Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona and Lip Explore New Opportunities and Responsibilities in 'Mo White!'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 9.02 "Mo White!"

Fiona makes a play for a risky investment opportunity, ignoring Ford's advice. Frank discovers the financial incentives of local politics. Carl bolsters his West Point application in unexpected ways. Debbie struggles to find allies in her battle against sexual harassment. Ian is overwhelmed by the growth of the Gay Jesus movement. Kev and V try to find the perfect preschool for the twins.

Fiona beams with pride as she looks out at the Chicago skyline upon the conclusion of her story this week. She now sees herself as the first success story from the Gallagher family. She was never suppose to be in this position. Lip and Ian were the ones who were suppose to go on to bigger and better things. But now, they are the ones forever stuck in the Gallagher house while Fiona has really made something of her life. She has thrived with her newfound independence. She has everything that makes it seem like she is doing okay. She has her own apartment. She has a steady boyfriend. She has enough money to live comfortably. She is always on the lookout for new investment properties. The show genuinely wants the audience to feel proud of Fiona as well. Sure, it wants us to casually forget that she has been very lucky as a businesswoman so far. She is able to point to all of the businesses and properties she acquired and turned a profit with them. She believes the laundromat was a success even though she had absolutely no idea what she was doing and was essentially holding a money pit that happened to be in an up-and-coming neighborhood. But now, the show is articulating that she has learned more about the business side of things. She is able to hold her own against a real estate broker who is trying to saddle her with a lackluster property. It's because of her knowledge and expertise that she is able to get in on the ground floor for what could be a huge project for the revitalization of the neighborhood. At first, she was scared of gentrification and how it promised to kick out families like hers. And now, she is thriving because she has embraced it. As such, it seems incredibly likely that Fiona will continue to enjoy this kind of success in her professional career - especially with the knowledge that Emmy Rossum is leaving the show at the end of the season. It may be the show just conveniently ignoring the reality of the consequences. But it's still a nice journey for Fiona as well.

In fact, these later seasons of the show have really highlighted the independence of the characters. Liam is the only one who needs supervision. He is still a minor who needs his siblings to look after him. For awhile, Frank was the one being his guardian. It isn't surprising in the slightest that that completely blows up here. Liam had the opportunity at a better education than any of his siblings. Frank ruined that. And now, Liam has no school. He figures that the only way he can stay in private school is if he gets in as a token diversity statistic. The show has always flirted with that idea but never properly explored it. Liam was always being taken out of class and shown off to prospective families for how inclusive this learning environment was. It was a big deal. The show just never chose to explore it beyond those fleeting moments. At least, Liam understands the game now. He is actually stepping up as the most responsible Gallagher so far. Again, that could highlight the difference in educational opportunities. Liam has schooling that the other Gallaghers didn't have. As such, they have been fighting for every single thing in their lives and they are still dealing with problems every single day. And now, Liam presents as if he has his life together. He is able to help Fiona make a good impression with this broker. He knows how to deceive and play the game for the benefit of his family. But he's not willing to steal from others in order to get further in life either. He has gotten a taste of the finer things. That does change his perspective which should be a story the show embraces more going forward especially because he's still living in the same home with the rest of his family.

Change is good for shows as they age. It's fascinating to see so much screen time devoted to Liam here. He is getting older as well and needed to develop more of a personality after nine seasons. The show seems like it's giving him more to do. And yet, that also comes with the clarity that Frank will always remain the same. He is immediately thrown into a new storyline here. One that is absolutely ridiculous and broad. It's crazy hijinks for the sake of being eccentric. Sure, it's also the show exploring the topical issue of citizens becoming more engaged with local politics. It's just told through the perspective of a character who continues to fight against the establish of change because he fears his own obsolescence. He has always been fighting against the gentrification of the neighborhood. He doesn't want his life to change at all. It's absolutely insane that the guys at the bar are still able to be fooled by Frank. He is able to make enough easy money to pay for his drinks. But then, he is just able to give an inspiration speech that convinces everyone that reverse racism is a serious problem affecting their neighborhood. They need to fight against it through a candidate that actually represents them and their needs. It's a story the show will have to be very careful with in the future. It has the potential of being so isolated as a Frank story even though local issues and politics should impact the other characters as well. No one in the family even knows that there is a election going on for their own representatives. As such, Frank could have a lot of power. It's just power associated with the wrong side of the issue. That is an opinion that Frank would hold. However, it's probably not going to be compelling for a long time - which is clearly what the show aspires to be with the casting of Dan Lauria as the candidate the guys at the bar support.

Meanwhile, both Ian and Lip are surprised by the changes to their lives. Lip believes that things are still functioning the same as they have been for awhile. He is going to meetings and working at the shop with Brad. But now, he's also looking after Xan who is terrified of going back into the foster system. Moreover, he is now choosing to be a sponsor to someone new working the program. That's a fascinating idea because it once again stems around Lip trying to interact with his peers. In the premiere, he was unable to connect with people his own age because they just wanted to keep making mistakes while partying. Lip can't afford that lifestyle anymore. Right now, he is choosing to be sober and a parent. That's not something that many people can relate to - even though the show has previously told stories through Debbie about how there are plenty of girls getting knocked up in high school. But Lip does find a kindred spirit in the program this week. It seems like he is only willing to be a sponsor because of the child as well. He doesn't want this baby growing up in a system that can be so abusive. He believes in the value of being raised by a parent willing to change and make up for their prior mistakes. Lip never had that because Frank refused to change. Even when he said he would, no one believed it would last for very long. Of course, all of this is operating under the idea that Lip is strong enough in his own sobriety to sponsor someone new. He has already been filling the position for Brad and Youens. And yet, the show also seems to be suggesting that Brad is once again steady in his sobriety and capable of being a supportive sponsor for Lip. He shouldn't be. And yet, he's still the person Lip talks to in order to make this big decision. As such, the show could be signaling that Lip is trying to help too many people. However, his goals are very hopeful. He just may be doing too much right now.

And finally, Ian is bailed out of prison. He didn't want to accept the help when Fiona presented it to him. And now, it becomes even more clear that the family has zero understanding of the continuing actions from the Gay Jesus movement. They didn't comprehend it when Ian was their leader. It quickly escalated out of control with Ian eventually getting arrested and causing his family to worry that he is off his medication once more. And now, it's stunning to learn that his acolytes actually started a page to raise funds for Ian's bail as a way to support the cause. It's sudden. But it's also eye-opening to Ian. He wants to make a difference in people's lives. He feels of service in prison. He is helping the gay inmate population feel stronger about their lives and their relationships. And now, he is thrown into a completely new world. One that doesn't resemble the movement he started. It may now have completely outgrown him. That's terrifying to him. He doesn't understand how the money was raised or how much of a celebrity he has become. He was just speaking about something he was passionate about. He doesn't have the tools to navigate any of this. It actually resembles the show's own handling of this story because it quickly grew out of its control with no real sense of purpose. So now, Ian just runs away from it. It's more comforting to hide in the darkness of the Gallagher house. That's the life he accepts now. But even this environment is foreign because Xan is sleeping in his bed and he has no idea who she is. The world continues to advance around him. Carl says that everything is basically the same. But now, Ian is realizing just how scary progress can be which is bound to send him into a depressive state. At least, that's the way this story should play out. He has to reckon with the actions he made. And yet, he still may be culpable in that regard because his organization knows where he lives and they are also planning on more attacks like the car explosion all across the country. So, this isn't something that Ian can just run away from. He has to step up and ensure that no one else gets hurt because they are following his bad example.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mo White!" was written by Molly Smith Metzler and directed by Erin Feeley.
  • Carl has a goal in his life now. He wants to attend West Point. He has really thrived when people make it clear what steps he needs to take to achieve things in life. He foolishly believes he can just walk into a congressman's office and get a letter of recommendation. But as soon as he gets the guidelines about volunteering, he goes out and achieves that because he is determined to make this the next stage of his life.
  • Of course, Carl is also bound to get into trouble because he's not following the rules laid out for him at this dog euthanasia center. It definitely seems like a shady business. It's probably not on the list of organizations that the congressman is proud to support and recognize as volunteer work. But it's what Carl is able to get because he can't be a tutor. He just also happens to take the dogs home with him in order for them to die naturally. But that won't be able to work longterm.
  • Debbie has become really passionate about attacking sexual harassment in the workplace. She's not very organized at the moment. It's just an issue she is taking seriously. But it's also a way for the show to be topical while giving Debbie a more consistent storyline. Of course, it also comes with the introduction of a new character who blends into the construction site pretending to be a man when she's actually a woman. Her referring to meeting Debbie later as a date could be a telling detail as well.
  • Xan gets into trouble because she steals a wallet from a lady in the park while babysitting Amy and Gemma. She completely abandons the children as well. That's absolutely horrifying. It shows that Xan belongs in the Gallagher family. She has faced a similar upbringing as the rest of them. But Lip also wants her to do better. He believes he can be the guardian she deserves. However, it's also problematic to see him chasing after a young girl in the street who is not related to him whatsoever.
  • Kev and V are able to make quick progress on finding a preschool for their daughters. It's a pretty broad storyline though. It shows the perfect learning environment that is out of their price rage. Then it shows an absolutely horrifying and confining space. Then, they find a happy middle with Catholic school. Moreover, the hijinks are going to keep going because the girls will have to pretend to be one student because there's only one spot available.