Sunday, October 7, 2018

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona Pushes Ian Away While Frank Lands in the Hospital Once More in 'Black-Haired Ginger'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 9.05 "Black-Haired Ginger"

Frank's new liver medication comes with tragic side effects. Ian tries to get away from Fiona's hovering. Lip has to keep himself occupied during a day of temptation. Carl makes a connection at a West Point mixer. Debbie tries to repair things with Alex.

Shameless has really been struggling as of late in giving the audience a reason to care about anything that is happening to any of the characters. Whenever the show previously lost the plot threads with Fiona or Lip, it became a complete disaster because they are the characters who need to remain grounded and understood by the audience. This season has presented some weird and aimless stories for them so far. They forever seem in a transition with no singular action feeling big or monumental enough to really hit home for the audience. Moreover, there is just a lot of plot happening in each episode. Sure, that has always been a quality of the show. This is a chaotic story for the entire Gallagher family and their friends. However, each character now has prominent focus which means that less time is really spent on the moments that should absolutely resonate for the audience. This episode builds around the uncertainty of Ian's trial. No one knows how he is going to plead to arson and property destruction. He is facing serious time in jail. He is consulting with people in the neighborhood who have done hard time. He is soul-searching to know if God still has a mission for him in life. But mostly, this is a story that becomes just as much about Fiona as it does Ian. That highlights the changing nature of relationships over time. The bond between the siblings is no longer what it was at the start of the series. They depend on each other less than before. Of course, the priorities for all of them continue to be out of whack. They are helping the ones who don't really need it while ignoring the ones who are still technically minors and need that supervision in order to ensure that nothing bad happens to them. This family is complicated and complex. They support each other no matter what. But at the end of the day, this is Ian's decision to make. The show highlights how some people in his orbit are willing to support him no matter what while others are forcing their agenda on him even though they have no idea what his life and beliefs are currently like.

Throughout this story, the siblings tell Fiona that this is a consistent trait of hers. She is always telling her siblings what to do. It has gotten to the point where they don't even tell her everything that is going on in their lives because she will always have an extreme reaction. She is happy for Carl about getting accepted into West Point. But she doesn't know that Debbie is a lesbian now or that Liam is freaking out about possibly getting a girl pregnant. It's impossible to keep track of all of this. Plus, she is abandoning her responsibilities in her new independent life. It's a big deal that she moved out of the Gallagher family house. It was her striving for a life that was completely her own. She was building something that had the potential of taking her far away from the family. She felt the confidence to do so because her siblings don't need her as much as they used to. Liam is the only one who is still technically a minor. Fiona is his guardian but she just comes in and out of his life seemingly at random. She doesn't make a consistent effort to be a good influence and ensure that he is always taken care of. She just trusts that Gallaghers will continue to look out for their own even though there are always random people just taking up space in the family home. But here, all of this sense of maturity goes flying out the window because Fiona once again believes she has to make all of the decisions regarding Ian. She doesn't trust him to do the right and responsible thing. She just sees her bipolar brother who has gone off his meds and is out of control. She doesn't see him as an adult striving for answers and trying to figure out the best thing to do. He wants to hear the advice his lawyer has for him. Instead, this meeting is all about Fiona and Geneva yelling at each other and trying to get Ian to see their answer as the reasonable one to all of this.

And yes, the show rightfully calls Fiona out for intruding in a place where she doesn't belong. She doesn't have to attend this meeting between Ian and his lawyer. She doesn't have to drop everything to go searching for Ian believing that he's running and skipping his trial. She does so anyway though. It's the way that things have always been done. Ford is still a newcomer to this crazy family of Fiona's. But he absolutely has the right idea in suggesting that Ian is grown enough to make these decisions for himself. He doesn't need his older sister swooping in just telling him what to do. In fact, Lip has the more enlightened position throughout this entire story. When Fiona comes storming in to say that Ian is missing, Lip trusts that Ian will do whatever he wants to do. That too is the way that this family has always been raised. They have always had this independence where they could never stop or convince each other to do a certain thing. Sure, they can count and rely on each other all of the time. But they respect that they will figure things out on their own. And so, Lip doesn't see the point in checking the buses and trains for a runaway Ian. He has actually been a part of Ian's life right now to know that he's just looking for clarity on what to do. It appears as if he runs simply because he is told that boredom is the most damning thing in prison. But instead, he returns to the house. Sure, his new hairstyle isn't celebrated at all. However, it's a part of a sensible conversation between Lip and Ian. They are able to just sit down and discuss what's been going on in their lives. They are actively listening to each other and giving the support that the other needs in that moment. Lip isn't trying to tell Ian what to do. He just wants to be a good brother. That also means staying sober in the event that Ian is sentenced to ten years. He wants a brother to return home to eventually as well. He needs this relationship in his life.

However, the show somewhat validates Fiona's pushing as well. Ford still comes across as a wishy-washy character because he can never stay mad at Fiona. It's the show basically making the position that the Gallaghers always have to be right in all situations. The audience needs to remain sympathetic to them even when they are making questionable life choices. Right now, it's simply complicated because Ford is right to call Fiona out for her actions and her betrayal of their plans. But he is still the one apologizing to her for the vague reason of just not understanding what it means to come from a big family. This is normal and sane for Fiona. It's her fulfilling the same role as always. And so, the hour still has to end with everyone loving Fiona and welcoming her along on this journey as Ian makes up his mind. Plus, Ian decides to plead not guilty due to insanity just like Fiona was pushing for him to do. So, she still ultimately gets exactly what she wanted from all of this. It still feels like a moment primarily about Fiona and not Ian. He is standing in front of the judge talking about why he did this and how it led to his life blowing up as well. He understands that he went too far with the Gay Jesus persona. He is trying to articulate things so that Geneva and the movement don't turn on him completely. But he also wants it to be understood that what he did was wrong and he needs to accept the punishment for doing so. That is a significant moment that is somewhat lost in the shuffle because so much is also going on throughout this hour. The season didn't wait too long before Ian's trial arrived. His sentencing isn't delivered here though. So, he still has that to deal with as well. There is the hope that it won't be a significant amount of punishment because of how he pleads. But it also offers a sense of conclusion to this story of being seen as a religious figure fighting to change the world. That could still be a component of Ian's story. It also seems just as likely that he will move on to some new pursuit because this resolution didn't depict things in the same way that the last time he went off his meds did.

That's exactly what's going on with Frank as well. Mo shocking won the congressional race last week. He only joined the election because of Frank. And now, he leaves Frank behind completely. It proves that he always had awareness of his campaign manager misusing the funds raised for the campaign. Plus, Frank is a problem waiting to explode at any moment. He wouldn't have been able to do any good in a consistent job like that. He always just keeps moving from one story to the next. Nothing ever makes a huge impact on his life. Of course, it's also notable that the show returns to the most successful Frank story this week as well. When his liver was in failure, it was such a critical and consistent story for Frank. One that actually made him feel like a genuine and necessary part of the show. Sure, he survived and has been abusing his new liver ever since. It's also a little laughable to suggest that he has been taking the anti-rejection medication for the last five years following the transplant. He could never be trusted to stick to a routine for that long. But that's what the entire premise of this new story is based on. The doctors believe the medication is no longer effective and switch him over to a new brand. He can't afford it. And so, he gets the generic copy. It's a very timely and important story. But again, Frank isn't the best spokesperson for it because he would rather just argue that this is a way the world is trying to keep the poor from making any more poor people who will abuse the system to their advantage. However, everything does take an interesting turn when Katey Sagal shows up as another patient in the emergency room who promptly beats Frank up for trying to get drugs from her. Sure, she seems crazy. But the casting of Sagal means that she will also be sticking around for awhile too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Black-Haired Ginger" was written by Philip Buiser and directed by William H. Macy.
  • On the one hand, it seems like Lip has nothing to do but sit in his thoughts. That could be absolutely terrible for his sobriety because the best advice given to him was to always keep busy so he didn't have the time to drink. On the other hand though, there also seem to be multiple stories introduced for him here. First, there are the motorcycle races he already joins. Then, it's the idea of becoming a sober companion to make more money.
  • Debbie is adamant about working things out with Alex. She wants to prove that she is a lesbian. However, she grows tired after listening to Alex go on and on about the many straight girls she has dated. And yes, she should know better than that now but is still making the same mistakes. But Debbie also reaches out to Nessa and Mel for advice. Their blunt responses also make it seem like this is a serious new direction for Debbie's life.
  • Do Kev's enlightenment about sexual harassment and Carl's new friend at the West Point mixer seem like stories from the same show? They seem a little contradictory of one another. For Kev, he is listening genuinely to stories of horrific abuse. He knows he shouldn't speak at this event even though he was invited for the vagina safe initiative. For Carl though, he is being seduced by a woman where it seems like it's a pattern of hers to get drunk and sleep with people only to be angry at them afterwards. It's erratic with no real reason to care.
  • Too much time is also just spent on Frank dealing with erectile dysfunction. It's crazy to suggest that he would be dealing with these kinds of side effects right away. It seems more like a pressure he puts on himself knowing that it could happen while on this medicine. But it conveniently goes away when he happens to get into the right situation. It just means he is once again attracted to someone who could only be more dangerous for him moving forward.
  • Liam's story of being seduced by his tormentor just so she has a place to go with a family that'll potentially take care of her is completely ridiculous and absolutely unnecessary. It's the show continuing to age up the character and make him just as shameless as the rest of his family. But it also seems impossible and just appears for the broad humor of it all. It does end with the family rallying together to drop this young girl off at a family planning center while she sleeps after all.