Sunday, December 17, 2017

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Ian Takes His Feud with Fiona to the Next Level While Lip Helps His Friends in 'Occupy Fiona'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 8.07 "Occupy Fiona"

Ian tests Fiona's patience and resolve by bringing a messy "Occupy Fiona" movement right to her front door. Lip struggles to get Professor Youens to court for his DUI trial. A now unemployed Frank goes on a job hunt. Carl gets a feisty new rehab client with a plan to help him get the rest of his tuition.

What's going on with Ian? That appears to be the biggest mystery of this season of Shameless so far. It's a question the show has posed to the audience many times before. It was most effectively done in the fourth season when he went missing only to show up as a radically different person having a bipolar episode. Since then, the show has spent a lot of time with Ian trying to manage his disease. At times, it has cut corners with that process. It's told the audience that he is suddenly better because he's taking his pills even though we weren't privy to all of the hard work that must go into maintaining a sense of normalcy for him. He has had flare ups in the past. That was evident just last season when he almost got someone killed on the job. He still miraculously has his job. He still has a somewhat sexual relationship with Trevor. Whenever the show doesn't tell stories about Ian's mental health, it almost always goes to his romantic life. That's not a bad thing either. Trevor has been a good love interest for Ian. He's forced Ian to expand his horizons and see the world from a different perspective. Trevor is inherently good and nice. He helps the people who need it the most. That's pure and good. Ian aspires for that. That appears to be his motivation in this current story arc that finds him clashing with Fiona. But he takes it to such an extreme level. The only rational way to accept this the way the show is telling it to the audience is to believe that something more is going on with his mental health. And yet, it always wants to have an aura of mystery to it as well because these actions are atypical of what his normal behavior is like - either while normal or manic. That can be a fascinating story. It ends in a promising position by the conclusion of this episode. It just takes a lot of effort getting to that point.

All of this started because of a church. The show introduced the concept a couple of episodes ago. Both Fiona and Ian were vying for it for different projects. That first episode left things in an ambiguous way. They made their intentions known but it was never made clear to the audience who emerged victorious. Even in the weeks since then, it's been unclear what exactly happened to the church. Ian has been so furious with Fiona. He's angry to the point that he wants to kill her, humiliate her and destroy her business opportunities. Those are sudden and irrational actions. There always needed to be something more driving this conflict. For the majority of the screen time it has had so far though, it's been played for the comedy. This season started with the Gallaghers all getting along. And now, it has made the turn into this vicious and uncomfortable conflict between Fiona and Ian. One that seems increasingly petty and unnecessary. "Occupy Fiona" basically makes it clear that the artists ultimately got the church and Ian blames Fiona for that action because she has a personal relationship with Margot. But it also just seems like Ian is mad at Fiona because he wants to be mad at her. There is very little subtext to this story. Yes, it ends in that place where everyone involved is worried about him. But is that enough to justify what this plot ultimately became?

In this episode, Ian is holding a protest right outside Fiona's apartment building. She is still doing whatever it takes to improve the building so that she can charge more for rent. Sure, what's going on inside the building just seems like the show introducing a potential new love interest for her in Nessa's handyman friend, Ford. But that's a story for the future. Right now, it's all about this conflict between Fiona and Ian. They are still living in the same house. Everyone is just assuming that it's not anything to worry about because they are siblings. Fiona certainly has that mentality. She is ready to stop all of this. And yet, Ian keeps pushing things further and further. He uses the homeless kids in order to camp out in the abandoned lot right next door. He asks them to dig a latrine. He throws eggs at the apartment. He spray paints on the sidewalk. He calls in a fire code violation. He's yelling out profanities on a blow horn. It's just a lot to take. Until the audience really understands what's going on with Ian, it's hard to judge whether all of this is important or necessary. It doesn't seem like it is. It just seems petty because Ian has gotten so accustomed to things going his way. He's become a little too unlikable this season. That appears to be the point. He still has people who love him and are concerned about him. But he's also more difficult to love because he is taking things to the extreme without really caring about how his actions are affecting others. Yes, it could be another bipolar episode. But if that's the case, it would just seem like the show repeating a past story. There needs to be something different here. It could be tied to Monica's death and how that grief and depression is affecting his disease. That could be fascinating. But right now, it's just a lot of meaningless noice with mysterious and unclear consequences that are pushing Ian to some horrendous and off-putting places.

Meanwhile, it seems like Lip's story is hitting some very climatic beats. Sure, there are still going to be lingering difficulties with Brad's sobriety and whatever is now going on with Sierra. But this is the episode that seemingly brings to a close Professor Yoeuns' story on the show. It's very significant as well. Lip is trying his best to avoid the inevitable. He attributes Yoeuns and Brad as the people responsible for getting him sober. He would have never accepted that he had a problem if it weren't for those two. The bonds that he has with his family are great. But they don't have a sense of this addiction and just how destructive it can be. It's more personal for Lip, Yoeuns and Brad. Lip and Brad have been working the program. Lip has accepted that he needs help. But now, he's the one trying to keep his two friends sober. No one else from the program is showing up to carry this burden. Nor is it as personal for anyone else. Lip feels the need to help Yoeuns and Brad when they need it the most. He appreciates everything that they've done for him. He doesn't want to abandon them in their time of need. He needs to push them onto the path of a better life. He needs to motivate them into action. But at the end of the day, they have to want to change. Brad drank again and ruined his entire life. He has no idea how to get back in. Meanwhile, Yoeuns accepted his fate of going to prison the moment his accident occurred. Lip has the belief that he can stop that from happening if he just gives the right kind of testimony. But in the end, Yoeuns is still drunk and responsible for his own actions. He's going away to prison. Lip is trying to make sense of that. He wants to drink just as badly as his friends do. And yet, he strangely has more strength right now. That's maddening and crazy to him. He can't understand how they could be so understanding and perceptive with him while not being able to take care of themselves now. It's an action that has helped him remain sober. He's no longer obsessing over women. But there's still the ironic tragedy that this is the life that will always be there for him. And that's particularly daunting right now.

And finally, the other Gallaghers are all having difficulties with their jobs. It's a theme that connects Frank, Debbie and Carl together. However, the only one that the audience is really suppose to care about is Frank. He's the one facing the true realities of the world for how difficult it is to find employment in a system that is becoming more automated. The audience was never suppose to be invested in Debbie as a parking lot attendant. This is the first episode that tells a story about her job there and the consequences of her not showing up due to her road trip to Missouri. Meanwhile, Carl just lucked his way into this new detox program in order to raise funds for his school tuition. Putting aside the legality of it all, it never seems like he put too much thought into the program. As such, it's not surprising when it all seems to come to an end this week. But with Frank, his story is at least heading into a new direction. It's a twist that feels more familiar to the Gallagher spirit than what his story has been up to this point this year. It's been fascinating to see Frank as a genuine, contributing member of society. He's been reborn and tried to live according to the world's system. And now, he's essentially becoming a mule to get people across the Canadian border and return with the drugs that are much cheaper up there. It could be a solid business venture for him. One that is illegal though which proves that this rebellious spirit was always going to present itself regardless of him running into Monica. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Occupy Fiona" was written by Molly Smith Metzler and directed by Iain B. MacDonald.
  • How has Debbie never run into Dr. Dick before? She has been working this job for this entire season so far. She has worked the day shift. But here, she is fired because of her interactions with him. It's a conflict that plays out across three consecutive days. It's mostly played for comedy. But it should also be seen as her being very reckless with her life. She believes she's right to weld his car to a dumpster just because he's rude and breaks the gate. Also, why wasn't the broken gate a bigger deal? The show basically said that we shouldn't care about this job at all.
  • This new girl is going to be so much trouble for Carl. Again, he hadn't really thought through this business at all. He took people and then tried to determine whether or not they had family who would pay. It could be a lot of work without any guarantee that it will be financially beneficial. And now, it's over but he has a new problem in this girl wanting to stay. She is basically designed as a rich white girl who is trouble because she's rebelling against her wealthy family and their expectations. That just seems a little too formulaic and familiar.
  • It's absolutely ridiculous that Frank wants to lump himself in with the other middle-aged white men who are finding it more difficult to find managerial jobs in the current economy. He just worked at the lawn care store for a brief amount of time. His family never bothered to learn its name or care about his continuing employment. But Frank wants to believe in this connection because he sees himself as rapidly aging and only now getting caught up with the rest of society.
  • Sierra has basically been nothing more than a glorified extra this season. She has appeared in most of the episodes but just as the waitress in the background of Patsy's. She had importance early in the season as Lip was lusting after her and tried inserting himself back in her life. But now, something major is apparently going on in her life while everyone else has been distracted. That could be a compelling story. Or it could be repeating a similar story between her and Lip.
  • Kev is really struggling to find the right way to dominate V in the bedroom. He is willing to do and try anything in order to reignite the spark in their relationship. He doesn't want them to be dependent on Svetlana. And yet, it's odd how they are just able to explore this side of their lives without Svetlana appearing at all. That's strange. But they are able to find a rhythm that works for both of them by the end of the hour.