Sunday, January 10, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Forces Debbie to Learn More About Her Pregnancy in 'I Only Miss Her When I'm Breathing'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 6.01 "I Only Miss Her When I'm Breathing"

Frank is still mourning the loss of Bianca while his newfound appreciation for life is freaking the Gallaghers out. Fiona is determined to get Ian to take his meds and to get Debbie to the clinic for a pregnancy test.

Shameless returns for its sixth season with an episode that is more of a reintroduction to many of the lingering plot threads from the end of the last season. There's so many different stories that are able to just pick right up again - Fiona's flirtation with Sean, Lip's relationship with Helene, Debbie's pregnancy, etc. All of those stories reach big moments in this first episode which definitely sets a wonderful tone for the season. But so much of this hour also plays as adding new conflicts to these stories - Sean wanting Fiona to become his assistant manager, Helene's son returning to the city, Derek fleeing as soon as he learns Debbie's big news, etc. That's on top of the latest twist in Ian and Mickey's relationship, Kev and V getting further entangled with the two Lisas and Carl being released from prison early due to good behavior. This is a busy hour of television. So at times, it does awkwardly start and stop with a number of the stories. That keeps this episode from being great. But it does its job of reintroducing the mood and tone of the show in anticipation of another season that is bound to be so chaotic for the Gallaghers.

It's noteworthy in this premiere how much time the family is actually spending with each other. There were long periods of time in the fifth season where it seemed like no one lived in the same house at the same time. That's how Debbie was able to get pregnant without Fiona knowing about her boyfriend. That's how Ian got so bad with his bipolar disease. That's how Carl fell into a criminal lifestyle that got him - and Chuckie - sent to juvie. The Gallaghers are able to come together in these big times of need. They were all united in trying to get Ian the help that he needed. When someone in the family needs help, the family is almost always able to come together. They are messed up but they are in this together. They understand each other. It doesn't stop them from getting into trouble. A quality fully on display last season. But it does mean they'll always be there for each other. That's especially true in this premiere. Fiona wants to be the concerned sister who pushes but doesn't become the nagging mom. That's how she always wants to be in this family - even though that is becoming more and more difficult to do.

Fiona is concerned about her family. She wants to make sure that Ian is taking his meds. She needs Debbie to go to the clinic to make sure that the pregnancy test is accurate. She has to make Carl feel welcome in the family home once he returns from juvie as a changed person. She's stopped caring about Frank - who is completely hovering over his family after Bianca's passing. But it's much more difficult for her to do the same with the rest of her siblings. She doesn't want to be a mom. And yet, that feeling keeps her falling into the same pattern over and over again. She doesn't want to push too hard and risk losing these people that she loves so much - again. She needs to take Debbie to the clinic because someone needs to be the rational adult in this situation. It can't be Debbie because she's too blinded by the happiness and love that she's concocted in her head over this baby. Fiona doesn't see how much protection and love Debbie actually needs in this situation. Fiona takes her to the clinic but doesn't want to go into the room with Debbie. She still wants to believe that Debbie is making rational decisions. She isn't. And that's very devastating for Debbie over the course of this premiere. She wants to live in this bubble of happiness. She wants to share the news with Derek and continue to live as one big happy family. Derek doesn't feel the same. He flees. It's ambivalent whether or not it's his decision of his parents' to leave Chicago for Florida. But it is significant because it showcases just how wrong Debbie was with her feelings this whole time. And yet, she's still pregnant which could have huge consequences for the rest of the family this season.

Fiona doesn't always see these things because her personal life is a mess as well. She is still technically married to Gus. But they've separated and she has started a very sexual relationship with Sean. That is somewhat surprising given just how precarious their dynamic was last season. They've come to rely on each other. And yet, there is still the quality of the men Fiona is dating wanting to change her. Sean is not like Gus though. Gus wanted a happy marriage without the complications of Fiona's family. Fiona got lost in that a little bit by escaping to his apartment a lot. With Sean, he is willing to become a part of the Gallagher household considering he has lost his own family. But he's also forcing a future on Fiona. One that she's not entirely confident if she wants. The job of assistant manager at the diner opens up - after the current one is arrested for cooking meth. Fiona is offered the job solely because Sean is sleeping with her. That's something that is rightfully pointed out by another employee. But that doesn't change things. Sean is thinking of Fiona's future. Right now, they are still in the physical part of their relationship. They aren't hiding it though. It's out in the open for everyone to see and comment on. But that doesn't change the fact that Sean is looking out for Fiona's future more than she is. She's enjoying the moment but doesn't know how to react to this offer. It's something she hadn't thought about. Plus, she doesn't know what this means for her relationship if Sean is already thinking about Fiona's next job. It's also interesting that nowhere in this conversation about her future neither of them bring up the demands of the Gallagher family and how that may impact her future. Right now, this job seems like a step in the right direction. But it could lead to just as much disaster as all of Fiona's previous life decisions have.

The various other stories in this premiere had their amusing moments as well. Frank's love story with Bianca didn't really work all that well for me last season. But he's a character at his most interesting when he's messing up the lives of his children. That's very much on display throughout this episode as everyone is sick of hearing him talk about Bianca's death. Meanwhile, the introduction of Helene's son forces an ugly side out of Lip who gets easily jealous once he learns that the professor may be sleeping with another student. That final scene between the two of them was fantastic. It's unclear how or if they move forward from this. But the season is also setting up a new path for Lip as well - as he takes over teaching a class when the professor is too hung over to show up. The premiere also really showcases how far Carl has changed over the series. He has now fallen into a bad lifestyle. The rest of the Gallaghers were right when they said he would be running juvie. He got respect in there. And now that he's out, it's awkward interacting with the rest of his family who he no longer connects with. Fiona is happy to see him but nervous at seeing the man he has become. And lastly, there is the premiere's big explanation for why Mickey won't be around so much this year. He's gone back to prison over that altercation with Sammi. No one cares to mention what's happened to her - though it's not surprising given the family's feelings towards her. But it is significant in saying just how much Mickey will be missed. He could be in jail for a long time. However, there's a big jump from Ian needing to be paid to see Mickey to Ian saying that he'll wait until Mickey gets out of jail. It's a sweet scene. But it's condensed a little too much given how many other story points need to happen in this first episode of the season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "I Only Miss Her When I'm Breathing" was written by John Wells and directed by Christopher Chulack.
  • The whole gentrification of the neighborhood story didn't really take off that much last season. It changed some things but not a whole lot. It's still pushing further into the narrative - but only the Kev and V part of the universe. It largely amounts to awkward story introduction with a new conflict between the two Lisas and the rest of the neighborhood.
  • However, it's pretty amusing that Kev has found a way to make the bar more profitable and appealing to the new citizens of the community. It's still a place that welcomes the odd regulars. But hipsters enjoy coming there now as well.
  • The montage of Frank seeking solace by many different religions was fun and amusing. But it didn't seem to go anywhere. He was still right back where he started - in grief laying on top of Bianca's grave.
  • Fiona keeps reminding Ian to take his meds but he's never seen actually taking them. He's stable right now though a little slow on the job. It should be interesting to see what his story is like this season without Mickey playing such a huge part of it.
  • Everyone is taken aback by the arrival of Carl's new friend and just how close they are. He's killed his father by burning him alive and needs comfort in the shower. But I'm also expecting some twist in this story that reveals that this guy may not be as bad as this first impression suggests.