Sunday, December 4, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Mickey's Escape Leads to Complicated Emotions for Ian in 'Ride or Die'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 7.10 "Ride or Die"

Fiona, facing mounting issues, contemplates Margo's offer to buy the laundromat. Ian tries to deal with the fact that Mickey might be out of prison. Kev and V take matters into their own hands after Svetlana's betrayal.

The world and characters of Shameless have changed so much over the years. That's a story that has been brought up a number of times this season. The characters' lives have always been complicated. But now, they are complicated in different ways because they've grown and made choices. Yes, the Gallagher siblings are still living in the same house. But the world around them has changed. They've benefitted from that change and have been crippled by it. Their community in the South Side of Chicago isn't the same as it was at the beginning of the series. This is no longer a place where the citizens will "shamelessly" do whatever it takes just to get by. This is no longer a place where people refuse to snitch on each other or sell out to the man. The neighborhood has been gentrified. The Gallaghers have taken ahold of the opportunities that come from that. Some of them have thrived in this new environment but it has also made them question their roots and whether they still abide by the rules they were raised in. Their world has changed. So when they are confronted with major decisions regarding their futures, it's even more intense and dramatic than ever before.

"Ride or Die" is an important episode of the season because it marks the return of Mickey Milkovich. Last week's episode dropped the bombshell that he has broken out of prison and may try to contact Ian. Mickey and Ian's relationship was such a crucial element of the show for many seasons. It was a fantastic love story that had so much importance in the cultural zeitgeist. It showed that a gay couple can be just as complicated and human as a straight couple can be. Plus, it really was the best version of love on the show. That love was real. And they found it despite their respective family situations and environment. They cared for each other. They stood by each other even when so many complicated and emotional things happened to them - including an abusive, homophobic father and a bipolar diagnosis. Despite all of that, they stayed together and were happy. That was the stance the show wanted the audience to take. That this was a couple worth rooting for and cherishing.

And then, Ian and Mickey's story abruptly ended at the start of Season 6. Noel Fisher was always one of the best performers of the show but he wanted to explore different professional options. That was an understandable impulse for him as an actor with a rising profile. The show did the best it could in writing him off with a lengthy prison sentence. Mickey would always love Ian but Ian had to move on and build a life without Mickey in it. That was something the show really struggled with though. Ian's stories haven't been that great for the last two seasons. He doesn't need to be with Mickey in order to be a compelling character. But it was apparent that it was an important part of his identity. Season 6 was a failure because the show skipped other necessary plot points in order to throw him into a new relationship. Things have been better this year because he has a successful job and a relationship that makes him question his own ignorance in this world. He's largely been happy and stable this season. So that makes it an exciting time for Mickey to return. So the question once again becomes: is Ian destined to be with Mickey in order to find his greatest love? And now, it's unclear if the show still believes that.

Because Mickey returns by breaking out of prison, it doesn't make the situation one of hopeful romanticism. Instead, it's a reality where Mickey is a fugitive and quite literally asking Ian to throw away every single thing he has worked so hard for lately. Ian has had choices since Mickey was imprisoned. Yes, the show did a disservice to him by not depicting the stabilization of his disease. It didn't want that mental illness to define everything about him. But it's still a crucial piece of his character. Mickey was there when all of that was first going down. Does Trevor even know the truth? Ian has such a deep history with Mickey. But things have been going well with Trevor so far. He represents a future of stability and professionalism. Mickey is still the southsider bending the rules in order to get what he wants. It's intoxicating. It's easy to understand why Ian lusts for those emotions. It's a rush of feelings that's exciting. He sees Mickey every time he reaches out. Plus, he hooks up with him again. It's electric seeing the two of them onscreen again. However, the show does position Mickey as a threat to Ian's life. One that will recklessly destroy all of his happiness. The parallel between Mickey and JimmySteve is perhaps a bit too forced. But that scene between Ian and Fiona is wonderful. She has the hindsight to recognize how wrong it would have been to leave with JimmySteve. But Mickey is not JimmySteve. He loves Ian. All that he can provide though is a life on the road as a fugitive. That may be exciting now. But the Gallagher siblings need each other in order to thrive in this world. Ian ultimately decides to leave with Mickey. It's such a surprising move to end the episode on. Ian makes his choice. And now, the consequences should be extreme. Is this Ian pursuing true love? Or is it Ian experiencing another manic episode?

Fiona makes her choice as well between sticking to her roots or being a cutthroat businesswoman. This hasn't been an easy transition for her this season. She's gotten in way over her head with the laundromat and Etta. It's been a disaster for her almost every step of the way. She's barely making any profit. It would feel right for her to fail and then have to figure out how to save the entire family from financial ruin. And yet, the show unexpectedly gives her a way out. It's a way for her to win despite all of the noticeable problems she has with this business. The laundromat has done some good in bringing her closer to Debbie, Kev and V again. But it's cost her a ton of time and energy. She has gotten very little reward because of it. And now, Margo presents her with an offer. Fiona had never thought about selling the place. And yet, she has to take these negotiations seriously. This is a new element she has to master in order to succeed in business. She has to know when to let go and what price is a good deal. She may not know a ton of Margo's plans for this neighborhood but Fiona is still able to drive the price up for the place. She does so because she's attached to the place emotionally. It's unclear if it's a well thought-out business tactic or her own naivety over the situation. But she still gets a $160,000 offer. At one point in time, Fiona would have told Margo to fuck off after calling this place a shitty neighborhood. But now, Fiona has to become the person southsiders hate in order to succeed. That transition fully happens when she gives Etta one last dance in her beloved laundromat. It's such a sweet scene but it's devastating as well. Fiona sees how personal this all is but she has to face reality and take the deal that works best for her.

Throughout all of this, Fiona has needed V to talk to about her new struggles and choices. And yet, they've drifted apart over the years and no longer fully understand each other. It's been an interesting story this season. At times, their rift has been forced. But it sure is satisfying to watch them sit down and talk things out again. Fiona knows what's going on in V's life thanks to Kev. He has reached out and needed her advice over the situation with Svetlana. But with V, it's much more important. She has gotten her heart broken and needs her best friend. Meanwhile, Fiona has sold out her identity for $160,000. Both of them are experiencing some major life moments right now. They need each other in order to fully realize what has just happened. Fiona has never trusted Svetlana. But she wasn't there to know how V developed feelings for her because she was busy with either Sean or her new business. The same goes for V. They were both to blame for this fight. And yet, it was a very understandable story. They changed over the years. Their friendship has needed to change as well. This episode suggests that it has and it can still be good for both of them. They realize that they are both assholes and agree to never be that way too each other. It's a promise filled with hope.

Lip's story has a really hopeful ending as well despite how tragic and depressing it has been for the majority of the season. The family is just now starting to get worried about his drinking problem. The audience should be as well. He's waking up in random parts of town having completely blacked out. That's troubling and comes straight out of Frank's playbook. His parents are proud to see him go on a bender like this but it's devastating to everyone else. He's continuing to throw everything promising he has away. So many people want to help him. But until he accepts that he needs help, he'll never change. Again, the root of all of these problems stems from the end of his relationship with Helene. So, it's not surprising at all that she's the one who ultimately convinces him that he needs help. Their relationship wasn't the greatest story even though Lip's drinking has been quite compelling. But again, all it takes is one tragic accident for things to go terribly awry for Lip. That seems like all that he can aspire to at the moment. He struggles even with his job as a dishwasher. It's up to Helene to see how far he has fallen and tell him he needs help. He listens and goes to a meeting. That moment is very hopeful because it's Lip finally admitting that he has a problem. Will it actually stick this time though? That's the uncertainty of choices as an adult. The siblings have had to make plenty as of late. They've had to commit to these paths. But all it takes is for something new or unexpected to happen to throw them back down. Lip and Fiona seemingly make the right decisions here while Ian is potentially making a horrible one. But only time will tell if that's true in the long run.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Ride or Die" was written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Zetna Fuentes.
  • At one point, Frank says that "love is raw and destructive." That would certainly apply to his great love with Monica. It would also be an apt description for Ian and Mickey especially right now. But love takes many forms and is very complicated. He says it as a dismissal of Debbie and Neil's relationship. But that doesn't mean that he is right - or wrong for that matter.
  • Frank and Monica really have just fallen back into their old routine. They don't tell any of the kids that Monica is dying. Instead, they are focused on trying to get money to leave them with an inheritance. It's an amusing story especially knowing that they would never be able to save the money for the kids while Fiona is off getting much more a legitimate way.
  • Fiona also gives Kev the name of the divorce lawyer she used to end her marriage with Gus. He does seem like the man for this very complicated job between Kev, V and Svetlana. Though of course, that's if Kev can pay the retainer fee.
  • Debbie does a very smart thing in kicking Frank and Monica out of her house. She was appreciative of Monica last week but she has already spoiled that good will. In fact, this hour does a great job in showing just how smart and capable Debbie is. She would actually make a good business partner for Fiona.
  • What are the odds that everything may be leading to Fiona buying the Alibi from Svetlana? She would make sure that Kev and V would still run the price while also sticking it to this con woman. But would that be a good investment for her? Probably not.
  • It's definitely interesting how the show isolates Ian in subtle ways as it comes to him making this big decision. Sue believes in him on the job but is too exhausted to put up much of a fight when he fakes being sick. Trevor wants to hear about his crazy life but has too much going on at his job to listen. Even the great Fiona moment catches her off guard because she fell asleep while crunching the numbers. Plus, Lip is nowhere to be found and that brotherly dynamic has always been so crucial to both of them.