In what is possibly the best-written episode of this series’ young life, nothing is sacred. Morality, civility, ethics —they’re all thrown out, but then they are all brought back, morphed into a Shameless existence with its own set of standards.
After Grams (Louise Fletcher) almost destroys the Gallagher house with her failed meth lab, Fiona banishes her to Sheila’s place with Frank, supposedly, taking care of her. But he leaves that job to Sheila and Karen’s rejected spouse Jody, both of whom nurse Grams as she continues her slow death of pancreatic cancer. We are subjected, for good and bad, to scenes of Grams squatting to urinate in a bucket, in the middle of the living room, losing her bowels on the stairs and generally being the anti-Grandma with her swearing and mean naturedness. At first she continues to trade insults with Sheila. “I heard you had cancer,” says Sheila. “I hope that it’s painful.” “Your wish is granted,” replies Grams. “You got two more. Don’t waste ‘em.” But when Sheila compassionately tells her later that it’s going to be alright, Grams says, “Let’s not start lying to each other, now.”
As the two soften toward one another, Grams unsuccessfully tries to end things by pushing her wheelchair in front of a city bus. Sheila decides to help her in her suicidal attempts, finally suffocating the old lady with a pillow while shouting, “Go to the light!” Frank walks in and finds Sheila sitting on Grams’ face declaring, “Frank, your mother has passed.” Technically she has murdered Grams, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.
Fletcher gives an Emmy-worthy performance, and she will be missed. Physically, she is every old person on his or her deathbed. But, emotionally, her character says out loud what most of them are probably thinking. It is as convincing and as absurd a death as I have ever seen on television.
Frank’s life is again in jeopardy, this time from Ian’s lover Mickey after Frank finds them entwined behind the Kash N Grab’s cooler. Mickey’s fear that others may discover his gayness gives him an incentive to kill Frank and hide the body. But when the opportunity comes he realizes he can’t do it. Still, his irrational hatred of who he is causes him to slug a cop, knowing that it will break his probation and put him back in juvenile prison. Mickey exemplifies the convoluted sense of right and wrong in many of Shameless’ characters. He would choose prison or even death over admitting his sexuality, but he still makes what he thinks is a morally correct decision based on his affection for Ian, not that he would ever admit it.
When she decides to put the baby up for adoption Karen takes Lip with her to various agencies where she demonstrates she cares only about how much money she’ll receive for carrying the kid, and not what would be best for the baby. Her indifference is troubling to Lip who becomes upset to the point of quitting school and moving out of the house, much to the disappointment of the rest of the Gallaghers. This and the “baby thing,” plus his character’s relationship with Karen has given actor Jeremy Allen White plenty of room to roam inside Lip, who has been primed to explode for a long time now.
As Jimmy continues to work at winning Fiona back we learn some things from his non-English speaking Portuguese wife that confirm what Jimmy has said about the marriage being just an arrangement. Through subtitles of a phone conversation with her lover she even says, in front of Jimmy and Fiona, that she would only have sex with that lover. But there are no subtitles for Fiona to learn this information. Jimmy is relentless, however and agrees to coach Carl’s football team to get closer to Fiona.
After 20 episodes the show’s character development has given way to some insightful and often hilarious dialogue, reaching a peak with this chapter. It could easily have been a season-ending cliffhanger to bring viewers back next year, especially when it closes with Frank at his wife Monica’s door crying, “Mom died.” Instead, we have only one week to wait before delighting in more of this enjoyable and insane series.