin, who are so endlessly entertaining, as well being the low-key sources of stability a few houses down from the Gallagher home base. I think these two could conceivably carry a series together one day. Yet after spending a decade on this show, Shanola Hampton and Steve Howey, the actors who portray the couple, might not be keen to continue their roles as a pair.
Of course, imagining which other characters could carry a side project does encourage speculation. As stated above, I’m ruling out Veronica, even though she’s the character who most reflects a range of purposes and resulting emotions. She’s the former best friend to Fiona, a mother to twins, taker of no garbage, so yes, Showtime had better keep her around for a while. Hopefully, Frank can’t live forever (even though he’s a human cockroach), and Lip, Tami, and Ian are now too central to qualify as stereotypical spin-off material. So who’s left? Neither Debbie nor Carl are interesting enough to lead a spin-off series, but there’s one character who could possibly qualify: no-longer-Little Liam, the youngest core Gallagher, who’s seen far too much sh*t in his life already.
So far this season, it felt like the writers were building Liam (portrayed by Christian Isaiah beginning with Season 8) up for something more. Yes, there was a little bit of the “Ian as Gay Jesus” routine going on while Liam attempted to connect with his Black heritage — the first time that the series has dealt with gentrification in terms of race in addition to class — but he managed to find new purpose during his investigations. It’s catch-up time for this issue, since one of the biggest running jokes on Shameless has been that everyone assumed that Monica got pregnant with Liam while sleeping around on Frank, but a blood test proved that Liam actually was Frank’s biological son and, therefore, a Gallagher. Yet Liam found a role model down the street, Mavar (Anthony Alabi), who could have been a surrogate family jump-off point for the kid.
This might’ve been the perfect set-up for Liam to start cautiously tip-toeing out of Gallagherland. Blood is blood, but Liam deserves much more than what he’s been through. He inadvertently overdosed on cocaine during one of Fiona’s downward spirals, and he’s constantly pushed into Frank’s schemes. He’s had sporadic phases when he’s displayed independence and a willingness to leave the household once true opportunity struck. Mavar wanted to provide that chance for Liam and previously agreed to supply guidance. And baseball game tickets, and so on. Poor Liam didn’t know how to handle Mavar’s work ethic and LGBTQ activism, and he became convinced that, somehow, he was being tricked into a cult. Yes, that’s comical but tragic as well.
Mavar’s insistence that he could provide much more of a family to Liam than what he’s experienced, well, that’s probably true. He’s absolutely aghast at how Liam could throw that chance away, but Liam stood firm — “Hey man, I know who I am” — while declaring that he wishes to remain a Gallagher. Will we see Mavar again, and will there be a change of heart from Liam? Maybe that’s where the show will eventually end up. I hope so because I’d watch the heck out of a “Liam and Mavar” buddy-comedy series.
Meanwhile, Frank managed to stumble into an emotional part of this episode, by no doing of his own. What’s happened to his partner-in-grifting, Mikey, is rather sobering, because the guy desperately needs dialysis. He’s been getting by on semi-regular vet visits — yes, at an animal hospital — whenever he can rustle up the cash. After he and Frank dress to the nines and enjoy a day pretending to be business-convention attendees, which Mikey declares to be the best day of his life, he decides to punch his way back into prison, so that he can actually have access to proper health care. This truly must be the season where reality checks come home to roost. Frank actually admits to feeling a little tearful to lose his friend, but of course, the bigger tragedy can be found in Shameless‘ commentary on the U.S. healthcare system.
Next week promises to be full of drama. Not only is Ian getting out of prison, but Lip’s growing awfully close with Sarah, a woman from his parenting support group.
And during the closing moments of this week’s episode, Tami makes her way home from the hospital on her own. Watch out, Lip.
Showtime’s ‘Shameless’ airs on Sunday nights at 9:00pm EST.