Last week's penultimate episode of Shameless's second season brought the series to a deep, dark place that further justified an expected Emmy submission in the drama category this year. While the show largely followed the plotlines from the first season of the UK version, Season 2 has diverted to find its own voice. This has created a platform for some excellent performances, most notably from Emmy Rossum and Jeremy Allen White. Their characters have necessarily become the focal point of the show as the writers have maintained a Frank Gallagher who is too drunk and uncaring to provide support for his family in times of tragedy.
One of the final scenes of the season illustrated this all too clearly as a drunken Frank was knocked unconscious by a pan-wielding Estefania. His family then proceeded to carry him into the backyard to sleep it off. The action felt almost ceremonial in its proximity to Lip's return to the house, perhaps to claim a greater share of the starring role in Season 3. While the casting of William H. Macy undoubtedly helped Shameless come into being, it will be fascinating to see how the series handles his character going forward, as the other members of the Gallagher clan have become far more dynamic and earned a greater share of the audience's sympathy.
The season finale gave us some space to breathe and reflect on the tragic events of last week's episode. In the process, Shameless tried hard to bring back its usual humor and sweetness, and largely succeeded with the help of Jimmy. It's official now, by the way—Steve's real name is Jimmy, which didn't turn out to be as big a deal as we thought, but it was wrapped up nicely as he returned at long last to Fiona. Their scenes together carried a surprising amount of emotional weight with Fiona at her lowest point, unsure of how to put her family back together. While their reunion in the bedroom was interrupted several times, it always felt appropriate, especially for the cathartic moment when Debbie broke down crying in Fiona's arms.
Just as satisfying was the end to Lip's season as he finally returned to his senses and his family. It didn't happen immediately, though, requiring a loving visit from Fiona to Mandy Milkovich's before Lip even began to think about changing his path. Lip even tried to remain a friend to Karen, urging her not to run away from home when Sheila chose her grandson over her daughter. With Karen out of the picture, possibly for good, Lip finally got his butt to school in time for the AP Physics final: "I read the book a couple years ago." This led him home for a huge hug from Fiona and a moment alone in the Gallagher kitchen with a beer. It may have been my favorite image of the season, topped only by the surprise of Estefania asking him to share the couch together. Remember his prediction to Jimmy that he'd take Estefania to his senior prom? Here's hoping we get to see it happen.
I didn't love the episode's prolonged goodbye to Monica. It served again to remind us how awful Frank is as he promised his wife that the kids were okay, that he'd tucked them into bed and read them a story. He didn't of course, having fled his family in favor of his favorite sidewalk. The fact that Frank further exposed Debbie to her mother in their attempt to break her out only made things worse. The only funny moment was a surprise Jenna Elfman cameo as Monica's mental ward friend/lover. Thankfully the writers gave us the gift of Dharma driving Monica away into the night. I'll be glad to see the Gallaghers move on from their mother in Season 3.
Shameless throws a lot of plot against the wall, most of it quite good, but no one has ever accused the show of being as organized a journey as The Wire. As a result, there are always a couple of abrupt endings for both characters and plotlines. Some exits are handled quite well by simply amping up the crazy, as happened with the single-episode unraveling of Amy Smart's Jasmine. It's not likely she'll return to the show, but it wouldn't be unbelievable if she did show up again sometime down the line. This is actually one of my favorite elements of Shameless—the show's insanity is, in a way, closer to real life. Characters come and go and situations change as old motivations are forgotten.
With that said, here are a few plot lines that notably disappeared this season:
Brazilian gangsters: Steve/Jimmy's half-season disappearance to Brazil brought him back to Chicago married to the daughter of a drug lord. The threat of Estefania's father coming after Jimmy if he dumped her was an important device used to keep him out of Fiona's arms for a bit. Jimmy seemingly escaped his predicament by importing Estefania's insane Brazilian lover Marco, but no further mention was made of any danger. With Estefania now staying at the Gallaghers' after Marco beat her, I'm willing to bet there is a future pay-off for Steve's months away.
Tony the Cop: Tony provided a nice romantic alternative for Fiona in Season 1. In Season 2 we learned he was still residing n the house next door, with a live-in girlfriend no less. But his storyline was abandoned at that point. My best guess—his new role on ABC's GCB didn't leave him enough time to return to Shameless for a larger period of time. Even if he doesn't return as a romantic option for Fiona, it made sense for the Gallaghers to know a police officer well.
Richard, the older Sugar Daddy: After several episodes of Jasmine convincing Fiona that a date with Richard would be good for her, he brought her to a fancy wedding full of Princeton alums. Fiona held her own for a while, before someone caught on to the fact that she wasn't an Ivy-Leaguer herself. They had a sweet moment on the ride home, when Richard made it clear that he didn't care where Fiona came from because he enjoyed spending time with her. But as Fiona exited the car, there was Jimmy, back from Brazil. As a result, we didn't hear from Richard for the rest of the season. Maybe he'll reappear in the event of difficulty in the Fiona-Jimmy relationship.
So what's next for Shameless? Here's a quick wishlist of what I'd like to see in Season 3:
– A chance for Fiona to pursue a career: Amidst the sadness, Fiona's happiness over getting the GED was fantastic. Here's hoping the management position at the club is still available.
– A real romance for Lip: Karen was no good for him, but Lip is not likely to be done wearing his heart on his sleeve. As long as he stays in school...
– A bigger role for Ian Gallagher: Ian's relationship with a Lloyd, a wealthy older man, served as the season's biggest cliffhanger when we realized that man was Jimmy's father, who swears he's not gay. Surely this will be revealed and cause some drama, but it would be nice to see a relationship work out a little better for Ian soon.
– A foster child for Kev and Veronica: Season 2 saw them lose Ethel and then try to get pregnant before learning of Veronica's infertility. It would great to see them manage a problem child next season with help from the Gallaghers.
- A less unusual storyline for Sheila, Karen, and Jody: Karen may not return, but Sheila and Jody did keep her child. Will Shameless raise a special needs baby in Season 3? At this point it is hard to put it past the show, but hopefully it's a sweet story and not a tragic one.
– Hope for Carl: Carl's steak and lobster dinner in the finale was great. He's a clever kid and while many have pegged him as a future serial killer, I think he could turn out just as likable as his brother Lip. I'd love to see his role grow.
– Friends for Debbie: She didn't really have a sleepover at the end of the season, even though it gave Fiona hope. Hopefully she can find some friends her own age next year. Little Hank is definitely not the answer.
– A heart for Frank: While it was fascinating to see how low Frank could go this year, I'd love it if the writers found a way to push Frank toward a productive life. Perhaps Jimmy could be the one to get through to him in the end?
– Brazilian gangsters: This one's self-explanatory.
Chime in! What else did you love about Shameless this season? What do you want to see in Season 3?