Sunday, March 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona and Sean Help Carl Get Out of the Gang Life in 'Be a Good Boy, Come for Grandma'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 6.08 "Be a Good Boy, Come for Grandma"

Fiona tries to get Sean's son to like her, but when he starts warming up to her, he takes a gun from the Gallagher house.

It's somewhat surprising to see just how compelling and emotional Carl's story has been over the past few episodes. It is easily the best thing on the show right now - which has been going through a bit of rough patch all season long. Sure, in the beginning, it was hard to get a sense of what the story was actually going for. But as the season has made it much more personal to Carl and the rest of the family, it has been great. Carl hasn't been a character the show has always known what to do with. In fact, he has always regularly been my least favorite of the Gallagher siblings. The writers have struggled with finding his voice. Last season, they literally had him go to prison because they couldn't find a good way to incorporate him in the narrative. This year though, they've found his purpose. He puts on this tough exterior but the harshness of the world still gets to him. It's in those times of struggle where he has realized he needs a family to rely on.

Fiona has pretty much had it with her family. She has left to move in with Sean. She should know better than leaving the rest of the family with Frank and his newest girlfriend - in this case, it's Queenie - in charge. But she doesn't care either. No one has been listening to her advice lately. Sure, she doesn't always present herself in the best way to make her concerns seem legitimate to her siblings. But escaping isn't the answer either. Carl needs her now more than ever before. Yelling at him or being critical about his life choices isn't the way to connect with him. The best scene in this episode is when Fiona finally learns what's going on with Carl and reaches out in a way that is actually beneficial to his well-being. He was planning on getting out simply by arming the house further. But it's because of the support that Fiona and Sean give Carl that he's successful in getting out of this lifestyle. Frank and Queenie are no help at all. Frank just wants to encourage him to keep the business venture alive because it's his birthright while Queenie is distracted with caring for the other Gallaghers. Fiona and Sean are the parents that Carl needed and they really did come through for him in his time of need.

Of course, the show also struggles in depicting gang life with the same severity and tension throughout this episode. When it comes to Carl and his desperate need to get out of this horrible life, it's played completely serious. He wants to go straight in a world that cannot tolerate that. He went to prison for this gang. He has been loyal to them. And now, he wants out which can be so dangerous for him. He is injured when the thought first crosses his mind. Sean is able to help him out of this situation. It's much more serious than Sean originally thought. This is a real gang. Sean and Carl have to give all of their clothes (except their underwear) and Sean's car just to get Carl out. It's a tough price considering how cold it is in Chicago right now. But it's worth it too. Carl is now free and has formed a genuine family connection with Fiona and Sean. That's worthwhile for about a minute but it's still significant because of the complex emotions involved. They are finally a family that actually cares about each other and their well-being.

All of the stuff with Carl is very emotional resonant throughout the hour. But it also suffers somewhat from being an episode that also features Frank's own hijinks with the gang. When he interacts with these people, it's played for laughs. He goes in to take over for Carl. That's complete with a new hairstyle and some new friends. And yet, all of it is played for comedy. In order for the gang to trust Frank with an important shipment, he has to give up his left nut as collateral. If he doesn't come through, the gang is planning on cutting out his testicle. That's the proper incentive that Frank would need to come through for this job. But it's still played as wacky hijinks. That's how it comes across when Frank's new friends at the barber shop all sample the cocaine instead of actually driving him to Indiana. It's serious that he returns home only to be met by angry gang members who want to mutilate him. But it's hard to take it all that seriously. Frank has rarely had to deal with the consequences of his actions. It's been great when he has - like his cancer arc in Season 4. But right now, the show is in status quo mode with Frank. He needs to be around to aggravate his children while having sex with a beautiful woman who is somehow interested in him. It's amusing but very familiar and does lesson the tension and effectiveness of Carl's story about getting out of the gang life.

And then, there is the final act twist that threatens to destroy this new happiness that Fiona, Sean and Carl have found for themselves. Will is back in Chicago. Sean has told him the news about Fiona officially moving into the apartment. It leads to a couple of cute scenes where Will protests while Fiona does her best to win him over. She is soon distracted by Carl and it seems like this potential story is dropped altogether. That's not the case though. In fact, it takes a very serious turn in the end. When Fiona took Will to the Gallagher house, he found one of Carl's guns and decided to take it home with him. That's a very dangerous reveal that basically destroys this new family unit before it even has a chance to be happy. That is certainly a choice. It leads to a lot of plotting in this episode. Fiona and Sean have both proven themselves as good parents and influences on Carl. But complications are still threatening to tear them apart. Fiona and Sean have been a stable couple all season long. They really haven't had a whole lot of tension. That could have come up when she wanted to have an abortion. But it didn't. And now, the show is heading into the final third of its season with Fiona possibly losing yet another good relationship due to a Gallagher mistake.

It's a final twist that does have a lot of severity. It shows that not everything is better just because Carl has successfully gotten out of the gang life. It also shows that Sean has been risking a lot just by helping Fiona's family out of this difficult situation. He may be a good influence but they come from a lifestyle that could jeopardize his relationship with his son. That's more important than anything else in the world. He's willing to sacrifice so much in order to help Carl. But he's also more concerned about Will and his well-being. That means Fiona and Carl have to spend the night at the Gallagher house uncertain if there is still a future with Sean. Fiona is very sorry for what has happened. But she also doesn't fully grasp the reality of the situation and the consequences it could hold for Sean. This could change his entire life. Now, he has to decide whether he wants Fiona in his life or not. That will be complicated by Fiona and Carl working at the diner. But it's also significant because of Fiona's track record with guys. She is still responsible for this mess just because she brought Will to the Gallagher house. She has to reconcile with that fact while she's busying removing the dreadlocks from Carl's head. Again, it's a big twist in a episode that had an abundance of story. But it also will have interesting complications for the immediate future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Be a Good Boy, Come for Grandma" was written by Nancy M. Pimental and directed by Iain B. MacDonald.
  • This is a pivotal episode for Fiona, Sean and Carl. That story was significant and deserved to cover the bulk of this review. And yet, the rest of the Gallaghers were stuck in stories that literally were just giving them something to do this week. That meant most of them were played comedically and were pretty awful.
  • The most significant subplot this week was probably Ian and Caleb's relationship getting much more serious with the two revealing their dark secrets to each other. This show could have a serious and fascinating conversation about HIV. But getting to that point was very problematic. Again, it's nice to see Ian finding purpose with his life and training to be an EMT. But his relationship still isn't doing a whole lot for me.
  • But Ian's relationship woes are drastically more genuine than Lip's this week. He is struggling with being able to get his dick up for sex. It's a story that builds to a scene where Queenie is able to fix the problem for him. That's awkward but also kinda a typical thing for the show to do.
  • For awhile now, it's seemed like Lip has been turning more and more into a younger version of Frank. He's been drinking a lot lately to deal with his sudden breakup with Helene. He's still a functioning adult. But it's also meaningful when Queenie notices the family resemblance. It immediately signals that things are about to get sexual between the two - which they eventually did just not in an expected way.
  • Debbie's story is pretty horrendous though. She meets a cute guy, flirts with him a little bit, and then gets angry at him because he's only interested in her because she's pregnant. It's a dynamic that doesn't work at all. Larry always seems too old for her. The big reveal happens just to contain the story and be another shameless thing the show does this week.
  • Not a big episode for V or Kev. And yet, they are a big part of getting Fiona to help Carl in the way that he needs. It's nice that V will stitch Carl up when he needs it. But it's also smart of her to tell Kev the whole story in order to get the truth to Fiona without breaking her promise to Carl.
  • Would Ian and Carl sit back down at the breakfast table just because Queenie tells them to respect Frank more? No, they wouldn't. It's strange that they do.