Sunday, December 10, 2017

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - The Life Plans of the Gallaghers are Being Challenged in 'Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 8.06 "Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him"

Fiona is forced to reflect on her own life after a lonely tenant dies and the duty of cleaning out the apartment falls upon her. Debbie has a pregnancy scare and winds up in a compromising position. Lip enlists Carl's help to search for his sponsor. Frank enjoys having his first-ever credit card.

The beginning of this season of Shameless was notable because of the lack of conflict between the Gallagher siblings. And then, a conflict was introduced in last week's episode with Fiona and Ian. It was a fascinating conflict. They were both angling to buy a church. Fiona wanted to get a couple of artist brothers into the space in order to help the property value of her apartment building around the corner. Ian wanted to turn it into a homeless shelter to help the troubled youth whom Trevor is working with. It's a clash of different philosophies. It was the inciting incident that proved this relative moment of peace within the family was over. The two sides were operating largely in secret from one another. They were putting deals in place. It wasn't until the end of the hour that they realized they were competing with each other. No resolution came out of this conflict. The story didn't tell the audience which side prevailed. And so, it's a little weird and frustrating that "Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him" offers no further update on the status of the church. It leaves things in a pretty awkward limbo. The tension is still present between Fiona and Ian. But it is never really stated if Margot took the deposit from Ian in order to buy the church. He had the financing all ready to go. He was ready to commit in that moment. It's the show making this conflict personal to Fiona and Ian even though the outcome seems out of their control. Margot is basically the one who gets to make the ultimate decision. But she isn't a character of agency in this story. Fiona definitely aspires to be more like Margot. She wants this deal to work out to continue to show off her business prowess. But it's still odd that nothing seems to be happening in this regard. It's just not stated at all in this hour.

Of course, Fiona and Ian do share a tense scene. It's a moment where Ian calls Fiona out for her sudden lack of morals. It's a fascinating debate. Fiona believes she has worked hard for everything she has achieved in her life. She has faced so many obstacles because of the life that she was born into. Over the years, she has tried to be selfish a couple of times. The family has always pulled her back in. Now, she's making something of herself as a businesswoman. It's a freedom she has now because the siblings have gotten older and more self-sufficient. She believes she has earned the opportunities that have come her way. However, the show also seems to be ignoring just how lucky Fiona has been throughout a lot of this story. And yes, business success can oftentimes be about luck. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She has money now but she still views herself as someone who still needs to work hard in order to make it. Her argument in this current story is that since she worked hard to make something of her life than other kids can to. She is certainly operating with some blinders on. She's had a tough life. She's gotten lucky. She's not completely aware of that. Nor does she need to be. But it still gives Ian an argument as well. He's trying to give back in order to give more opportunities to people who need it - especially troubled youth. Sure, it's a motivation clouded by his feelings for Trevor. It's Ian trying to be a better person because he views Trevor as the perfect example of what a good guy should be. But all of this is basically condensed down to one scene. At an earlier point, Ian tells Carl that he would pay him five thousand dollars in order to kill Fiona. That just seems like such a rushed development that does a poor job of escalating this situation in a genuine way. As such, it feels more forced that something that naturally comes out of the current lives of these siblings.

Fiona also happens to be in a story where she wonders what will happen to her if she manages to push away her family. It's an odd story because family has always been heavily involved in this show. The stories have frequently taken the perspective that there is nothing these siblings could do that would force them to turn their backs on one another. Sure, they fight and argue. But at the end of the day, they always come back together because they are Gallaghers. That has been a consistent message across the entire series. And now, Fiona is worried that she'll end up all alone because she's dealing with a tenant who dies on her. Fiona is the one who discovers the dead body. It's a horrifying image that the show does share with the audience. The woman is naked in her apartment with her dog eating her body. The police are able to find a niece who didn't even know she was still alive. This woman closed herself off from her family. Fiona is able to latch onto this idea of the life this tenant had. She shows more care and appreciation for it then the actual family. But it's also a story that feels a little disconnected from everything else going on. Sure, it builds a connection between Fiona and the dog, Rusty. That could be a fun addition this season. But the parallel to Fiona's current life isn't really there. She feels isolated because Ian is upset with her and calling her morals into question. But again, it's largely a conflict without a whole lot of nuance at the moment.

Right now, the show seems to be making sure that all of the Gallaghers are dealing with their life plans not going how they want them to. The most effective of which has to be Lip's. He's been getting ahead of himself in his sobriety. He's been a little envious of the life that Brad has. He's never seriously considered a family before. But that was starting to change by holding baby Miles. And now, all of those hopes and dreams come crashing back to reality because Brad has a destructive relapse. It's a very moving story because the show has put in the work this season to prove that Lip is making a genuine go at being sober. He's been working the program and listening to Brad's advice. He was giving back to the world that has given him so much. He has squandered so much of the potential he had in the early seasons. Now, he's rebuilding his life. Even after this relapse, Lip is telling Brad how much he still has. That's more than he has at the moment. But right now, Lip is also the strong one. He's the one determined to find Brad. Sure, it's a purely selfish decision as well. He's doing it in order to prove that he is strong enough to stay with the program. He's having doubts because Brad seemed like he had beaten this disease. He believed that if Brad could do that then so could he. Now, he's full of doubts and fixated on the idea of helping Brad. He's the only person willing to do so. He's the only person willing to stick with Brad. In the end, he is successful in finding him. But Brad isn't welcomed back home. He has lost a lot even when Lip is trying to encourage him. So now, the two of them are in the muck of recovery together. That's scary but really promising as well.

Elsewhere, the world throws a huge curveball at Frank. For the majority of this hour, it seems like everything is seemingly going his way. After years of working the system and miraculously getting everything he wanted, the system is apparently working for him. He has a job where he is appreciated. He's being a good influence at Liam's school. And now, he gets a credit card and discovers the wonders of online shopping. It feels weird for Frank to continue to get rewarded with so much after all of the horrible things that he has done. It was clear that he was going to get hit with a reality check sooner or later. Things couldn't possibly remain this good for him all season long. He would be hit with some true adversity. Only then would it be clear if he was genuinely trying to be a better person following Monica's death. And yes, he is still being incredibly reckless. He's paying for everything with his credit card. He buys a car online solely to impress Liam. It still works. That bond continues to grow. But it's all building to him being fired from the store. He's a model employee. But the business is closing. It's no longer profitable in an automated world where people can buy these supplies online. It's the show once again starting a conversation about how difficult it can be to rise up to the middle class. Opportunities are being taken away from the working class. Instead of launching into a big monologue about the corruption of modern day society though, Frank takes all of this in an upbeat and optimistic way. He believes the hard workers will survive. He believes he'll find employment elsewhere because he got this opportunity. He believes he'll land on his feet. That's a surprising character moment. Yes, consequences will still be coming for Frank this season. But this does prove that he has changed a little bit this year too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him" was written by Mark Steilen and directed by Zetna Fuentes.
  • Debbie has a solid plan for her life. And yet, she's making a lot of the same mistakes as well. She's still getting caught up in the moment with sex and not using any kind of protection. She's only worrying about the consequences afterwards. She's not trying to trap her new friend like she tried with Derek. But it's a story that forces a countdown clock because she's still a little unprepared for the world as well.
  • Also, Debbie's story ends in an awkward place. She is able to get the morning-after pill under the wire. The clock is literally hitting zero when she gets to the counter with friends who are actively trying to help her. It plays as a victory. But the time basically ends before she is able to take the pill. So, that still leaves the possibility of her getting pregnant. And yet, the show seems to be just interested in the amusement of this story without it having any lingering importance.
  • Kev's story with him trying to have sex with men is just random and cringeworthy. The show has been very progressive with its sexual politics over the years. But this story just seems purely designed for laughs without providing any kind of intriguing or amusing commentary. It's just suppose to be amusing that Kev is terrible at flirting with guys and is very lucky to have V.
  • Meanwhile, V comes to the realization - thanks to Fiona - that she may like being dominated sexually. That's why she still feels the attraction to Svetlana even though she's a horrible person. She bosses her around in bed in a way that Kev doesn't. Kev is willing to try it but seems to be missing the point as well. He's willing to do whatever V wants. He's eager to get Sveltana out as well. This just seems like an awkward situation for all involved though.
  • Is Professor Youens trying to get sober? That was a really effective story earlier this season. He pops up again here as a part of Lip's new sobriety group of friends who are worried about Brad. Youens goes along with Lip for longer than anyone else in this group. Carl is forced into helping. But the show has never offered enough clarity over what's going on in Youens' life and whether his perspective is affected by him trying to get sober too.