Sunday, November 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Meets Her Tenants While Ian and Carl Run Away From Danger in 'Where's My Meth?'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 8.02 "Where's My Meth?"

Frank re-lives his 20s and joins the workforce for the first time. Fiona grapples with evicting someone from her building. Lip works out a plan to sabotage Charlie's chances with Sierra. Ian and Carl make a troubling discovery about Monica. Kev says his goodbyes as he prepares to go under the knife.

It's so fascinating to see the Gallagher siblings all getting along in adulthood right now. In the early days of the show, they could band together as kids to overcome whatever problem they were facing. Life has never been easy for any of them. It has frequently been stressful. But now, the kids are growing up. They are growing apart from each other because they are all dealing with their own issues in life. Some of them are moving away from the family home. There is no longer the desire or necessity to live all together. This maturity is pretty miraculous to watch. They have their own individual problems. But it's fascinating to see the many different character pairings amongst the siblings as they try to help while still respectfully teasing each other about what's going on in their lives. In fact, they all bring useful skills to the table that makes life so interesting. They are on their different career paths. But they are still a family that is bonded as well. It's different and shows unity for the first time in awhile. Even Frank is doing better right now. No one truly believes this new act of playing by the rules will last. But it highlights the overall theme of this season where the Gallaghers truly seem to be doing better together even when the world keeps throwing new and unexpected curveballs at them.

Of course, not everyone in the family is doing okay. Just because the Gallagher siblings have this newfound respect and appreciation for one another doesn't mean they are suddenly healthy as a family. That's a theme that hits a little too on-the-nose when it comes to Liam's story. His is the simplest display of dysfunction in this world. Liam is completely amazed by the life of his wealthy friend from school and doesn't see the danger that exists right outside his front door. Of course, it's a little too painfully obvious that where Liam lives will cause uncomfortable tension with his new friend's family. That's simple but effective. Things are less simple when it comes to Lip. He's trying so hard to remain sober. He's running as hard and as frequently as he can. It's not enough. He needs to be working the steps of the program. But he's finding all of his time is obsessing over Sierra and her desire to make things work with Charlie. There is something so tragic and depressing to Lip listening to Frank's advice in saying that an addict is always an addict and can never really change. Both Lip and Frank want to be in defiance of that statement. They both believe that they are living better lives and won't be returning to their addictions. But Lip still listens to it and puts Charlie in a compromised position by dangling drugs in front of him. It's such a selfish and abusive move. He believes he needs to hurt Sierra like this in order to prove that Charlie is the stereotypical addict who'll never truly get clean. But he's not accepting what that truly means about himself and how this action defines how selfish he still is. He tries to do the right thing in getting rid of the drugs after seeing the pain he has caused. And yet, he's quickly punished for that by getting bit by Charlie's dog and then praised by Charlie for seeming like a genuine friend. All of this is so complicated that it wouldn't be surprising if Lip finds himself tempted by his addiction in a serious way soon. And that's very compelling to see because that dysfunction is so real and immediate. He's one big decision away from a relapse and destroying everything he cares about.

Lip, Frank and Charlie are still operating under the belief that change is still possible for them. They want to believe that they still deserve good things despite the addictions they've had in the past. It's an ongoing struggling for Lip and Charlie. They are tempted and even give in to bad behavior. Meanwhile, Frank hasn't felt that temptation to retreat to his old life again. He's still sticking with the program of being a genuine contributing member of society. He still views life as having this burden lifted from his shoulders. He has returned to the world after being blind and broken down for the past thirty years. He views himself as a 21-year-old man with a world of possibilities. Of course, that's not true at all. His children still believe he's running a new disability scam in order to collect money from the government. But he appears to be genuine in his desire to be a normal, working-class guy now. He's doing things that regular people do. He gets a job despite having no experience whatsoever. He lucks into it because his boss can relate to his story of losing his identity while being married to a woman. And then, he's the new employee who takes the job and safety seriously. It's enough for him to actually impress that boss by the end of the episode. Again, it's unclear just how long this is going to last for Frank. Right now, it's enough to get him promoted to supervisor. He put in the work to actually earn that promotion as well. He has a banking account and a cell phone now. Things are strangely looking up for him. But he's still going to the Alibi. He's not seen abusing drugs or alcohol. But there's still the worry that he'll fall into past patterns and ruin all of this goodness that he has going on in his life. Seeing how long he'll last is actually quite intriguing.

Frank is motivated because of a hatred towards Monica. He views her as the reason why he didn't have a better life up to this point. He's emotionally stunted because of her. And now, Ian is emotional stunted because of her death. He's the only one who still feels a connection with her and the tragedy that was her life. That's not surprising. He was always the only sibling who actually cared about Monica. That connection was easy to form because they both suffer from being bipolar. Ian is healthy in that regard now. But he's feeling this aching for Monica. He didn't always love or need her in life. But now, she's gone and he's feeling more close to her. It's a weird feeling that gets him ridiculed repeatedly by the family with the universe seemingly conspiring against him as well. The world is saying that there is no reason for him to be this hung up about Monica. He gets a horrible tattoo of a naked woman to memorialize her - which doesn't make logistical sense at all. He has sex with a chub and ends up crying in his arms. He is chased out of Monica's storage locker by the man whose meth she stole. Things aren't okay for Ian as long as he's in this funk about Monica. Right now, Fiona is the only one who is genuinely there for him and wanting to take his complicated feelings about her seriously. She gave up on Monica a long time ago. But she's still here for her brother as he sorts out his feelings. It's just a journey that is proving more mysterious and complicated for Ian than he was expecting. It still makes him the outlier in the family as well.

And finally, it's fascinating to see Fiona on the opposite end of the system than where she and the family were at the start of the series. In the beginning of the show, the Gallaghers were the family always running late on rent and just struggling to get by. Fiona was the one looking out for a lot of children and doing her best to raise them. Now, the only child in the house is Liam and he seems to be doing whatever he wants nowadays with very little supervision. That could potentially be troublesome. But right now, it's still mostly fine in the confines of the story. More importantly, Fiona is the one knocking on people's doors asking for the rent checks. She's still learning her way through this new business. She didn't know much about running a diner when she had to step up with Patsy's. And yet, she managed to turn it around. She didn't know much about running a laundromat. She lucked into success with that one and managed to earn a quick profit. And now, she doesn't know how to be a landlord. But she's quickly learning on the job. It still presents itself as easy problems for her to handle. She's dealing with crazy tenants while also forming a strong new friendship with Vanessa. There is symmetry to one tenant being exactly like her young self who is working the same crummy job and raising a bunch of kids. She sympathizes because she understands the struggle. But she also has to learn when to be tough. It helps that this lady just doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. There's no reason to care about Fiona kicking a family with young children out on the street. It's what they deserve because they're horrible. It presents itself as an easy plot complication even though the Gallaghers used to be that horrible family for a long time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Where's My Meth?" was written by Nancy M. Pimental and directed by Anthony Hemingway.
  • Kev has his big surgery to remove the mass that is in his right breast. He's scared that it's going to be cancer or that he's going to die during the surgery. That's amusing. And yet, it's such a moment of relief when it's revealed to be benign and he can celebrate at the Alibi once more. It's perhaps too easy that Kev and V are in charge of the Alibi once more. But it just feels right to see them in that environment again.
  • Debbie is really starting to distance herself from Neil. She started dating him out of convenience. It brought stability to her life that she needed for Franny. But now, she's a young woman exploring what the world has to offer. She has the freedom to do so knowing that Franny is being looked after. But she's also willing to see Derek's mother again and give her the opportunity to spend time with her granddaughter. So, Neil is becoming less necessary.
  • Plus, it's surprising just how quickly Debbie and her hair stylist love interest seemingly connect. Of course, the show gives the perception that they are having sex when in actuality he is just massaging her head. They are growing very intimate very quickly. Meanwhile, Debbie allows one of her fellow students to practice nursing on Neil which will probably bring her even more freedom.
  • Carl believes that his brothers are growing soft because of Ian's sentimentality towards Monica and Lip buying a plant. And yet, this episode also features all of the brothers running away from dangerous situations. Carl sees that with Ian - though likely blames him for it because of his desire to look through Monica's things. But he doesn't with Lip nor does he understand the significance of the plant.
  • However, the show has now introduced the man who owned the meth that Monica stole. She left it for her children as their inheritance. And now, Carl has sold all of it except for the bags that Fiona buried alongside their mom. But now that this guy has shown up, will he have more run-ins with the Gallaghers? Will he create more tension because of how they've spent the money? It should be interesting to watch.