Sunday, March 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Plans for Her Wedding While Debbie Prepares to Give Birth in 'Paradise Lost'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 6.10 "Paradise Lost"

Sean moves into the Gallagher house. Fiona plans a traditional wedding. Kev is unhappy about V and Svetlana's green card marriage.

This really hasn't been a great season of Shameless. All of the character arcs have just felt off. The show has opted to go for some big, comedically-driven moments instead of making sure that the stories had emotional stakes for the characters. There have been a number of moments that haven't particularly tracked all that well with the audience's understanding of these characters. That's troubling because it shows that the series is struggling with how to mature these characters while still making sure that they fall into the same "shameless" routine that they always do. It's a very tricky process. The characters need to show growth. They can't make the same mistakes over and over again. And yet, too much change could change the essence of the show and take away what was so appealing about this family in the beginning. This season's stories haven't done a great job at showing the human and emotional side of these characters. The stories are instead just hitting their plot points and building to something big while also offering enough chaos to keep each individual episode exciting.

All of this is a way of saying that the show has taken some phenomenal characters and trapped them in stories this season that are just so hard to care about and understand. All of the Gallaghers have been strong and unique characters in the past. But it's hard to understand what Fiona's relationship with Sean or Ian studying to be an EMT mean in the grand scheme of things. Fiona and Ian in the past have been some of the great characters on TV. And now, it's hard to recognize them based on their current actions. Sean's impromptu proposal at the end of last week's episode got more and more off-putting the more time was spent thinking about it. Fiona struggles in relationships with guys. They always start out promising but then she makes mistakes that then completely blow up in her face. And yet, the show is still positioning her in relationships and trying to make them work despite a pattern that proves otherwise. Sean has proven himself to be a good guy for both Fiona and her family. But his concerns about this relationship are completely shortchanged in order to produce the big and surprising wedding proposal.

So now, Fiona is planning on getting married for a second time. She only seems to be doing it in order to get things right this time. Every action she takes in this episode is a response to how horribly her first marriage went. She kept it a secret from her family. So, she decides to be open about it now. She had a quick ceremony at city hall. Now, she wants a big event at a church. She is embracing these traditions hoping that they are the reasons why this new marriage will be a success. Sean rightfully points out that their marriage will be different than hers with Gus because they are completely different people. And yet, that doesn't really work at all. Fiona is going through the motions of what she thinks will make a happy wedding and marriage. She's putting all of her focus on the event and not on what the ceremony and relationship means to her personally. Some characters seem to be aware that she's doing that. And yet, they just prop up this fantasy as well. V is concerned but still throws Fiona a traditional bachelorette party at a strip club. That's entertaining because Kev, Tommy and Kermit come out and do a routine. But that's not enough to completely forgot all of these troubling and building issues with this relationship that is being given so much importance right now.

Meanwhile, it was a big deal last week that Ian remembered his past and the importance it has on what his life is like right now. So much of his relationship with Caleb has been meaningless. He jumped back into a relationship even though the audience was still mourning the loss of Mickey. It has been presented as a way to get Ian to mature and take responsibility for his past actions. He's moving forward with a life that is completely different than what he has been living for the previous five seasons. Maturity is nice but it's also not that interesting. Ian has become ashamed of his past and of all the horrible things he has done in life. It's an awkward place to find the character in this season that really doesn't have a whole lot of stakes to it. It's crucial that he has found purpose again in his life. Studying to be an EMT has helped pull him out of the bipolar funk he was in. And yet, it seems like the show is completely forgetting how important that was to him. That can be a fine development. But it has felt forced and only comes up in awkward ways. It should be devastating that Ian passes the skills test only to have to turn the job down due to his past institutionalization. Instead, it plays as a very minor moment were he freaks out a little bit and then Caleb tells him to lie on the application. It's rushed in a way that doesn't need to be and keeps the story from really connecting well with the rest of the narrative.

Elsewhere, Lip continues his downward spiral completely unaware of just how disastrous all of this could be for his future. He has built a life for himself at college. He has been the one Gallagher sibling trying to make something of his life. He has the potential to go places outside of the neighborhood. That has been celebrated for a number of seasons. He changed as a result of college. He was terrified when he returned to the old neighborhood for a summer working construction because it wasn't a reality he was comfortable in living in anymore. His relationship with Helene opened many new opportunities for him to see the world differently. And now, he's imploding because of that breakup and doesn't seem to care at all about the damage he is doing to himself. He is pushing himself back to the Gallagher house. It's comforting that that place will always be there for him to return to. But it's also a crutch. As bad as his life is, he knows his sibling's are far worse. So he doesn't view his actions as seriously as they should be taken. He destroys a number of working relationships that have been good for him. He doesn't seem to care. It's probably designed as a way to keep him falling back to the old neighborhood and his family. It also highlights the similarities between Lip and Frank. But it's also so frustrating to see Lip throw his life away after he worked so hard to get to this point.

And lastly, Debbie's story has also been very scattered this season. She's jumped from place to place in search of a reality that accepts her as a teen mom. It has allowed her to bond more with Frank - to the point where she'll name her daughter after him. That has been an interesting development this season that has sometimes worked. But Debbie has been a part of a lot of plots that have had weird and abrupt starts and stops. The one constant has been her pregnancy. And now, it's time for her to deliver. Again, it's a story that doesn't track well with the past. Last week, she was so happy to be in Queenie's commune. And now, she can't wait to get away from this place and their medieval approach to childbirth. The commune has just been one very big joke that the show is more amused by than the audience probably is. Debbie returns home. However, the Gallagher family table isn't a much better place to deliver her baby than the commune was. It's treated as such but it's not. And it's such a rushed conclusion to the episode as well. It's a sequence that is fueled by chaos. She is surrounded by her family but not by Frank. It's a rather easy delivery too. So easy that V can do despite a complete lack of proper medical training and just the internet as a guide. It's probably the way the story was always going to end. This isn't a show that can just have a typical birthing sequence. But it's also hard to understand the point of this moment too. The delivery does finally bring Fiona and Debbie back together. But it's difficult to get a read on what Debbie is feeling in this moment. She holds her daughter close as she is taken to the hospital. She chooses to be alone. But to do what? It just leaves too much in the air for the audience to infer or wait for the next episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Paradise Lost" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by Lynn Shelton.
  • It's very troubling that Sean's ex-wife and son are totally fine with him getting married to Fiona - even though they are aware of the danger she put them in via Carl just two episodes ago. That just seems very weird. So now, Will getting a gun largely plays as a contrivance that created tension for two episodes and then was completely forgotten about.
  • Kev being upset about V and Svetlana having a fake marriage is just a really awful story. First of all, the show did a really poor job in explaining why she's even in this trouble in the first person. She's still technically married to Mickey, right? It's a story the show was amused by and wanted to make happen no matter what the glaring plot holes would be. And yet, it's not amusing in the slightest.
  • It's great that the show is still committed to having Frank deal with the consequences of his failed drug run. He returns home for a second before he is snatched up by the gangsters. But he still is able to run away with very little harm because of a confrontation between the gangsters and the leader of Queenie's commune.
  • Kermit was led to believe that the rest of the guys on the stage would all be doing a "full Monty" at the end of their performance. That lead to a very revealing end that really turned out well for him later on.
  • Carl's story is really minor in this episode. But it's still enjoyable. He spends an entire shift with Dominique's cop father. He's really starting to prove himself as the show's best character this season. It may even lead to a bright career path for him. Now, he wants to be a cop. Though it will certainly be complicated fulfilling that dream due to his past.