When we last checked in on Shameless here at TV.com, the show was beginning its annual transition from dark comedy to darker drama as the Gallagher children found themselves scattered through the child welfare system in Chicago. That storyline could easily have been the primary focus for the remainder of the season, but Shameless moves quite a bit faster than most TV shows. It wasn't long before Fiona had fought for and won custody of her siblings, but doing so caused an emotional split with Jimmy, who'd been struggling with a dual role as Gallagher homemaker and virtual prisoner of Estefania's gangster father. It was an untenable situation, and one the writers quickly brought to a head as Jimmy walked the plank last week.
While I certainly would have liked to see an arc where Jimmy put the Gallagher family's finances in jeopardy and had to be saved by Lip, Jimmy's storyline had definitely run its course. Throughout his run, Justin Chatwin did an excellent job playing a character you can love or hate from week to week. The writers pushed his decisions to the desperate end of the spectrum, offering little hope for escape. His plan to return to medical school was flawed from the start—not only would moving Estefania be hard enough, he'd also have to continue concealing his duties as fake husband from Fiona. It wasn't going to work.
The delivery of a cash-filled envelope to Fiona may be as much of a confirmation of Jimmy's death as we'll receive, but it was also a deus ex machina that no fan of the show could mind. Fiona deserved that sales job, and Jimmy managed to provide for the family one final time.
"But we're Gallaghers, okay. And there's two things that we're really good at. Knowing how to get back up. And knowing how to party."
Fiona's pep talk to Carl and Debbie at the end of the episode was a perfect bookend to a season full of setbacks; each character was left in a different stage of disappointment, and with a good deal of questions regarding what will happen going forward. Let's run through them quickly:
The job at Worldwide Cup is surely a coup. But as Fiona took a seat at her new desk, a co-worker happily recalled how she'd occupied that same spot twenty years earlier. The look on Fiona's face was not one of joy at the prospect of a long career. So now the clock starts ticking. A relationship with the boss might keep her around, but the challenges of running the Gallagher household will continue to be her primary concern. Plus, Fiona's always been as hardheaded as her siblings, and the lure of being a club mogul is still in the back of her mind.
But with that said, a standalone spin-off season of The Office, this time set at a plastic cup company in Chicago, would be quite entertaining...
It was quite responsible of Shameless to actually offer some consequences for Frank's years of drinking and drugging. With his body finally turning against him, Fiona had a chance to offer one more speech, and it was a great one, with a simple message: If Frank cares at all about his family, he'll change. And for the first time, Frank gave us a small shred of hope after taking the rap for Carl's burglary. Perhaps he knew the system would reject him as it always has, but in the moment, Frank's decision to be selfless, just this once, felt like a new and interesting direction for the show's villain.
Our high school graduate was a bit too proud of his accomplishment, appropriately getting a glimpse of one possible future life and failing to keep pace with his father for even a single day's worth of celebration. Lip's scene with Mandy provided a bit of closure on his dysfunctional love life, but made no guarantees as to his academic future. I could imagine Season 4 beginning just after the holidays, with Lip taking his sweet time deciding whether or not to accept his full ride to MIT. If that's the case, hopefully they'll start filming soon, as Emma Kenney's Debbie will look suspiciously older for only a few months to have passed.
Our Ian-and-Mickey 'shippers sure had a rough Sunday night, facing a development that's perhaps even more heartbreaking than Fiona's loss. Ian moved on by leaving town, using his brother's identity to finally join the army. Still, it's hard to believe we've seen the last of Ian, as his forgery surely won't stand the test of time.
Her struggles throughout Season 3 point to a more adult Debbie to come, and in the finale she even discovered she could talk back to Fiona without consequence. Debbie's always had Fiona as a role model, for better or worse, but as she enters her teenage years the writers will have plenty to work with.
The recipient of the sweetest moment of the finale. After Frank's outrageous lie led Carl to believe he had "caught" cancer, there he was in Frank's hospital room, to shave his head and let the sunshine in to help cure his father, too. Despite his burgeoning criminal skills and a love for knives, it's possible that Carl was just a bit scared by his near arrest and the possibility of losing Frank for good. Maybe, just maybe, he can still avoid a delinquent future.
Kev & Veronica
A baby is on the way! And there will certainly be quite a hilarious pregnancy, as Veronica's mother is now very much a part of the family.
Instead of leaving things vague regarding Sheila's future as an empty-nester, we got a great peek at her lucrative future as a salesperson. Perhaps she'll even be able to give Fiona some sales tips.
The finale also did a nice job of wrapping up some storylines that had been lingering for far too long. It's possible we've seen the last of Jody, Karen, and her baby as they work on her healing in Arizona. Those final Karen scenes were quite painful, especially when Lip realized the old Karen wasn't coming back. It's also possible—though less likely—that the Milkovich family may have had their curtain call. Both Lip and Ian deserve better at this point... if they're willing to branch out, of course.
Some questions for next season as Shameless starts to juggle characters who are possibly headed in different directions:
– Will we ever see a sober Frank?
– Will Lip do the right thing and go to MIT?
– Over/Under on Ian's return to Chicago: two episodes?
– Over/Under on Fiona's employment at Worldwide Cup: four episodes?
What'd you think of "Survival of the Fittest"—and of Shameless's third season overall?