Sunday, February 7, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Desperately Searches for a New House for the Family to Live in 'Refugees'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 6.05 "Refugees"

Frank helps Erica through the cancer concierge process. Debbie works to be a shoulder for Tyler to lean on. Lip tries to protect Helene.

The loss of the house is a devastating blow for the Gallaghers and Shameless. This has been the place where the family has grown up. For six seasons now, the audience has seen these characters age and make both good and bad decisions in this house. It's a major defeat for the characters. And yet, "Refugees" doesn't really spend a whole lot of time with the house and how losing it impacts everyone in the family. In the previous episode, all of the Gallaghers rallied together in order to buy the house back. It was heartbreaking to them when they were outbid by a young family looking to make a fresh start in the up-and-coming neighborhood. And now, everyone is largely scattering out into the world to live their own lives. The family is growing up. They don't need to stick together as a family in order to get through this crisis. That's a tough revelation that Fiona needs to embrace in this episode. But it's not actually a very good sendoff for the house if this is the last time any of the characters will be living in it.

In fact, the Gallaghers are forced out much quicker than they were expecting. While they were out living their lives, the sheriff's department came to throw all of their stuff to the curb. The family needed to act quickly just in order to protect all the belongings they can still hold onto in this world. It's a very rushed and swift development. One moment Fiona is yelling at the officer for there being no warning. The next everyone is helping pack up all the stuff. And then, Fiona is standing in the middle of the house saying goodbye to all of the memories she has of this place. This house has meant so much to all of the characters over the years. It's just so odd that Fiona seems to be the only person who's struggling to say goodbye to it. Carl is willing to protect it by arming himself but he is quickly amused by the thought of getting a much nicer pad for himself and Nick. Debbie's already thinking ahead to how she can stay with her new family around the clock. Ian is too focused on fucking the cute firefighter. And Lip is dealing with his latest crisis with Helene. Fiona is the only one left to care. She's trying to think of the entire family. When she's making plans, she's trying to find a place where all of them can stay. Everyone else has lined up their own living arrangements. Fiona is the only one left holding on.

That's because the need to stick together as a family has always been the thing that has gotten the Gallaghers through crises like this. Fiona has always had to look out for her siblings. She has had to make sure that all of them are safe. That has become increasingly harder to do because they all want to be living their own lives. They were never going to spend their entire lives living together in that house. The eviction has just sped up that process. At the end of this hour, the Gallaghers have been scattered across town. The hour is attempting to say that that is okay. Even though all of them are a mess and need each other right now, they are incapable of being good influences for each other. All of Fiona's worries have been for nothing regarding her siblings. All she is left with is Liam and Sean. This eviction has proved that she is no better a parent than Frank or Monica were. The family is still homeless. But she has to embrace that things don't have to be so difficult. She's trying so hard not to take the simple solution out of this mess. Sean and V are more than welcome to house the family. But the Gallaghers still go their separate ways.

The tension between Fiona and Sean in this episode is a little contrived though. They get into a fight because Sean doesn't want to house the entire Gallagher family at his apartment. Fiona foolishly believed he was offering that. He has Will this weekend too. He wants to make sure that he can remain a father in his son's life. He's not wrong to only want Fiona and Liam at his place. Fiona just has to accept that as what her life is right now. That's hard for her to do. She has had to carry this family for so long. Her love and protection hasn't gotten her a whole lot of affection as of late. She's starting to realize that maybe she can let go a little bit. When she did that before, the family broke apart in pieces - which they are still trying to pick up. With no parental figure in their lives last season, the Gallaghers flourished on their own but got into significantly more trouble. The same could very well happen now too. This new living arrangement will be a massive change. The siblings won't be a part of each other's daily lives. That's major. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. But it's still a change that everyone will need to get adjusted to.

In the end, Fiona and Liam are staying with Sean and Will. The final images of the episode are of the four of them just having a good time with a pillow fight. It's a simple and fine makeshift family unit. Fiona is not ready to be a parent. She has accepted just how much she has screwed up the lives of her siblings. But a life with Sean doesn't have to be the same as living in the old Gallagher house. This relationship could still be a good thing. Her need to get an abortion though is still causing conflict. It probably is too soon to make this family unit an official thing. They need to fall into a comfortable pattern first. Life may not allow that to happen. And yet, Fiona focusing on finding her own happy future is a step in the right direction as well. There's only so much she can do without needing to take on the problems of the family as her own.

Meanwhile, Debbie is forming a real relationship with Frank again. That's a surprising but very sweet (albeit twisted) moment in this episode. He is pushing her to seduce the husband in this new job of hers. Frank is showing the wife a good time again. Both Frank and Debbie actually have a lot of fun with this new setup too. Frank is the only person to support Debbie's pregnancy. And Debbie proves herself to this family. It's a plan that works almost too well. She gets to stay in their guest bedroom. But Frank awakens a desire in Erica that Debbie may have to deal with in the future. As mature as Debbie wants to be, she may not be ready to handing that kind of pressure - even though she has no problem forcing her way into Tyler's life. But to Frank, it's all worth it just to hear Debbie call him "dad" again.

And lastly, Lip's sexual fling with Helene comes to a very tragic end. That always felt inevitable. Things were becoming so serious between them that they would only end in tragedy. That happens once Amanda returns to steal a picture from Lip's phone and posts it on social media. It's a rather perfunctory plot throughout this episode. The story is just bending over backwards in order to make this happen. It shows just how precarious this relationship actually was. Lip may have completely destroyed Helene's career. He won't have to deal with any of the consequences. He wasn't in the picture at all. But he has lost the woman he cares about the most right now. He can no longer see her. It destroys him in a way that he can't even process. But it also felt like the show ending this story because it needed to right now - likely due to Sasha Alexander's filming availability.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Refugees" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by Wendey Stanzler.
  • Svetlana's reality check to Fiona was amazing. That was such a good scene. Even though Fiona's life seems to have many great things in it, she is still messing up all over the place. She has to accept that as her reality before she is capable of actually moving forward and out of it. Fiona needs to accept Sean's help so that she can actually have the chance at a happy future.
  • It's somewhat annoying that Ian's big story this season is about a romantic connection. He wants to fuck this firefighter. That seems like such a big mistake after how things ended between him and Mickey. This story would be much better if Ian was accepting this profession as something that can give him purpose in life again. If romance came from that, so be it. But this is the other way around and just doesn't feel right.
  • It's also strange to see Tony pop back up for the first time in a number of seasons just to say that Fiona was the reason he came out as gay. It was really unnecessary - except to serve as a remainder of just how horrible a person Fiona has always been.
  • It's interesting that Kev invites all of these refugees to live with him and V and then V has to take care of them all day long. She's the one forced to make sure they are fed and clean and welcomed in this house. Kev's guilt is eating him alive but he's not doing anything to balance that karma in his life.
  • Also, this group of refugees better not be giving Carl and Nick any big ideas for the future. They are intriguing characters in the scope of this episode. But Carl manipulating them to his own advantage seems like a potentially horrifying thing to do. They could lose so much. Even Nick loses his beloved bike in this episode.
  • It's also so strange that the hour deliberately showcases where all of the Gallaghers are sleeping for their first night without the comfort of the house except Carl. He just gets a throwaway line about being able to afford a hotel room.
  • No one telling Chuckie that the family has been forced out of the house is played as a joke. And yet, it should be taken more seriously than that.