Sunday, December 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Frank and Monica Decide to Get Married Again in 'Happily Ever After'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 7.11 "Happily Ever After"

Frank and Monica have an interesting proposal for the kids. Lip buckles under pressure from Debbie to get his sobriety under control. Fiona sees a business opportunity. Kev and V attempt to start a new chapter.

Fiona has failed upwards a little bit this season on Shameless. She has spent the entire series trying to get her shit together but was always destined to put caring for her siblings above herself. But now, she has made at least a $70,000 profit from the sale of the laundromat. She's using that to be much more confident with herself. The money proves that she can succeed as a businesswoman. She's already planning her next purchase - after paying off her loan and treating herself to a new vehicle, of course. And yet, Fiona got very lucky with the laundromat. She really didn't know what she was doing. She had succeeded at the diner. But she made countless mistakes with the laundromat. It was from sheer luck that she made a profit with the business in such a short amount of time. She had the help from her friends. Plus, people saw her as an experienced and competent owner. She wasn't that. During her negotiations with Margo, Fiona hadn't done any research. She didn't know how much to get out of Margo. She just kept talking with her emotions which caused the price to go up. She had no understanding of Margo's plans for the neighborhood. And yet, it's still a victory for Fiona. One that makes her seem like a success story compared to the rest of the family. She is able to take this experience and know how to do things better for her next project - an apartment complex. But the show wants the audience to see Fiona as a capable and smart businesswoman after a season of struggle. And yet, she still seems like the same Fiona as always who has found success but could fall back to reality with any potential purchase. It's unclear if that's the emotion the show wants the audience to be feeling in this moment.

Additionally, it is just so odd that Lip apologizes to Fiona for doubting her purchase of the laundromat. Again, it wasn't because of her quick skills and planning that led to all of this money from Margo. Lip had a legitimate reason to be angry with Fiona. She put the family house up as collateral for her loan. That was a major risk that affected the entire family. Fiona didn't discuss it with anyone. Those were valid concerns from Lip. But the show is playing all of this as him not knowing what he was talking about because he was in denial about his alcoholism. His apology now is tied to his acceptance over his disease. He's putting in the effort to do better so that he can once again plan for a future - just like Fiona and Debbie are doing right now. Fiona has a ton of money while Debbie has a plan to go to junior college and learn welding. Those ventures may not be that successful for them. But at least, they have plans. This episode is all about uncertainty over whether Lip will stick with the program. Will he actually stay sober this time? Will he go to meetings and take them seriously? The uncertainty is present for the entire episode. When he sneakily returns home, the audience is suppose to believe he's just gotten alcohol. Instead, it's yarn. That's the big reveal that he is going to try and stay sober. He's going to face reality for what it is and not the disillusioned version that comes from drinking. That shows a lot of progress from him. Yarn is a simple step. It's his first goal to fill his time again. From there, he can dream bigger again and have a brighter future. That starts with him and Fiona being on the same page again. And yet, they both had things to apologize for and the show just skips Fiona's potentially destructive business decisions completely.

Elsewhere, Mickey and Ian are on the road together as fugitives trying to escape to a better life. There was some criticism about last week's episode and its willingness to change the history of these two characters. I didn't really feel that though. The show still honors their relationship and how important each of them are. The comparison to JimmySteve is a little harsh for Mickey. But I took that as a commentary on the situation Mickey is forcing Ian into and less about Mickey's overall influence on Ian's life. Ian has turned things around in the last year without Mickey. He has a stable job and relationship. His mental illness hasn't been much of a problem anymore. When he left with Mickey, it felt like his disease rearing its ugly head again. But here, he seems very calm and level-headed. It's less about the disease and more about honoring the bond between these two. They will always love each other. Their connection will always mean something. Ian went along for the ride because he didn't want to regret it later on. But this episode also shows that being with Mickey means embracing a criminal life that Ian has grown away from. This adventure shows that Ian is still crafty and willing to do whatever it takes in order to survive. He's the one who hot wires a car to steal. It's not until they reach the Mexico border that Ian even thinks about the life he is running away from.

Mickey's family hasn't been important in a long time. Even when they were on the show, they were never all that great or important to Mickey. And yet, Ian's family means something to him. He could probably afford to lose his job as an EMT and his relationship with Trevor. He'll be able to recover and come back from those loses. But the lose of his family would be absolutely crushing to him. They've had his back no matter what. Mickey has been there for him as well. His importance when Ian was first diagnosed was so crucial. But now, Mickey is forcing Ian into an impossible situation. He's forcing Ian to choose between his family or his greatest love. Family wins out in the end. It's not a completely surprising development. But it is crucial to the overall state of the show. Ian watches as Mickey drives off to a better life in Mexico. He'll be living on the run as a fugitive for as long as he can. Ian will have no idea where he is or if he'll ever see him again. But his family is just too important to leave behind for good. And yet, all of this makes it incredibly odd when no one in the family notices that Ian is gone. Ian does give a cover story to Lip. But that's it. There is a big family celebration for Frank and Monica. And no one questions where Ian is? Yes, it's important that the siblings grow up and live separate lives. It would have just been better for Ian's big decision if the show reminded the audience how important family is for him. Yes, after all these years, it doesn't really need to be said. The effect is still the same. There was just something missing to really put this decision over the top as the emotional and devastating thing it is.

Ian will return home to a broken and changed family as well. His siblings (except Carl) were all there for Monica's last day alive. They were there for this celebration of love between her and Frank. None of them really believe in it. They've been through all of this before. But Monica's death will mark a new future for the family. She's gone for good now. Her death was destined to happen this season after she revealed her illness to Frank in her first episode. It was just a matter of when. She dies once again fighting and making up with Frank. She died as she lived. And Frank is left sobbing over her dead body trying to bring her back to life. He knew her time was limited. The siblings didn't though. They are surprised by this tragic turn of events. Their lives may not change in profound ways without Monica. They have been able to live without her for a long time. It will just be interesting to see if her death affects them in any way at all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Happily Ever After" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by John Valerio.
  • Kev and V's story is once again completely separate from the Gallaghers. And now, they are trying to find new jobs since Svetlana took over the Alibi. It's mostly a story about Kev becoming a bartender at a gay bar. It's meant to bring some levity to the episode and it mostly succeeds with that.
  • Seriously, Debbie has decided to go to junior college and learn welding. Where did that decision come from? Was almost losing Franny her rock bottom? And now, she's starting to rise and be a responsible person again? If so, it's a little weird because she really hasn't dealt with that many consequences for her actions over the past few years.
  • Lip really hurt Sierra with his addiction. And yet, the two of them keep sharing glances with each other. They are still in each other's lives. They work together. So, it seems likely they might get back together once he stays sober for awhile.
  • It seemed like Fiona had already put Etta in a nursing home last week after she sold the laundromat to Margo. She confessed it to V in their big reunion. But instead, Etta is still living in her room causing problems. So Fiona has to house her for a little while and still find a permanent place to send her. It's all just a little too unnecessary. Their story already had an appropriately devastating ending last week.
  • Fiona also sleeps with the man who might sell this apartment complex to her. He's a successful businessman from the south side as well. It's not surprising that they have sex. But after a season without men, he also seems like someone she might want to be with more seriously considering his backstory. Will she stick to her new convictions? Or will she repeat past behavior?
  • Will Carl return home from military school to attend Monica's funeral? He didn't love her anymore than the other siblings. But it could be a great way to show how much he has changed because of this new environment.