Sunday, April 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Debbie's Big Announcement Forces Fiona to Learn What She Wants in 'Love Songs (in the Key of Gallagher)'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 5.12 "Love Songs (in the Key of Gallagher)"

Fiona reunites with Gus after he returns from his tour but is torn by the fact that her friendly feelings for Sean have turned into love. Down in Costa Rica, Frank has love struggles of his own while he works to keep Bianca happy.

It could be said that this season of Shameless was the year in which the Gallaghers needed a parent the most. They have all been so focused on doing the right thing but have been doing things on their own. Sure, they were able to rally together for Ian's problems both with his bipolar diagnosis and the army as well as Carl's legal situation. And yet, they've also been living in their own personal bubbles too much as well. Fiona has been too busy trying to navigate the dynamics of her relationships with Sean and Gus to know what is even happening at the Gallagher house. She spent so little time under that roof this season that it's no surprise how much chaos erupts in the finale.

All of the Gallagher kids need a parent and both of them are actually on screen in this episode. Both Frank and Monica have opted to ignore their actual family and their responsibilities in order to be with destructive younger lovers. That is devastating. Frank and Monica are so selfish and narcissistic. They don't want their family to ruin the good life they have right now. Monica will be there to support Ian and serve as a symbol for people finding happiness despite their disease. And yet, she also can't give him the actual healthy love that he needs the most. She has gotten even worse than the last time we saw her. She is actually dealing meth now with her young lover. The money from it is able to get a meal for her and Ian but it's not enough to build a new foundation on. Ian recognizes that she is just trying to identify with him in a way that she hasn't before while completely choosing to forget what happened in their past. She sees Ian's childhood as a lot of good times while he sees it as a traumatic experience.

Meanwhile, Frank is enjoying life down in Costa Rica with his dying doctor. He was given a chance to keep on living and found his wildest dreams come true only for the woman he wants to be with having a terminal disease. It turns out I was wrong in suspecting that Bianca was misdiagnosed with cancer. During their little vacation, she is experiencing real pain from the cancer. Frank is there to support her in a way that no one else can. He simply wants as many good times as possible before she goes. And even after, it wasn't enough for Frank. He's able to help guide her to the end while showing her a good time with sex and drugs. That's much more effort than he's willing to give to any of his kids. To him, Bianca is his whole world right now. When she's gone, he just sulks back to Chicago to share his misery with his kids. They have no clue what he's talking about. They didn't even miss him when he was gone. And yet, he's also there to share a smoke with Lip and Ian in the end. It's nothing big but it is a shared moment between the three of them that isn't rooted in despair or chaos. That gives the feeling that everything will work out for the Gallaghers somehow despite all the turmoil in their lives right now.

Upon returning home though, Ian immediately calls Mickey to break up with him. It's a devastating scene between the two of them. It was just a few episodes ago where they were finally starting to be happy again. And yet, underneath all of that, Ian has learned that he has no idea who he is anymore. He is not the army man he always dreamed of being when he first met Mickey. He has messed up that dream for himself that almost cost him big time. Now, he's stuck with this disease that is truly messing with his personality and his relationships to the people closest to him. Mickey has faced the brunt of that this season. Ian has caused Mickey a lot of pain and misery. Mickey has always dealt with that by turning to alcohol and sex to fill the hole. However, it's a big move for Mickey to actually search for another man to have sex with. Whenever he's in pain like this, he would usually fall back into his old pattern of being with a woman. And yet, a woman can't feel the emotional and sexual desire that he's craving. He has something truly special with Ian. He desperately wants things to work out between them. But Mickey is also progressing towards something more real for himself as well by picking up another guy in the park. Sure, it happens before he knows that Ian wants to end things. But it is big nevertheless. Even though the audience knows it has happened, it's still rousing to see Mickey run to see Ian again as well as hurt so much when Ian begins his big speech. Ian needs to figure himself out again. He is a stranger to himself. He doesn't know if he needs to be on the meds or not. That's his big internalized struggle right now that he needs to figure out on his own. He doesn't want Mickey to go through that with him because Mickey has the expectation of things going back to the way they were. Things have been difficult because Mickey knew the old Ian. The Ian of the present is different from the Ian of the past. Ian needs clarity on himself before knowing if he and Mickey are good together again. That's why he believes the breakup is necessary.

The end of Ian and Mickey's relationship (for now, at least) is devastating but it also comes out of Ian recognizing what he needs in life right now. That is a strong through-line for so many characters in this finale after a season of chaos dictating their lives. Lip had a similar moment of clarity earlier this season in knowing that he needed to be at school for his family. He was there for his siblings at the house when they needed him last season. But this year, he needed to be at school in order to get an education that could one day help better all of their lives. Sure, his love life is just as complicated as the rest of his siblings. He hurts Amanda for making her think their casual sex relationship is something more than it is even though he's starting to do the same with his relationship with Helene. His story isn't as big a deal as everyone else's in the finale though. He keeps living his life as normally as he can. Sure, he's a jerk to Amanda. And yet, his story isn't reaching some kind of necessary resolution point simply because it's the season finale.

However, things are allowed to be very messy when it comes to Fiona and Debbie. These two women have been great together throughout the series because of their desire to be there for each other as sisters. Just at the start of this season, Fiona took Debbie for a fun night out to listen to Gus' band that lead to a fist fight. That was exciting. And yet, the two of them have grown distant as of late because of both of them prioritizing their own lives over the family dynamics. Debbie has fallen madly and desperately in love with Derek while Fiona has entered into another complicated entanglement between Gus and Sean. Their dynamic in this finale is all about sex and love. Fiona has finally returned to the Gallagher house serving as its guardian. She realizes that she's been doing an excellent job at screwing up her siblings. She is owning up to that fact. Her absence has allowed certain things to get out of control.

Fiona's absence has also caused her to lose her moral high ground. Debbie really doesn't have a good role model when it comes to love. So it makes so much sense that she would meet Derek's family and want to live a life just like theirs. It appears simpler to her. She may not be taking care of the groceries or the bills at the house, but she has been taking care of Liam. With that kind of experience, she easily sees herself as being ready to have a baby. She's already so invested in this relationship and ready to make it real. She is planning a future with Derek even though it's obvious to everyone but her that he isn't at that step yet. He's hesitant to say "I love you" before he does. She wants him to spend the night and falls asleep expecting him to even though he had no such intentions. The communication between them isn't at a real and genuine stage yet. She sees the relationship as something so strong it can handle anything. So, why not start a family now? She believes she can be happy and better off than the rest of the family because she has actually found a good man. She believes she has clarity. And yet, it is all completely misguided. The reality of her situation hasn't quite sunken in yet. She takes that pregnancy test and her reaction tells us that it's likely positive. That's dangerous because Debbie really isn't ready emotionally for such a thing. She thinks she is but she's not.

Fiona is not in a good place to tell Debbie she is making a huge mistake. She hasn't been there for Debbie lately. It's all because she married Gus a week after their met and then slept with JimmySteveJack and kissed Sean. Fiona just doesn't know what she wants and that uncertainty is effecting the rest of the Gallaghers as well as the two men in her life. Gus is still there for Fiona as a friend but that's entirely out of his nature to be nice. He needs to know if she's committed to him and she just doesn't know. In fact, she is ready to commit to something serious with Sean. And yet, she doesn't realize what her presence has done to Sean lately. Fiona and Sean have always been too openly friendly and flirtatious all season long. He shut down any kind of romantic relationship early in the year because he knew Fiona would bring chaos back into his life. Subsequently she still worked her way into his life when he was going through a hard time. She made him feel better for awhile. He was happy to be there for her. And yet, he ended up in the bathroom ready to take drugs again just like he always feared would happen if he committed to anything serious with Fiona. So now, he shuts down everything about their relationship. He tries to make everything completely platonic once more. It's much more complicated than that. She wants to be with him. And yet, she still isn't good for him and he probably isn't good for her either. So, in the end, Fiona makes that choice only for things to backfire on her immediately.

Fiona is left questioning whether or not she is a good person. At times, she knows exactly what to do for her family while at others she's just as chaotic as everyone else. She dreamed of living a different life with a nice musician. Things didn't work out because she couldn't be genuine with him. She does inform him about everything that is happening in her life right now. And yet, that's not enough for her to understand what she wants her future to be. She keeps making mistakes and messy up people's lives. Her absence got Debbie pregnant and Carl locked up in jail. She's happy that Ian is home once again. And yet, the question still remains as to whether or not Fiona Gallagher is a good person.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Love Songs (in the Key of Gallagher)" was written by John Wells and directed by Christopher Chulack.
  • I love that the episode opens with so many of the characters experiencing the sexual connection part of love only for things to end with the emotional and human aspects of love being completely messed up.
  • Kev and Vee mending their relationship by just having sex again wasn't the complete fix I thought it was in the last episode. Vee also had to showcase that she cares about their daughters just as much as Kev does. In fact, that was actually a necessary part of their story this season to show that they both had concerns about their relationship in the beginning but we're able to fix them by season's end.
  • The creepy cash register dude was completely unnecessary. And yet, it's also important to see Debbie pick up Plan B along with the pregnancy test.
  • Things were never going to go well for Frank when Bianca first announced her desire to get a gun. And now, he has a new scar on his body because of it.
  • I was fine with never seeing Carl and Chuckie in prison. Of course, the episode had to end with a brief glimpse there to show their final confrontation - which could have deadly results.
  • It has been so much fun covering Shameless this season. I'm glad and grateful to get to express my opinions on this show which is so emotionally amusing and devastating at the same time. Season 5 as a whole probably wasn't as good as Season 4 - the gentrification story in particular didn't really go anywhere - but it was still pretty amazing. I would love to spend so much more time with the Gallaghers. But alas, we'll have to wait until Season 6 next year.