Sunday, November 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Frank Tries to Make Amends as Lip Struggles to Remain Sober in 'We Become What We... Frank!'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 8.01 "We Become What We... Frank!"

The Gallaghers find themselves with money to burn as Carl sells their inheritance from Monica. Fiona swears off random hookups to focus on her new apartment building. Lip deals with the sacrifices that come with sobriety. Frank emerges out of a meth-induced haze to make amends for decades of depravity.

Season premieres on Shameless are often full of table setting and exposition. They are reminding the audience of where the characters were left off at the end of the previous season. They are basically just easing the audience back into this world by explaining how some time has past and what the characters are up to now. They aren't these big or dramatic things that are the show at its best. It's just a simple and easy hour of television. Of course, this is the show's eighth season premiere. It's impressive that the show has lasted for as long as it has. It's bound to be one of the longest shows to ever air on Showtime. That's a huge accomplishment. And the show is still relatively good as well. Showtime has always had trouble in knowing when to end shows. They typically let their series go on and on for as long as possible even when the stories should have been wrapped up a long time ago. As long as people are still watching and the creative team and stars still want to produce new episodes, then Showtime tends to keep on renewing. Shameless is now the veteran series on the network. Of course, it has run into the problem of wondering if it has gone on for too long? The show has gotten very repetitive. It was able to pull itself out of a funk following its sixth season. The seventh was overall quite good. And yet, it's still easy to question how much story is left in the lives of these characters. The Gallaghers have grown so much over the years. And yet, they are still fundamentally the same family that is working the system as best as they can in order to get ahead in life. But now, some of them actually have successful careers and are making good decisions in their lives. As such, the show needs to rely on more hijinks in order to complicate their lives. That's perfectly fine as well. It has always been a part of the show. But it's still a pattern that offers a sense of familiarity while not really doing anything new after eight years.

And so, the show once again returns to the well of Frank getting high and returning to his children's lives pleading for another chance to be a better parent. There's a sense of tragedy to Frank living in this pattern over and over again in his life. Of course, the show wants to have a sense of perspective with this story in "We Become What We... Frank!" as well. It believes it has found a new angle to approach the mystery of whether or not Frank is capable of change. Across seven seasons, he has never been more than the alcoholic father who is always selfishly looking out for himself often at the expense of his own children. The various Gallagher children have believed him to have changed only to be proven wrong so many times over the course of the show. They have all been incredibly skeptical of him every time he has returned to their lives. They were fed up with him enough to toss him into the river following Fiona's failed wedding. They no longer want to be a part of his various schemes even though they still have a tendency to become intrigued by them. And now, Frank has returned from a meth-induced haze believing that he is finally a free man. He was simply stuck in this pattern his entire life because Monica stole his true essence away. He was a bright young man on an upward trajectory in life when he met Monica. She introduced him to drugs and revealed these problems within him. He was stuck pining after her for 30 years. And now, he's an old man believing himself to be an emotionally stunted 20-something.

Frank is going around the city making amends to the people he can remember wronging in the past. That is a long list. Of course, it's a story that doesn't ultimately mean anything. The show has a rich and complicated history it could delve into when it comes to Frank making amends. The audience and the Gallagher siblings have a long list of horrible things he has done for selfish reasons. There is no reason for anyone to forgive him for his actions in the past. They could simply say that they do without really meaning it because they've been done this road with Frank before and he always reverts back to his past pattern. The show could play into that with this story. But the various amends that Frank makes in this premiere aren't really rewarding to the audience who have been here since the very beginning. It makes sense that Frank would have wronged people the audience has no knowledge of whatsoever. But where is the fun and the appeal to that? It would be much more meaningful to see him apologize for an action the audience actually has context for. That could come from his amends to his children. But he just generalizes all of those. He just apologizes for everything as a whole without naming anything specific. That just makes his children look at him with skepticism. They don't believe that Frank has changed. This is just the latest time he has returned to their lives claiming to be better. The show will need to actually prove that Frank is trying to be better and taking responsibility for his actions. Until that happens, there doesn't seem to be anything special with this story.

Elsewhere, the new stories for the characters are all being introduced and some seem intriguing and some feel like more of the same. The show is perhaps being a bit too blatantly honest with Fiona swearing off random hookups with men only to then become fast friends with a lesbian who lives in her new apartment building. That seems like too conventional a story to be featured on Shameless. It seems too obvious that Fiona will try a romance with a woman after living her entire life chasing after inappropriate men. That could be compelling. It's just a little too awkward and forced at the moment. Meanwhile, Ian is still pining after Trevor and hoping that his running away with Mickey didn't ruin that relationship for good. He hasn't made any progress in that endeavor though - with his ambulance partner saying he should just move on already. Debbie finally seems like she has her life figured out and is no longer dwelling on the actions of the past. She has a job she is effective at while going to school to start a career where she believes she can make a reasonable living. Her having friends from school could be a nice way for her to mature with a story away from the rest of her family. And finally, Kev and V are still pissed about Svetlana stealing the bar away from them. That feels like a story that is already resolved by the end of this premiere though. V stages an ICE raid to get Svetlana and her employees arrested. It may be unethical but it's completely in line with the kind of vengeance she wants to take. Will it be satisfying enough for her? Plus, is this the last of Svetlana? That seems unlikely because Isidora Goreshter is still a series regular. It probably signals that things are about to intensify in this feud between the two.

Meanwhile, Lip's story is the one that tries for more poignancy in that he is truly trying his best to stay sober now. That's good for him. Last season he tried working out a system where he could keep drinking but tried to maintain it each day. It wasn't surprising when it ultimately didn't work out for him and he ruined a really promising relationship with Sierra. And now, he's still hopelessly pining after her. He's putting in the work to stay sober. He has a sponsor now who is ensuring that he is sticking with the program. Lip is trying to make it all work by running whenever he feels the urge to drink. He ends up running a lot throughout this premiere. But he's still the same Lip Gallagher as well who is trying to use his charm to impress women. He's being flirtatious with a girl at the motorcycle shop who shows no interest in him. Plus, he's still trying to get back together with Sierra. She's decided to give the father of her son another chance. They are dating. Her life is seemingly defined by going after men with addiction problems. She didn't want that in her life if they weren't going to take it seriously. Lip is trying to do so now. He's just in the early days of it. He's still trying to find the right way to remain sober. Meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend already seems to have found that peace. It's a destructive reveal for the people in the audience who care about this relationship. I mostly like Sierra because of her dynamic with Fiona at Patsy's. She's one of Lip's better love interests as well. But right now, Lip would be better served in trying to remain sober and figure out his future after flailing around for so long.

Some more thoughts:
  • "We Become What We... Frank!" was written by John Wells and directed by Iain B. MacDonald.
  • Shameless seems well-positioned to have an honest and frank discussion about life under this new presidential administration. It seems like the creative team turns into it completely in this premiere as well. It comments on ICE raids happening more often with less civility while not really caring about Russians. Plus, this show has done a terrific job in covering gentrification and how it affects poor, working-class Americans. So, it should be intriguing to see how much of real-life affects the world of this show.
  • The show has always been very unclear regarding Liam's actual age. After eight seasons, he should have more of a personality and stories by now. Debbie and Carl were young when the show started and had their own stories. It would be fun to spend more time with Liam. This premiere does in showing how his new school isn't really showing an interest in teaching him. They just want to parade him around to show off their diversity statistics to prospective parents.
  • Kev has a promising and intriguing new story development as well. It's already significant that he and V are on opposite work schedules and haven't had any sex in awhile. But while he's at work at his new gay bartending job, a customer who is feeling him up notices a lump in his breast. It turns out to be a mass that needs to be removed quickly. That's completely unexpected and will only increase the financial stress of this family.
  • And yet, it's great that V is working at Patsy's. Things were so difficult between Fiona and V last season because they were no longer getting along as friends. And now, they are working together. Sure, they are having very inappropriate conversations in front of the customers. But that's not anything new. In fact, it just reinforces how great this friendship really is.
  • Fiona is miraculously able to get a new tenant for her crummy apartment building to sign a lease for $1000/month. That's crazy. It's weird because she barely does any work to make that deal at all. The show never really focuses on the improvements she made to this apartment. She basically just slaps a new paint of coat on it, markets it to a certain customer and then gets lucky when a bidding war starts out. But that doesn't do anything to boost her entrepreneurial prowess.
  • Carl hasn't sold all of the inheritance meth yet. He has unloaded it for himself, Lip and Debbie. But he still has to do so for Ian. There's no real reason why Ian is the last on the list. It just is. That means he'll probably run into some trouble. Right now, it's just important that Carl buys a hot tub and flag pole, Debbie buys welding equipment and Lip pays back his professor for his stint in rehab.