After a quite rocky beginning, Shameless is starting to bring some of its character storylines to its climax in preparation for the end of the season.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers
As I was watching this episode, I realized one of the issues that this season has had: it’s no longer about a family living under one same roof, but about individual storylines. In the first seasons, the fact that they all lived together did not only allow for characters to share storylines, but for them to reflect on each other’s problems as well. This is probably why so many viewers praised the moment Ian and Lip shared when they made a toast to Carl last week. This season, the series has taken a break from the family dynamics to focus on the characters as individuals, rather than as a family. Can this really work for Shameless? So far, it’s getting mixed results. Fortunately, it worked pretty well in ‘Paradise Lost’. We no longer get scenes of the whole family sitting on the couch talking about their daily activities, but the scene in which Debbie gave birth on the kitchen table was just classic Shameless.
‘Paradise Lost’ marks the end of the nature-hippy commune, which ended up helping more Frank’s character than Debbie’s. For one, Frank was able to somehow get away from Carl’s former employers by taking them to the opium plants, and the fact that he gave up sex to take Debbie home also said a lot about his character. Debbie has always been the Gallagher who showed more devotion towards her father and Frank has, in his own way, been there for Debbie’s pregnancy when no one else was. All of this leads to Debbie naming her daughter Francis, something that leaves Fiona pretty shocked. It is more common to name babies after grandparents than it is after aunts, but I understand why Fiona would be hurt when Debbie chose Frank over her, considering that she has been a much better parent to her than Frank has. Will they make up now that the baby is here or will Fiona keep her word about not caring for her?
Ironically, the one character acting more like Frank lately is Lip. Just as I was about to celebrate the fact that he was moving on with his career by doing an interview for an internship job, he’s fired and kicked out of his dorm for all the crazy stuff he did while drunk. Saying “I’ll stop” isn’t enough this time, as he has to go into mandatory counseling or else he’ll be expelled. It was a very bad day for Lip, but a necessary wake-up call because he has gone full-on Frank. Lip was supposed to be the Gallagher with the most promising future, but he’s totally ruining with sex and alcohol.
I never thought I’d say this but, right now, the Gallagher role model is Carl. Going for a drive with Dominique’s father could have been used as the typical “father-in-law and son-in-law bonding time”, but it was not. Dominique’s father is still convinced that Carl is not 100% clean and he doesn’t want him to have sex with his daughter yet (too bad, he already has), but that was not the point anyway. The point was that Carl knows that he’s straight and that, even though he believes he’s not enough for Dominique, he will do anything he can to change and treat her right. He even decides to be a cop! If that’s not character development, I don’t know what is. Debbie has given birth and yet it seems like this season belongs to Carl.
There is something off with Ian’s storyline this season and in this episode we started seeing some potential red flags. Ian claims to be HIV negative. And I say ‘claims’ because we didn’t get to see anything so we only have his word to go on. Ian being negative would be a miracle and, while it’s excellent news and I wish to believe it’s true (he deserves a break), there was something suspicious about the way he said. All the talk about him not lying to Caleb at the end of the episode only made it worse. On the other hand, despite acing his EMT test, his bipolar disorder might be a problem. Caleb tells him to lie (he actually does it for himself), but I’m sure this will backfire (no pun intended) at some point. I just hope it’s not something like Ian having a manic episode during a mission and screwing up, that would be devastating.
Finally, there’s Kev, V and Svetlana. Despite Kev’s attempts to find another way out, V and Svetlana end up getting married behind his back, which upsets Kev because maybe he did want to real-marry V at some point. There’s been some tension between Kev and V for a while now, so we’ll see if this can end in a way that doesn’t complicate things for Svetlana. As per Fiona, she is planning her wedding and she wants to go all “normal” this time, including a very funny bachelor party. V calls her out on her tendency to change her mind, and I have to agree with that. I find it hard to care about Sean, and not only because I have a feeling that their marriage isn’t going to go well.
While the season is getting better and it’s appreciated that the show is making an effort to flesh out characters individually, there are some problems when it comes to distributing screentime among so many characters. The storylines keep switching very fast to the point that some scenes don’t last over 10 seconds. We know that stuff is happening, but it’s hard to engage with it. If it wasn’t enough, the show keeps adding unnecessary scenes like the anger mud pit that which, while they’re in tune with Shameless‘ eccentricity, we could totally live without. I guess the answer now is: can Shameless really survive with this new formula? What happens when all the characters have grown up and gone straight?