Shameless returned this week from its Oscars-related hiatus with an episode that continued to explore the after-effects of Fiona’s actions, showing how much respect and authority she has lost from her family. Every one of the Gallaghers is suffering or struggling in some way, and Fiona has to realize it before things can return to the way they used to be.
Liam suffers from brain damage, as Lip tells a random college girl who he meets while working the breakfast line. Lip works at school and has Liam with him every day because he still cannot trust Fiona. Debbie, who Fiona has not spoken to about anything for a while, remains confused about a lot of unfamiliar situations she faces. Neither Debbie nor Carl make a legitimate effort to clean up when asked by Fiona (who lives in fear of the parole officer thinking she is unfit to parent).
The dynamic in the household has never been quite like this, and Fiona begins to crumble.
And what about Ian? Still not truly himself (will he ever be?), Ian at least returns to see his family again and say he will be living at home for now. It was nice to see everyone’s reactions to Ian returning home, but Ian has definitely changed, arguably more than anyone. Mickey wants to be with him more than ever, though, so Mickey agrees to Ian’s terms to essentially be at his command to please him whenever he asks. True love, I guess. (Mickey still hates the realization that he is gay, but his acceptance of it comes through by first kissing Ian in the club and again by telling another man that he and Ian are together.)
All the while, Fiona sits around at home, unable to leave, feeling like a prisoner. Only at the end of “Hope Springs Paternal” does Lip, after a phone conversation in which Fiona breaks down, leave Liam with Fiona. Lip realizes he might have been over-protective, and understandably so, but he sees how much his sister needs her family, and decides to entrust her with Liam again, at least for now.
I like the Debbie/Sammi sister friendship developing from Debbie staying over at Sheila’s house. Sammi has been a polarizing character so far, as she feeds Frank’s addictions and proves herself to be irresponsible at times, yet she redeems herself by being a great sister to Debbie. She gives Debbie advice that Fiona should be giving her, and although most of the Gallaghers have not warmed up to her yet, maybe this friendship with Debbie is a start.
Kev and Veronica’s arc with their babies has unfolded as expected, with them giving up another baby (they’re now down to two from four) after Veronica sees that Carol is unwilling to let the new one go. Kev’s protective streak hits new heights, and I look forward to seeing more of “survivalist” mode Kev.
Carl’s school stuff worked well, especially with Frank bailing him out by ranting about how the other kids are lucky to be bullied by a deadbeat kid like Carl. Short term, Carl loves it. Long term, he likely will not have learned a thing from all this. Once again, Frank has endeared himself temporarily to one of his kids while sacrificing their long-term growth.
So while Lip is being approached and seduced by girls at school (including his awesome roommate’s terrible girlfriend), Fiona shuts Robbie away after an unexpected visit and works to earn back her spot in her family. Frank, still sick but holding on, looks for more ways to get money for his surgery.
Although “Hope Springs Paternal” might not have hit quite as hard as previous episodes, it managed to cover a lot of ground and get us caught up with exactly how life has already changed for the Gallaghers. The clock ticks, and with only four episodes left, we should either see Frank find a solution or bite the dust soon. For William H. Macy’s sake, and our own, let us hope for the former.
Carlo Sobral is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Paste.