Sunday, September 23, 2018

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - A Medical Emergency with Xan Forces Lip to Make an Irrational Decision in 'Weirdo Gallagher Vortex'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 9.03 "Weirdo Gallagher Vortex"

Frank faces obstacles in his new role as a campaign manager. Fiona prepares to close her real estate deal. Carl enlists V to help him get a West Point recommendation from a congressman. Xan's medical emergency puts Lip in a compromising position. Debbie gets closer with her partner in crime. Ian embarks on a spiritual journey.

Right now, Shameless is taping into some truly despicable behavior from men. It's the narrative adjusting itself to reflect the changing culture of the world around the show. However, it's doing so from the perspective of a very off-putting group of men who simply see no reason to change and call out just how ridiculous all of this political correctness can be. That's the whole point of this story. It's good to be having these debates about what is acceptable behavior in the world and what are the ways people are held accountable for their actions. However, the show is also smart to recognize that there is still a large collection of people in this country who see no error in the ways that they are acting. It's just fascinating how the show is framing all of this through a congressional race that needs to be won in order to keep the Southside what it has always been. The tides have already been turning against what this neighborhood was. Gentrification has changed the lives of every character on the show. That is still going to happen no matter who is elected to this office. The real estate deals are already being closed for development of the neighborhood. Fiona is getting in on the ground floor for such a project in order to get a lucrative payoff with little risk. She believes she is making smarter deals now after a few successes as a businesswoman. Meanwhile, Frank is propping up Mo White as the champion for the under-appreciated white working class man. It's absolutely ridiculous because white men have been represented in every aspect of society for all of history. Moreover, the name of Mo White just feels like an easy gag in order to really highlight the casual racism and misogyny on display throughout this story. It's the show pointing out that there are some really ignorant people out there who refuse to change their ways. Some of them have even been characters on this show who have been very amusing in the past. But again, the tide is changing and this is mostly just an excuse for the show to remain broad while also seeming like it is tackling an important and topical issue.

Frank being the focal point of a political storyline is also a mistake. He's not a middle class working man who has been hurt by hard times from the economy and the automation of the world. He believes himself as such though. He has never held a job for a long period of time in his entire life. He has messed up every opportunity afforded to him. But he's still standing. He's still alive. He is always simply trying to find a way to get enough money to feed his alcohol addiction. That's all that he is focused on. He has always been a huge proponent of people getting second chances. He believes he deserves one. And yet, he blew through his second chance a long time ago. Now, he's on his millionth chance to do something different. The world around him has largely accepted that he is never going to change. As such, the show mostly just uses him for ridiculous situational humor. That's what this politics story mostly amounts to. It's Frank just casually getting flung into this world in order to make some money to pay off his debts and drink at the Alibi. He doesn't care about getting a voice in the government that will represent his interests. In fact, it's so absolutely horrifying after everyone suddenly remembers that Mo White was kicked out of public service the first time because he was arrested for having a relationship with an underage girl. He is still on probation unable to go anywhere near a school. But Frank is still championing Mo as the hero for the white working class that will restore the neighborhood to its former glory. He is able to craft together a narrative that Mo has been rehabilitated and needs to be given the benefit of the doubt once more. And yet, it's so painfully obvious that Mo hasn't change at all. He didn't think to mention his probation when Frank and company came to him asking him to run for Congress. Nor has he seen the error of his ways in the past. He still fully believes that the woman he was in love with could have passed as 18. That's why the photographic evidence he still carries is so creepy while also confirming that he is completely out of his mind and a pervert. Mo is being positioned as a fringe candidate who can't possibly win. However, the sooner the show bails on this story the better for the season.

Elsewhere, it's clear that the show is moving quickly with a number of its plot developments. And yet, the only story of ongoing interest is what's going on in Lip's life. He feels the responsibility to care for Xan. He sees himself as her guardian. He is going to do right by her when the rest of the world would rather just toss her away. He has stepped up and learned how to care for people over the last few seasons. Sure, it has deflected from him caring for his own issues. But it has been a good way for him to stay sober as well. He has responsibilities that need him to remain focused. He is doing the right thing for Xan. But now, he's technically kidnapping her. He is not her legal guardian. The system must follow the protocol of calling family services in order to sort all of this out. Lip doesn't have the proper authority to serve as a foster parent. He doesn't want to go through all of that burden. He just wants to be the good influence Xan needs in her life. But right now, that means trying to get Brad to forge documents as her father and then just stealing her from the hospital when that doesn't work out. It shows just how twisted all of this really is. Lip takes an old man off of life support in order to create this distraction and get out of there with Xan. That action has the potential to cause so many problems for Lip. It's the Gallagher way of doing things. The siblings are better off with each other then forced to fend for themselves in the foster care system. Lip still holds onto those beliefs. He believes he's the only person possibly looking out for Xan's best interests. It's just behavior that could come across as predatory because his story keeps changing about his relation to her and then he just kidnaps her from the hospital. As such, this is bound to be explosive to his life at some point this season.

Meanwhile, things just seem too casual and normal for Fiona. Her life with Ford just isn't all that exciting. Sure, they get into another disagreement this week about her new real estate deal. But it doesn't really amount to anything. Last season Ford was presented as the first appropriate love interest for Fiona. She walked away from dating and casual relationships because they had been so toxic for her in the past. Whenever she desired someone in that way, it never worked out for her because her instincts were so impulsive and destructive. Ford presented as someone she could actually be an adult with. He's age appropriate and has a job. He's not a bad influence. In reality though, he's just really boring. He mumbles a whole lot. There isn't a whole lot of passion in what he does. That's disappointing because he believed so fiercely in maintaining the architectural legacy of the neighborhood when he was first introduced. That still seems to be on display a little bit when he questions the design esthetic of the new building Fiona has invested in. But that mostly comes off as a fight with him not believing in her. He doesn't believe she has the business tactics to survive in this deal with shrewd men who would love to take advantage of her and her money. And yes, there is the fear that something is about to happen to Fiona because she's going to a bar to sign the documents for this property. She is meeting someone who has already made a pass at her and Ford is jealous. It's also inappropriate for a transaction like this to happen in that environment where things could quickly be confused as a sexual invitation. It's all weird and doesn't really go anywhere. It happens offscreen and then Fiona returns home to a naked Ford who just blindly apologizes for what he previously did.

And finally, the show continues to be very inconsistent when it comes to exploring what is going on with Ian. The premiere hinted that he was off his meds and heading straight to another bipolar accident. And yes, his attitude has changed radically since those opening moments. In jail, he felt of service. Since being released, he simply doesn't know what to do. He is framing it all through him no longer hearing shim's voice. He wants to know what God wants him to do next. He is surprised by how quickly the Gay Jesus movement has grown beyond him. He no longer feels like it is his movement that he is passionate about. Instead, he is searching for answers by exploring all of the old religions. He wants to find a way to talk to God as quickly as possible. It's a broad story that highlights the many different beliefs of the world. However, it doesn't have a whole lot of connection to Ian and what is currently going on in his head. His family knows that he isn't taking his medication. And yet, they are all very lax about it as well. They aren't trying to force it even though they know how dangerous things could become for Ian if he isn't too careful. Yes, it's another instance of them being too busy in their own lives to worry about what Ian is doing. Fiona probably doesn't even know that he's out of jail. She didn't have to pay his bail even though she believed she was the only person who would possibly set him free. But he is out and searching for answers. Him continuing to believe that he has been abandoned by God feels like it could develop into another bipolar depressive episode. That's something the show has done before. So, it needs to be different than what has happened in the past. And yet, something more needs to be happening in order for the audience to better understand the purpose of it all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Weirdo Gallagher Vortex" was written by Joe Lawson and directed by Kat Coiro.
  • It definitely seemed like there was a flirtation happening between Debbie and her new female friend last week. And now, the show is going all in with exploring this new romance for her. It sends her questioning her own sexual identity. Of course, it also reveals that she was sexually assaulted while babysitting years previously just because she wanted the money given to her by this older woman who wanted to touch her like that. But that also feels like such a casual reveal too.
  • Debbie going to Ian with questions about her sexuality is very understandable. He's the person in her life who best understands these issues. And yet, he doesn't offer the best advice or clarity either. In fact, it seems like he is the type of gay man who believes that bisexuality doesn't exist. It's just something people tell themselves on the road to being gay. That's where Debbie is in her understanding of herself. But it should be surprising to see how helpful Ian remains as she explores further.
  • Carl and V are an unusual character pairing. Their relationship hasn't really been a prominent part of the show. And yet, it's always great whenever the show gets Kev and V interacting with one of the Gallagher siblings in an actual story. Too often they are off in their own tangential story. Here, V is actually able to help Carl get a recommendation letter for West Point. It also reveals that she had no idea that one of her old clients was also a congressman.
  • Kev absolutely has the right intentions of wanting to make his bar seem more welcoming to women. And yet, it will still be perceived as a place where women will likely be raped because of the regular customers. Tommy and Kermit are creepy old guys who are so upset that the rules are changing. In fact, it's so despicable listening to Tommy talk about catcalling being a part of the job. With him as the construction foreman, that then creates an environment that normalizes that kind of behavior. That's so horrifying.
  • There are only three weeks left in the school year but Liam has made the transition to public school. He's essentially in the same environment that the rest of his siblings have known. But he is quickly able to make a deal with an older student to offer protection in exchange for doing his homework. So, Liam continues to know how to manipulate the system to his benefit without really thinking that it's hurting anyone. He just isn't making any new friends at this school.