Sunday, March 29, 2015

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Ian Faces His Past Crimes While Mickey & Debbie Plot Revenge on Sammi in 'Drugs Actually'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 5.11 "Drugs Actually"

Frank grows concerned as Bianca's behavior becomes erratic and dangerous.

Ever since the start of this season, I was thinking that this year - with the increased focus on Ian being bipolar and the family having to learn to deal with that - would be a good time to bring Monica back into the picture. The family history of this disease has effected how everyone in the family sees Ian now. They don't want him to end up just like their mother. He had plans for his life when everyone else in the family didn't. He's the one in the most stable relationship on the show. And yet, he's the one stuck with this horrible disease that could end up changing everything about him and around him. He wants to be himself. The family wants that too. But the disease is also a reality that they all have to face. Monica remains a part of that reality. Fiona, Lip and Debbie all hate her for her destructive presence. But Ian has always had a more genuine connection with her. She is the only person who can truly know how this disease is effecting Ian. Only she can understand what it is he is feeling.

It's horrible that Sammi snitched on Ian to the military police and he's now in jail having to face the crimes he committed when he enlisted a year ago. That was devastating. And yet, it hurts just as much to Ian to be with the rest of the family - a family that loves him and would do anything for him - while they are saying that he wasn't fully in control of his actions and can't take care of himself. That is heartbreaking. They are blaming the disease for all of his problems. He's only just recently started embracing that the disease is actually a part of him now. But he doesn't want the disease to be the only thing defining him or his relationships. He wants to be seen as his own man - not as some disease. Blaming bipolar disorder works and gets Ian released from military jail. And yet, he doesn't return to the rest of the family and Mickey. He instead runs off to be with Monica. When he could make a phone call, he called her. When she came, she picked him up and gave him words of wisdom about not letting other people force him into being anyone but himself. It's the right kind of words that he needed to hear in that moment. She sees him as Ian and not as the disease. Sure, she can't provide a stable life for him. She's struggling in life and needs to hitch rides in order to go anyway. But she also presents him with a life that can be his. That is very enticing.

However, Ian is also in a different headspace than he was when the family first expressed their concerns over him being bipolar. He was refusing to admit that diagnosis even after he kidnapped Yevgeny for a road trip across the state. But then, he started the process of dealing with it. Getting on the meds was a pretty bleak moment. But he was just started to find happiness again in his life. He was able to feel alive again with Mickey. Throughout that scene in which the family is explaining Ian's situation to the officer determining his fate, Mickey is silent and keeping his eyes on Ian. He can't bring himself to say bad things about Ian just to free him. And yet, Ian can tell by looking in Mickey's eyes that he would do that if he had to. A life on the road with Monica isn't that good of a plan. Several days off his meds could be very dangerous to Ian. But maybe now, he'll be able to see the destructive power. He doesn't want to be like his mother but she can comfort him in a way no one else can. That's sad but it also doesn't mean he has to live the life she has been living. To Monica, that's the only way to live. If Ian bottoms out and accepts that as his reality too, that will be so devastating. He still has the possibility of doing something greater in his life. He just needs to get a handle on what his life is right now. Monica can't help him do that. His family and Mickey can.

The family recognizes that they have to be there for Ian to support him during this hard time. They all have their own lives and problems they're dealing with. But they can all agree that this is what they need to do in order to best help Ian. It pains them to bluntly say the truth to the officer but Ian needs to be in their care so that he can have a future. When they learn that Monica has returned and taken Ian away, the only response they have is "Fuck!" This situation with the army was all Sammi's fault and the bipolar disease before that. With Monica, it's a much more personal chaos. She has taken him into the unknown and the family doesn't know where to go to search for him. They can be angry and plot revenge against Sammi because she is still living in the Gallagher house. But with Monica, they will have to rally in order to find Ian again.

By focusing on the mess with Ian, everyone in the family is able to avoid their problems. That's both good and bad. Debbie is plotting her revenge against Sammi instead of trying to get pregnant. That's good. Fiona and Sean are using the other's company in order to forget about their problems with Gus and Will respectively. That's bad. However, there's a very natural chemistry between Fiona and Sean. That has been apparent since the first minute they were together at the start of the season. They may just be a crutch holding the other back from their problems. Fiona's marriage to Gus is in flux right now and she feels no desire to tell him about any of the other problems happening in her life. She feels comfortable doing so with Sean because she knows his life is just as messed up as hers. He is there for her in a supportive way. Yes, it becomes flirtatious later in the episode. But he's honestly trying to be a good friend for her in the beginning just like she has been for him lately. There is that romantic spark between them though. They kissed last week and she pulled away. This week there is no kiss but they do spend the whole day and night together. They share an intimacy that doesn't appear like either of them are trying too hard to make things work between them. It just happens. That could be dangerous. If they keep avoiding their problems, the problems are only going to get much worse later. In fact, Sean ends the episode contemplating whether or not to take the drugs he's had in his pocket the whole day. It's a position he never wanted to be in again because of his son. But now, Will is away and he's feeling much more desperate to take that pain away with drugs. Fiona represents one solution. But is this relationship healthy for either of them? There's no denying that they've helped the other several times throughout the season. But is it a connection that can sustain over time?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Drugs Actually" was written by Davey Holmes and directed by Mimi Leder.
  • Lip returns to his old neighborhood and is still seen as the kid from the terrible neighborhood. And yet, he's also surrounded by people when he's leaving that are evolved and living the lifestyle that he is envisioning for himself. Yes, it's a tad awkward for his new friends to bump into his old ones (Kev & Vee) on the street. But it works with showing the path that Lip is on right now - and succeeding at.
  • The Sammi death fake out worked so well for a couple of reasons. First of all, Mickey and Debbie are an odd couple pairing that works almost all the time. And second, everyone wanted her dead because of the vicious thing she did to Ian who had no hand in getting Chuckie locked up in prison. And yet, that's precisely why she had to live in the end. If everyone wanted her dead, it would be that much more complicated to have her still be alive.
  • Kev and Vee's storyline reached its conclusion this week by the two of them working out their issues and getting back together while fucking on the pool table at the Alibi while a broke pipe spilled water on them. That connection is what both of them have wanted to find again this season. Sure, their split was a tad contrived in the beginning. But it also had weight this season for two characters who have needs that shouldn't always be secondary to whatever is happening with the Gallaghers. They get back together and the Gallaghers have almost nothing to do with it and it's still such a rewarding moment.
  • Frank's story continues to feel so detached from everything else on the show. He's a character whose relevance waivers the more he gets away from the rest of the family. They don't want him around. And yet, he only provides good stories when his actions impact the rest of the family. Him living a dangerous life with the dying Bianca is relevant only to Frank and his desire to keep on living. She's starting to pull away from that though and going right up to the edge of death. That's a scary prospect for Frank. And yet, the two of them are still together in the end - going on a trip to Costa Rica! It's all just a little too absurd for me. Why can't Sammi be ruining his life more instead of the rest of the Gallagher's? Also, what are the odds that the show will do a reveal that Bianca isn't really dying at all?
  • Gus is returning home from his tour. So it seems like a lot of the various problems and stories will be coming to a head in next week's finale.