Sunday, January 18, 2015

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Sees a Band with Debbie While Frank and Sheila Attend a Dinner in 'I'm the Liver'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 5.02 "I'm the Liver"

Fiona is officially off house arrest. Lip starts his first day of work for Tommy. Sheila considers an offer from two lesbians who want to buy her home. The father of the boy whose liver Frank received invites him to a special father's day dinner with all the other organ recipients. Ian plans his revenge with Mickey and Mandy against a homophobic military funeral protest.

At its very best, Shameless is unexpected, hilarious, smart and tragic. Whenever the Gallaghers' luck is starting to turn around, something happens that either unifies the family or challenges them in the most destructive way. They can always count on each other. But now, the neighborhood around the Gallaghers is changing - and the only one who seems to know it is Frank. Frank being right about something never signifies happiness being right behind the corner. No one ever takes him seriously. But he's right about the gentrification of the neighborhood. That presents a looming threat for the community.

And yet, many personal changes are happening to the characters as well. Fiona can finally take her ankle monitor off and go out at night again. Lip has started a new job which is so physically different and challenging for him. Mickey and Mandy are seeing how crazy Ian is becoming - even though they still don't know what the best thing to do for him is. Debbie gets a makeover from Svetlana and Fiona takes her out to see a band. Sheila gets an offer to sell her house and actually considers traveling the country with Frank. Kev bonds with Svetlana over babies and she later shaves his head.

All of that change is a fundamental part of the show. Shameless thrives living in times of chaos. And yet, chaos has always been what gets the Gallaghers and company into trouble. Fiona had to deal with some major consequences after she spiraled out of control last season. She's better now with a steady job and the love and support of her family again. However, she's only going to NA meetings because the court ordered her to. She also believes she can strike up a romance with her boss again with things turning out differently than they did before. Sean gets sucked into that chaos a little bit. He enjoys the flirtatious nature of his relationship with Fiona. And yet, he recognizes that this is his addiction coming out in a different way. He doesn't hate Fiona but he does hate what she brings out in him. It's an unpredictability that scares him. He doesn't want chaos. He wants structure. That detail only gets more importance because he has a son to think about. That conversation with Fiona where he's trying to explain himself is brutal. He's doing the right thing. But Fiona is still refusing to admit that she has a problem or could be problematic to anyone else's recovery.

And then, Fiona and Debbie's little spat in the kitchen is so amazing because both characters really are smart people who have foolish thoughts about certain things. Debbie's obsession with being seen as a mature young lady and loosing her virginity is driving most of her actions. And yet, she's still a naive child unsure of what love and intimacy really are. Meanwhile, Fiona is the guardian of this family and thusly the responsible one. And yet, she lives in the chaos especially when it comes to the various men in her life. She doesn't want to listen to what Sean has to say because she doesn't want to believe that it could be true. Then, she heads out to a club to hear the band with Debbie. It's a great way to show the sisters bonding. They have fun for about a minute before Fiona punches a guy for grinding too close to Debbie. As they are sprinting out of the bar, it's exhilarating for Debbie. This is a new experience for her. It's not for Fiona though. This is her returning to her old way of life. In some ways that's comforting. She can do these things again. However, there's so much more pressure that stuff like this will have greater consequences because she has a record. It's in that concluding moment that she recognizes how much fun she has in this chaos. And how perhaps Sean may be right.

Meanwhile, Frank can see the big threat that is looming over the neighborhood and yet he can't recognize the potential destruction he's causing to both his family and the other people at the organ recipient dinner. Frank only cares about Frank. That has always been true and is nothing new in the fifth season. He's not fighting for his family. He's fighting to make a stand against the gentrification of the neighborhood. The only time he cares about Sammi is when she can tell him if the real estate deal is a scam or not. He can tolerate Sheila because she provides a house and food for him. He doesn't care about the feud going on between Sheila and Sammi. He believes they have to work it out and he shouldn't be a part of it. Sammi is desperate for parental support. In the end, all she gets is Sheila telling her that she is needy, desperate, horny and likely ruining her own child. That's one type of parenting. But is it the kind that will bring about meaningful change? I'm not sure. It's amusing watching Chuckie poop on Sheila's living room table and Sheila proceeding to give it back to Sammi. And yet, this arc is heading to Sammi becoming cynical of the world just like the rest of the Gallagher family. That pain is still coming.

And Sammi's not the only one whom Frank is possibly hurting in "I'm the Liver." The father of the boy whose liver he received asks him over for a Father's Day dinner. Frank accepts because of the food. It's obvious immediately that this man is still grieving the death of his son. This gathering is more so for him than the memory of his son or his family. The rest of the recipients seem civil and friendly. Frank brings in the chaos. First through the addition of Sammi and Chuckie to the meal and then with his willingness to still consume alcohol. Granted, receiving a new organ isn't a guaranteed resolution to get a person to change the way they were living. Frank was a narcissist before and after his liver failure. But to the people around the table with him, it's horrifying that he got this new lease on life and is so carefree about damaging a liver that means so much to this family.

Some more thoughts:
  • "I'm the Liver" was written by Krista Vernoff and directed by Sanaa Hamri.
  • Ian and Mickey plotting revenge against a homophobic church group just felt off. Yes, it goes into how reckless Ian is right now. He doesn't even care that he's still on the run from the military. The resolution just like a group of people having fun which is a step down from the crazy willingness Ian had about killing the pastor.
  • Kev with a shaved head means so much for Vee because it only further proves how much change is happening in their relationship after having children. Kev is so focused on the twins that he's ignoring Vee's needs.
  • Lip and Mandy bumped into each other on the street for a second. That relationship is such an awkward reminder of the past. I'm not sure the show can pull anything interesting out of it anymore.
  • Frank's unwillingness to change still doesn't have consequences because he's waking up every morning still alive and able to call out like a chicken upon the sun rising.
  • Didn't Debbie seem a little too carefree about telling Carl not to let Liam drown? It's directed to a kid who just recently had a brush with death.
  • Sheila talking about traveling the country in an RV with Frank brings with it the mention that Karen and Jody are still characters that exist in this universe.
  • Sheila's obsession with The Burning Man and figuring out what it meant was such a great scene for Joan Cusack.
  • I wasn't quite sure if Dermot Mulroney would fit into the universe of this show when he was first cast. But dang, he was terrific throughout this episode.