A lost season finally finds its groove
Season 7 was a near audience killer. Season 6 ended with a massive book end for Fiona alone at the altar as her near marriage to Sean falls apart. Season 7 was a rebuilding year. The first half of the season was disjointed and directionless. It featured the story of Frank launching a homeless shelter scam. This farcical story lacked the grit and intensity that has defined the brilliance of ?Shameless?. The good news is that just as it seemed time to say farewell to this well-crafted series, the plot finally thickened. Before we get into the details of season 7, let?s look at some symbolism of the show.
Dishwashing at Patsy?s is purgatory
Ian begins season 7 banned from the university. Without direction or a backup plan he takes on the dish-washing gig at Patsy?s. Sound familiar? It should.
After Ian?s meltdown after his bipolar episode, he ended up busing tables at Pasty?s as Fiona and Mickey tried to get him back on track. Carl scrubbed pots and pans at the diner after he decided to go straight from his street corner days. In ?Shameless? the downfall of the hero leads to a restoration period doing menial labor at Patsy?s. In this way, it shows that the Gallaghers, like Icarus, have crashed to earth after flying to close to the sun, but they are not too high and mighty to claw their way back. Lip spends the entire season 7 in purgatory as he deals with his alcohol demons. There is hope for Lip as Professor Youens continues to advocate for his wayward protege.
Oldest child versus oldest male
There is little question of which Gallagher has the highest IQ. Lip wins hands down. ?Shameless? does a great job in contrasting sister versus brother, grit versus brains, and leadership versus privilege. Fiona dominates Lip in season 7. The brother-sister rivalry was kindled way back in season 4 after Fiona almost killed Liam during a cocaine-fueled house party. As Lip was on the rise, he began to assert his authority over Fiona as she was stumbling from troubled relationship to troubled relationships. Lip was feeling his oats and questioning Fiona?s leadership of the Gallagher household. The tables have turned in season 7 with Lip in a downward alcohol-fueled spiral as Fiona channels her romantic impulses into business drive.
Unlike Lip, who turns to alcohol after his setbacks, Fiona turns heartbreak into determined focus. She uses her brain, sweat-equity, and risk-appetite to take-over a failing laundromat and improve the profits at Patsy?s. All while nursing a broken heart. Her laundromat venture turns into a huge windfall and Fiona?s star is on the rise. She has a few mostly Tinder-derived flings on the side, but doesn?t have one serious boyfriend throughout the season.
In contrast, Lip has a semi-serious relationship with a Patsy?s waitress while coping with his alcohol addiction. He questions Fiona?s decisions throughout the season and is surprised as Fiona succeeds in all the campaigns he expects her to fail. The conflict between Fiona and Lip works well. Brains versus brawn, never-say-die versus self-pity, pick-yourself-up-when-you-are-down versus chemical dependency. Fiona kicks ass and shows that a determined woman can leave an indulgent, brilliant male in her dust. Lip hits rock bottom as Fiona continues to score victory after victory. He finally admits he is beat and grudgingly give Fiona her due. Although Fiona is a bad ass and needs little motivation to prove her metal, Lip?s condescending opinion of her added additional fuel to her fire. In the end, Fiona is bigger than Lip and is concerned for her brother?s future rather than basking in the glow of proving her younger brother wrong. We understand why Fiona is the center of the Gallagher clan and how her crucible as the default matriarch of the family has prepared her for any challenge that comes her way. As the season winds down, Lip realizes how special his big sister is and that he has a ways to go to match her strength.
A muddled start to the season
Season 7 had a meandering start to the season. We are stuck with Frank?s homeless shelter shenanigans, Lip?s doomed relationship, and Debbie?s shoplifting antics. A lot of fluff without much direction. To add to the mix, the V, Kevin, Svetlana triangle takes much screen time, but lacks drive and intrigue to captive the audience.
and then it gets real
Just as we are about to call it quits on this great franchise, the season is saved. Mickey is back. Monica is back.
Love versus logic
Ian?s life is on track. His meds are working, his job is going well, and he has an odd, but positive relationship with a transgender boyfriend. Just at Ian?s story is settling into a peaceful oasis, Mickey is back. He has broken out of jail and tracks Ian down.
Ian and Mickey connect. Mickey is headed to Mexico and asks Ian to come with him. Ian is torn. His life is back on track and going with Mickey would be a decision for love over common sense. He decides that love trumps all and heads to Mexico with Mickey. At the border, Ian has a final chance to back out. With much anguish, he tells Mickey to go on without him. The Mickey-Ian relationship continues to be the most compelling romance story of ?Shameless? and episode 11 of season 7 is a shining example of the power of the continuing sage of these two lovers.
Monica finally leaves for good
Even more than Mickey, when Monica pops in on Shameless, there is little hope for a happy ending. Season 7 puts the final nail in the coffin, literally. As expected, as soon as Monica returns, Frank follows her. A honeymoon phase has Monica and Frank back in love and up to no good. The Frank and Monica capers get repetitive and predictable, but this time there is a twist. Monica has a brain condition that could lead to her death at any moment. We don?t think much of her diagnosis until it happens. In episode 11, as Frank and Monica are partying after renewing their vows at the Gallagher house, Monica becomes unresponsive. She is taken to the emergency room. It is too late. She dies of an aneurysm. The Gallagher kids deal with complex emotions ranging from sadness to relief. The mother who has caused them so much disappointment and abandonment is finally gone.
Macy delivers two amazing scenes that more than makes up for his clownish nonsense from the earlier episodes. Outside the hospital, Fiona informs Frank that Monica didn?t make it. Macy?s emotional outburst is heart-wrenching. Instead of coming to Monica?s bedside, he stumbles down the darkened road with tear-filled eyes and enters the nearest bar. At her memorial service, Frank tells how he met and fell in love with Monica. He tells his kids that despite their antipathy for her, she is in all of them and makes them who they are. That eulogy brings down the house and we are again humbled at the masterful skills of Macy. Perhaps his ability to turn from clown jester to tragic performer is what makes his range and skill so powerful.
A quick run-down of the principals
Fiona is on her way. She has discovered she had a talent for business deals and has now built a small investment stake to go after more opportunities.
Lip has a terrible year with alcohol shadowing his every move. The one bright light is that his faithful professor Youens continuing to champion his wayward student. In the season finale, Lip acknowledges his puzzlement at Youens dedication. He can?t comprehend why a loser like him, who has proven to be such a disappointment, would warrant such loyalty. This is a powerful moment. We realize the Youens? belief in Lip will be the trigger to send the brilliant Gallagher back on track. In addition, his competitive sibling rivalry with his now successful sister Fiona is pushing Lip to reevaluate his life. Finally, with his mother?s death, Lip has further reason to figure it out and reward Youen, defy his mother?s abandonment, and challenge Fiona?s success. Expect Lip to get things on track.
Ian had a good year. After getting his house in order and establishing himself as a valuable member of the EMT team, he had a short reunion with his one true love Mickey before returning home.
After a few missteps, Debbie is getting her act together. She works at Fiona?s laundromat and is mostly doing well raising her child along side her new, brain-damaged, but stable boyfriend.
Carl is out of the picture for most of the season at military school.
Frank has lost another love of his life, in fact THE love of his life. How will he cope? Most likely as he has in other setbacks, with chemically-infused pain-killing and Gallagher resilience. Frank has proven to be hard to like at times. One striking think about the man is his ability to bounce back from tragedy. This character trait is embedded in all the Gallaghers and why we keep tuning in despite watching our heroes get knocked down week after week. We know they are going to get off the mat and live to fight another day. Like Lazarus, the Gallaghers are a tough bunch to keep down.
On to season 8.