Sunday, October 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Throws a Party, Debbie Looks for a Job and Lip Runs from His Internship in 'I Am A Storm'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 7.04 "I Am A Storm"

Frank worries that he and his new family will lose their Home for the Homeless shelter, so he plans a little goodwill for the neighborhood. Fiona drums up business by throwing a speakeasy party a Patsy's Pies.

Shameless is always at its best when Fiona and Lip's stories are easy to understand. Their wants and desires have frequently been the most captivating character arcs on the show. Yes, the rest of the ensemble has their good moments as well. But as a whole, the narrative is most effective when the through-line for Fiona and Lip's stories are concise, important and emotional. Those were muddled last season. They both got caught up in romances where it wasn't always clear what the show wanted the audience to think of those relationships. And now, both of them are single. They have no problems getting sex whenever they want it. But the pure driver of story for them this year is putting in the effort to chase what they truly want in this world. "I Am A Storm" paints a clear picture of the lives Fiona and Lip want. Things haven't changed all that much. They still want to grow up and provide a successful lifestyle for the entire family. They want to make something of their lives despite their upbringing. And now, it's all about committing to those paths and putting in the effort to make it work. Their stories in this episode are strong while showing how difficult all of this can be for their bond as siblings.

Halfway through the episode Fiona and Lip have yet another sit down at the Gallagher family table discussing just how messed up everyone's lives are. It's a dynamic that has happened numerous times over the years. But this one is different. Both of them are exhausted because of their jobs. And yet, neither one understands what the other is trying to do. Fiona doesn't see how Lip's unpaid internship will lead to bigger and better things while Lip doesn't trust that Fiona making all of these changes to Patsy's Pies will actually increase revenue. It's a subtle shift in their dynamic but it is pretty seismic. It forces Fiona to move out of the Gallagher house. She retreats to her office at work forming a makeshift bed for herself. She needs this place to work and wants to spend all of her time there and not caring for her siblings. Fiona has been absent from the house and the lives of her siblings before. She's gotten distracted by the chaotic nature of her life. She's focused more on the guys she's dated than the lives of her siblings. But here, she's making the choice to leave. She's being selfish and doing what she wants for once. This is her opportunity to make something of her life. Both she and Lip have fucked up so many times over the course of the series. Neither one has made good on their promise to break free of their family situation. The only thing that's changed is that the siblings have grown up now. They can all be equally responsible and don't need each other as much.

Of course, some of the siblings can still be incredibly immature. The majority of that does come from Debbie. She's not willing to accept the realities of her situation. Fiona has told her that she will not help with Harriet. She meant it. She told the siblings that they all needed to pull their weight around the house. She meant that too. All of the siblings are able to pay up for the first of the month. Debbie hasn't changed at all. She still thinks life is unfair to her. That it's horrible that none of her siblings will watch her daughter for her. Fiona tells Debbie she needs a job. But she's still so irresponsible with Harriet. Sure, her story about trying to find a life partner doesn't always work. It still builds to the conclusion of her accepting that life is hard. It's challenging and difficult. Nothing ever goes as planned. Debbie has this whole new responsibility and she hasn't truly grasped the reality of her life yet. The rest of the family is trying to force her to grow up. It's still slow progress. She has to be willing to listen and understand what they are saying in order to apply it to her life. She can't just work at Patsy's like all the other siblings because she doesn't respect Fiona enough to listen to her as a boss. Debbie admits that which could be a sign of growth. But she has a long way to go to pull her weight for the family.

All of that is a distraction for Fiona and Lip. It's something that Fiona has gotten used to from years of practice. She has had to care for this family for a long time. She's been trying to break free from that. She doesn't want to be caring for them and nothing else. She wants something to have that's completely hers and no one else's. That means Lip has to take over the responsibility of caring for the rest of the family. He doesn't quite have his life figured out either. He has always viewed himself as the smart one of the family. The one whose brain would actually lead him out of the neighborhood. He did leave but he's right back at the house now. He completely destroyed his college career. But he still feels like he's the family's best shot at getting out of this place. He gets a promotion at work. So, he's rising in the company even though it doesn't come with a pay increase. He sees it as the trajectory he needs to be on right now. And yet, it still leads back to him running away from a criminal situation. It's something he has been doing ever since the series began. Now, the stakes have just been raised. He's working for this tech company. It's his dream job. But he's realizing his bosses are just as criminal as the people in the life he came from. They are just as dumb too. It doesn't take much for Lip to break into the server room and find the illegal way the company makes money. But that, in turn, gives Lip a choice. Does he want to embrace this illegal but lucrative life? Or will he be content with just teaching? He has to make a choice. That's the mature thing to do. He can't keep running away. He's no longer a kid. He needs to stand up and take responsibility for his actions no matter what the consequences may be. He seems to make that choice in the end with a smile after seeing a text from his boss. But that could come at great expense to the rest of the family.

Moreover, things seem to be looking up for Fiona as well. In the beginning, it didn't seem like her changes at Patsy's were being noticed. No one was coming in after the place became a 24/7 diner and the cash register was falling apart. And yet, Fiona still has a creative spirit. She has the ability to completely change how things are done in this place. She just needs the proper motivation. She's doing this in order to make something of her life. It's what she wants. She's willing to give it everyone she's got. When she's out there promoting the big event she has planned, it's the happiest she has been in awhile. She's excited about this place. She's changing the menu to appeal to more people while also charging more. She's planning an epic speakeasy party to build buzz for the place. It's a skill set the audience has long known she is capable of doing. Remember back in the second season when she had a night at the club she was working at? That showed just how creative she was and how she could make a lot of money when she put her mind to it. It may have taken a long time but Fiona is back in that mind set. Sure, she may no longer have the support of her family and friends but she is really excited. She's proud of the changes she has made. At first, it was depressing to stand outside the diner smoking a cigarette. But in the end, she's in the same position looking at the place beaming with pride. This could be the start of something great.

However, Fiona's focus on Patsy's could come at great expense to the relationships she has built over the years. She's sick and tired of being the person to care for this family. She's basically quit and embraces this new endeavor wholeheartedly. That has left everyone else without this key fixture in their lives. Nothing is the same without Fiona around to guide them. This quality is at its most devastating when it becomes clear that Fiona and V are starting to drift apart. That friendship has been so important for both of them. They have relied on each other over the years. But now, Fiona wants her siblings to count on Kev and V more than her. She's too busy with Patsy's to care about whatever is going on with V. Sure, all of the stories about Kev and V's new living arrangement with Svetlana have been pretty comedically driven. But it's still a big deal when Fiona just shows up asking for alcohol instead of wanting to talk about things with V. That could be hinting at an even bigger rift in their relationship. Meanwhile, this tough love could be pushing the siblings away from Fiona. It may be for their own good. Carl is actually thinking about his future. But it could also foster even more resentment with Debbie that could get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Some more thoughts:
  • "I Am A Storm" was written by Sheila Callaghan and directed by Emmy Rossum.
  • Does the show just not remember how to tell a consistent Ian-based story any more? Last week, he was having a manic episode following his break up with Caleb. And now, he's back to normal. He still has his job somehow and is flirting with a new guy, Trevor.
  • It's not an inherently bad idea for Ian to learn more and become a more active part of the LGBTQ community. But again, why does it have to be a part of a new romance story? He just got out of one that didn't work at all. And now, he's being flung into a new one and being just as insensitive on issues he doesn't understand. At least, he admits it now which is progress, I guess.
  • Carl potentially going to military school could be the show's way of having him become the new Ian. This season has been about the characters growing up and changing. This move could be good for Carl. It just seems weird to think about him away from the house for a long time.
  • It never really feels like the audience should be all that worried about Kev and V's babies when Svetlana's father takes them for the day. They freak out and call the police. But it's still a story told with a humorous edge like most Kev and V stories do. It's all just building to the sight of Kev being a horse as a form of punishment.
  • Lip does a really poor job explaining what this tech company actually does. It's just important that it includes illegal gambling.
  • There is an interesting conversation to be had about the effect gentrification has on homeless communities. Centering that story around Frank though is such a disservice. He raises some fair points but it's so hard to take anything seriously with him because we know that he doesn't genuinely care. He just wants whatever will work best for him in the end.