Sunday, November 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona's Laundromat Has Many Problems in 'You'll Never Ever Get a Chicken in Your Whole Entire Life'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 7.07 "You'll Never Ever Get a Chicken in Your Whole Entire Life"

Fiona learns that owning a laundromat is costlier than expected. Frank helps Liam get into a plush new school after his old one is permanently shut down. Debbie cleans up her act and grows closer to Neil.

Shameless has had a renewed sense of agency and purpose this season. It has helped tremendously that the Gallagher siblings seem in control of their lives again with clear and specific character arcs and motivations. Things got too muddled last season. But now, things have gotten interesting for the majority of them once again. However, "You'll Never Ever Get a Chicken in Your Whole Entire Life" is the first episode of the season that doesn't quite work. There are elements of it that are very much appreciated. But it also feels like the show taking the typical route in and out of storytelling problems. It's creating plot and stories to keep the narrative complicated for an entire season. But not a lot of those twists feel genuine. It's easy to understand why things are happening. The siblings actually have some choices in their lives. It's just not surprising that all of them make the decisions that will ultimately create the most problems for them in the future. That's how long-form storytelling does things. Too much of the wheel-spinning is evident in this hour though.

Fiona's story is perhaps the most frustrating of the entire episode. She bought the laundromat from Etta in order to expand her interests as a businesswoman. She was doing well at Patsy's but was getting very little of the profits. She wanted to branch out on her own to make something of her life. She wanted that opportunity for herself just like all of her siblings have. She wanted control over her own life again. But now, she feels absent from the lives of her siblings. For example, how did she miss the note saying that Liam's school was closing? That conveniently happens to give Frank a new story for the season. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Fiona. Similarly, how did Fiona buy the laundromat without having some kind of inspection or awareness of its problems? The problems in the business were abundantly clear for all to see. Etta isn't fully with it while the machines are constantly breaking down. How is Fiona so naive about how much all of this will realistically cost? She's surprised that it will cost a lot in order to upgrade all of the machines. This is a new world for her. It's an exciting prospect. But all of these problems could have been foreseen.

Of course, Fiona has a way out of this investment too. Etta hasn't cashed the check from her yet. She could back out of this deal and force this little old lady to deal with all of these new bills and problems. Fiona almost steals money from Patsy's in order to pay for the repairs. Margo's presence forces Fiona to reconsider. Margo gives her some really blunt advice about how most people don't have the courage to be business owners. They don't have the determination to make all of the difficult choices and spend a ton of money just to hopefully make some. It's a reality check that Fiona desperately needs right now. She's in a bad situation and could easily go back to an easier life running a successful diner. She makes the right decision in ripping up the check and walking away from the laundromat. For some reason though, she changes her mind the next morning. It's not abundantly clear why she does that. Does she do it because she doesn't want to quit because things suddenly got hard? Is her overconfidence clouding her judgment with these major problems? Does she want to prove people wrong? None of these are good reasons to continue as the owner of the laundromat. Perhaps this is just setting Fiona up for failure. That could be a fascinating character arc. But the temptation to make it a comeback story may be too much for the show to pass off even though it wouldn't feel as genuine.

Elsewhere, Lip doesn't have much purpose in his life. After his internship ended for good, he's simply a dishwasher at the diner. He's nothing more than that. So in comes Professor Youens with a new opportunity. He has made an appeal on Lip's behavior to get his expulsion from college reversed. He has the possibility to go back to school. Lip doesn't seem to take it that seriously. Going to college was a huge influencer behind his alcoholism. And yet, he is reluctant to call his drinking problem that. He made some really poor decisions in college. He is content with never going back there. He's given up his dreams of a college education taking him out of his life on the south side of Chicago. There are plenty of other opportunities out there for him to scam his way into money. He just needs to find the right one. But all of this is framed through his new relationship with Sierra. She is really starting to become a great love interest for him. She calls him out on his shit while still being normal enough to envision a future with him. Yes, she has a son and a horrible custody arrangement with her baby daddy. But she is still a healthy option for Lip. And now, he's becoming more and more important in their lives. He's choosing to stay with them. He is stability in an uncertain world for them. But will he go back to college just to appease them? Will he go in the hopes of creating a better life for Sierra and her son? She doesn't see how anyone would pass up this opportunity. But she's just coming to learn about his drinking problem and poor decision making skills. College may not be for him. So, the show better find a way to make this renewed interest worth it for him on a personal level.

And lastly, Debbie is making herself out to be a victim of her circumstances even though she could have so much more in her life. Her life really took a turn when she decided to trick her boyfriend into impregnating her and then keeping the baby. And now, she's dropping out of school and getting married all in the hopes of providing stability for her daughter. She's trying to do the right thing. But all of this only further highlights how much she has given up to have this life. Debbie was a smart student before all of this happened. That's still true. She's able to pass the GED with no problems whatsoever. She was just able to fit that into her very busy day. At her new parenting class, she sees her situation similarly to the path of drug addicts. This is the life she chose to have. And now, she's complaining about her baby daddy's sister secretly recording her. She's not taking responsibility for her own actions. She's blaming everyone else for the mess her life is right now. She sees Neil as the silver lining in all of this. He represents a way to come out of this mess as a happier person. He can help end the DCFS investigation. She's hopeful about their relationship. She believes she's in love. She sees this as the best future she could have right now. That's not true at all. She believes this is her life that she has to accept. But she has done very little acceptance. She's trying to do right by her daughter but that often comes at the expense of the family around her. She's pushing them away in a time when she needs them the most.

Some more thoughts:
  • "You'll Never Ever Get a Chicken in Your Whole Entire Life" was written by Nancy M. Pimental and directed by John Wells.
  • Ian's story is perhaps the simplest of the entire episode but it's really sweet as well. It's just nice to see the show building up his new relationship with Trevor. It highlights both of their fears about bottoming. It shows that compromise is key in any relationship while also being open to new horizons.
  • Of course, it's still hard to believe that Ian has never bottomed before. In his committed relationships, it's understandable that he would always be the top. But when he was unstable and dancing at clubs, he was way too reckless to care that much.
  • It's always been unclear if Liam would ever get his own storyline. He's grown up a little bit over the course of the show. He gets a lot of lines per episode now. And yet, his story covertly turns into a Frank story. It's horrifying watching him walk away as his son is bullied. It's also not that tantalizing to see him flirt with the school administrator at the private school.
  • Also, the reasons behind Liam getting a full scholarship to go to a private pre-school are really murky. Is the school really that desperate for diversity? Why are they willing to put up with Frank after everything he has done during this first day?
  • So, is Ivan dead or alive? The show leaves that open-ended just like it does for the characters. Svetlana says she has taken care of the problem. And yet, she is purposefully keeping both Kev and V in the dark. V is able to get over her trust issues while Kev struggles a little bit.
  • It's amusing to watch the Alibi regulars react to the increasingly crazy details of Kev, V and Svetlana's lives. And yet, their stories are starting to become more tangential than ever before. They need to find a way back to the rest of the Gallaghers soon.
  • It appears that Carl's time at military school won't be seen at all. He got on that bus last week and doesn't appear in this episode. Again, it should be interesting to see how long that actually lasts.