Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Frank's Family Epiphany

Frank has made a total transformation this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he came back next season clean and sober, and a productive part of the Gallagher clan. 

I know, I know... Let me explain. 

At the end of the last episode, he actually turns himself in to the police so that Carl doesn't get arrested for the robbery. This is a side of Frank we have never seen – where he actually puts someone else's well being before his own. After Frank is cuffed and taken away, Ian runs onto the scene asking what just happened. Lip's only response: "Hell froze over."

Frank and Lip celebrate his graduation with scotch.
And in this episode, he actually takes Lip out to celebrate his high school graduation with lobster and fine scotch at an opulent restaurant. Although they eventually skip out on the bill, Frank had intended to spend his hard earned money on his son, which is the point, and which is something we have never seen from him before either. The fact that he wanted to spend time with his son at all is a complete departure from the old Frank. When he tells Lip that they don't get to spend enough time together, Lip responded, "No. We don't spend any time together." Frank is making up for lost time.

I really enjoyed them getting all day-drunk together because they are the wittiest characters on the show, and it was nice to see Frank actually spending quality time with his son. I can actually get on board with Frank now, instead of hating him for being a selfish drunk who not only doesn't care for his kids, but actually tries to harm them. Because the things that come out of Frank's mouth are really hilarious and even eloquent at times, even if only as means to his egotistic ends. Some of the speeches he gave during his brief stint as a gay right's advocate were truly funny. Or when giving an impromptu speech at Aunt Ginger's funeral, a few episodes back, he said that she was good at what she did (prostitution) and that "she could unhinge her jaw like a Burmese python."  

Carl shaving Frank's head.
Probably the most powerful scene of the finale was when Carl snuck into the hospital to shave Frank’s head. What was fantastic about that scene was that "letting in the sun rays" was all Carl really knew about medicine and so that is exactly what he did: shaved his dad’s head. It’s really quite profound and poetic in itself. If only sun rays could cure us – if it was really that simple. 

But, it is to Carl. And watching the boy shave his father’s head to try to cure him was quite powerful. It’s tragic that the only reason the boy thinks there is medicinal power in the sun's rays is because Frank told him that as an excuse, after he shaved Carl’s head, in a failed attempt to scam a cancer foundation. Carl still thinks he's a cancer survivor. But, the power of that scene comes when you think of Carl, whose childhood has been ravaged by his non-existent father, still having the inert humanity to venture through downtown Chicago in the middle of the night to save his father from sickness with nothing more than a pair of hair clippers. That was all really well done.

Frank leaving the hospital.
That is why I wouldn't be surprised if Frank comes back next season a brand new man. He might not be an exemplary father figure, but I could image him at least being a healthy part of his children's lives. With his scare with death and his failing health, with his drunken day spent ice skating with Lip and the realization that Carl and the rest of his family will fight to save him, he might have just had himself an epiphany. There is more to life than booze, more to life than his own twisted desires. There's family. And while walking through the snowy streets of Chicago in nothing but a hospital gown, he might have been walking back to his old ways, to the booze, and eventually to his own death. But, I think, he was actually walking home. 

Highlights From The Season Finale

Ian on the bus to an active combat zone. 

I'm actually really worried about Ian. 

He enlisted in the marines and now wants to be sent to an active combat zone. I'm not worried about him going off to war, but about his intentions. Even the recruiter told Ian to sleep on it, but Ian's mind was already made up. He's obviously running away from his toxic relationship with Micky, but what exactly is he running toward? It doesn't surprise me that he would enlist, but go right to the front lines?

His storyline is much like that of Vronsky in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. After Anna takes her own life, Vronsky is so devastated by losing her that he is contemplating suicide himself. Vronsky didn't want to cowardly take his own life, so he does it with dignity: he goes to the front lines. Is this what Ian is doing? Lip mentions something like "I thought we were going to have to put you on suicide watch," and that same morning Ian, standing at attention in full uniform in a recruiting office, asks to be sent to an active combat zone. Another ominous sign was that he gave away his prized knife to Carl. Will he soon have no use for it?

Another emotional scene was when Sheila said goodbye to Karen. She says something like I always knew this day would come, where her daughter would be all grown up and she would have to say goodbye. But she never pictured it to be like this, with a wheelchair, and a scar. She was prepared to say goodbye one day, but her daughter’s brain injuries make it all the more difficult for Sheila to go back inside her home that is now just an empty nest.

But Sheila survived. Her party where she sold sex toys was a great success for whatever that's worth. Again taking the advice of the sagacious Debs, she goes out to make friends her own age and with similar interests. Debs has got her through this far, now Sheila has to make her own way. It probably won’t be easy, but then again the Gallagher's are never far.
Surprise! Lip's graduation party. 

And in the midst of these calamities, the surprise party for Lip felt really great. Something that was so characteristic of Lip and so true-to-life was when the lights turn on to his surprise party and everyone screams and throws confetti, before he even gets through the threshold into the living room, he turns back to Fiona with true puzzlement and says: “Why’s Sheila here?" 

But, Fiona making sure that they throw a party for Lip's graduation was so ShamelessWhen she tells Debs and Carl that the Gallagher’s are good at two things: finding a way to get back up, and partying. That’s what life is and what this show is all about. Frank is dying, but Kevin and V are finally pregnant. Ian is off to war, but Lip got accepted to MIT. There will always be mourning, which makes taking time to celebrate the victories that much more important.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fiona's New Found Freedom

Fiona falling for Mike at a family barbecue. 

With the season finale of Shameless less than a week away, the plotlines were wrought with tension last Sunday, especially with Fiona (Emmy Rossum) falling out of love with Jimmy and into the arms of her boss at work.  Fiona has been the rock of the Gallagher family and watching the attractive Fiona struggle with her own love life – instead of other more pressing family problems – was not without a certain charm. Seeing Fiona courted by her well-to-do and -intentioned boss, Mike, was a welcome change. After securing a home for her clan and saving them from foster care, Fiona deserved the time to sort out her own romantic affairs, and in the process, realized that Jimmy might not be strong enough to carry the burdens of being a Gallagher. 
Jimmy and Fiona needed the scene outside the coffee shop, where Jimmy finally voiced his anger about sharing the challenges of raising Fiona’s complicated siblings, and not having the time to worry about the direction of his own life. The Jimmy storyline was organic and realistic. He wants to go to medical school in Michigan. He can’t be a barista his whole life. But, Fiona needs more than Jimmy. Being wholeheartedly dedicated to her siblings, she needs someone that can be that much more dedicated to her. Not surprisingly, someone like Mike.
She might be better off without Jimmy. Fiona, much like the real Ms. Rossum,
Emmy Rossum at the Mets home opener.
is nothing if not ambitious. Rossum, a classically trained opera singer, sang the national anthem at the Mets home opener on Monday. Her latest CD, Sentimental Mood, was released in January, and the singer/actress was even nominated for a Golden Globe for her role on The Phantom of the Opera.

The moment we were all waiting for from last week finally came: Lip told Mandy that he knows that she ran down Karen. What was interesting was that Lip alludes to this fact before he actually confronts Mandy, by nonchalantly saying whoever ran Karen down doesn’t even have a scratch. Unexpectedly, Mandy, who just got out of the shower, just drops her robe. While Shameless is no prude when it comes to nudity, this was an odd gesture. What was Mandy saying? By showing her nude body, without a scratch, was she admitting her sins? In this aggressive disrobing, was Mandy saying: Yes, I ran down Karen and I have no regrets. 
Concerning Karen, I started to empathize with her after she was brutally run down by Mandy. But this episode didn’t do much to encourage that sentiment. The only lines that Karen had, in the episode, were non-consequential, like: “Are there any snacks?” Of course she is recovering from frontal-lobe brain damage and can’t remember anything after the accident, but the viewers aren’t really allowed to feel for her.
For me, this started at the end of the last episode, when Karen wakes from her coma with a little help from Jodi. By performing an oral activity usually reserved for the bedroom, not a hospital bed, Karen opens her eyes as a dramatic end to the episode. Instead of changing my opinion of Karen during and after her coma, it almost felt fitting that the former sex-addict needed sexually stimuli to rouse her from her sleep. Karen’s storyline had strong potential for an emotional connection with the viewers, but instead she will probably move to Arizona to recover and hopefully does both.