Shameless: Winter Is Coming

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Shameless S02E10: "A Great Cause"

As is law in the Gallagher household, what goes up must come down. This time it was the impossibility of a happy, helpful, well-adjusted and drug-free Monica Gallagher. A week after promising Fiona she was back to help with the family—making lunches, doing laundry, and watching baby Liam—Monica unraveled. The root of her evil? She discovered the family squirrel fund, painstakingly earned over the summer and carefully hidden from an untrustworthy Frank. Within the hour, Monica and Frank had visited their dealer and overpaid for cocaine and a car.

The ripple effect on the Gallagher family was swift. As the drugs took hold, Monica's new-found parenting skills diminished. For Debbie's birthday she bought out the American Girl store. When Ian realized his grades weren't going to cut it for West Point, Monica dragged him to the offices of the service branches to try to enlist him. And when Carl asked to drive the car, Monica let him, leading to a car accident and a concussion. It took a police officer friendly to the Gallaghers to lie and give Monica a DUI to get her free on bail.

While Monica was busy bankrupting the family, Fiona had tragically bought into the possibility of a brighter future (or at least a brighter couple of months) with Monica's help around the house. She went for a morning run for the first time in years, followed through on taking her GED classes, explored some junior college options, and even fought for a management position at the club despite her lack of experience. As empowered as Fiona felt throughout the episode, we couldn't share her enthusiasm knowing her family's finances would soon bring her back to Earth. The discovery of the empty squirrel fund was delayed until the final moments of the episode, leading to another emotional face-off between Fiona and Lip. Shameless's first season took place entirely over the brutal winter months, but Season 2 has spanned the summer and fall. It's November now, and with heating bills and snowstorms coming, the timing couldn't have been worse for the Gallaghers to be falling on hard times. Fiona's admission that she thought Monica's return might have been different this time was crushing. She dared to hope, a luxury not afforded to the Gallaghers very often.

This week's subplots were equally frantic, a reminder of the impressive amount of plot Shameless has set up over the course of the season. Lip and Ian were both threatened by Mandy Milkovich's pregnancy, especially Ian with Terry Milkovich on the rampage. He trashed the Kash N' Grab and even came after Ian at school. Lip, having actually slept with Mandy, knew he again had a chance at fatherhood. Feeling guilty, Lip hatched a plan to save his brother from Terry's rampage by planting a gun in the Milkovich house... and learned the hard way that the Milkoviches have plenty of weapons. Mandy saved the day by pointing a shotgun at her father and revealing that he got her pregnant in a drunken haze. This led to a sweet effort from Ian to raise money for an abortion via a party at The Alibi, complete with Debbie handing out flyers on the street.

With the season wrapping up, it's clear that Shameless's usual combo of dark comedy and drama is leaning heavily toward the dramatic, and there's surely much more heartbreak to come. It's a mix that few shows have accomplished, but the depth of Shameless's characters makes it possible. There was little mention this week of Karen, but her due date is fast approaching. Given that Lip isn't the father of Mandy's baby, it remains to be seen whether he's a father at all. Then there was Steve's attempt to escape from his marriage to Estefania without inspiring her druglord father to take revenge. This week he imported her secret lover Marco into the country and promptly lost him on a cargo ship... somewhere. Though it's seemed inevitable Steve would soon return to a relationship with Fiona, she may have too much on her plate right now for a relationship, especially if he's got Brazilian gangsters on his tail.

There's a ton at stake in the next two episodes, so let's hear your predictions in the comments.

The Gallagher Family Crib Sheet:

– There were some great quotes as always, but I loved Steve triumphantly announcing, "My wife is in love with another guy!"

– This episode was a big test for Emma Greenwell, who replaced fan favorite Jane Levy as Mandy this season. I thought she did quite well with the emotional scenes, especially Mandy's embrace with "boyfriend" Ian.

– Jody and Sheila united awkwardly after their sexual encounter, but worked well as a team to care for Sheila's first hospice patient—a homeless crack addict with a tracheotomy tube who had a few awkward items on his bucket list.

– Kev and Veronica have been trying to get pregnant as the loss of Ethel continues to hang over them. This week's revelation that Veronica may be infertile was sad, but it always felt right that they'd adopt a foster child permanently. Throwing an idea against the wall: What if Karen's baby ends up not with a wealthy white couple, but with Kev and Veronica?

– Fiona's breakdown at the end of the episode was another great performance by Emmy Rossum. Shameless's jumpy editing style can be distracting at times, but the mix of frantic cuts as she let her out her anger followed by the slow camera pullback to end the episode worked nicely.

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