Sunday, October 14, 2018

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Ian Enjoys His Last Day of Freedom with His Family in 'Face It, You're Gorgeous'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 9.06 "Face It, You're Gorgeous"

Frank employs Liam to help him chase down a romantic connection. Lip spends the day wrangling an alcoholic actress who hired him to be her sober companion. Fiona struggles to keep up with the demands of her new investment as Ford pushes her to get serious about their relationship. Kev and V run into trouble at the twins' preschool when show and tell goes awry.

This past week Cameron Monaghan announced that "Face It, You're Gorgeous" would be his final episode of Shameless. It was a major surprise because it means two original cast members will be leaving the show during its ninth season. His exit was handled much differently than Emmy Rossum's as Fiona. His exit has been in the works for awhile. Monaghan made his intentions known to the writers who were able to craft this story for him right when they started working on the Gay Jesus arc. As such, that proves in hindsight that they were always aware that this was destructive behavior he was doing that would carry significant consequences. Of course, that wasn't made clear enough during the eighth season. The audience was unsure if it was something we should genuinely accept and support or if it was another bipolar episode. Across the run of the show, the creative team struggled with finding nuance and consistency with Ian as a young adult living with bipolar disorder. It was either a problem for him or nothing at all. As such, there was no real history of how to read his actions when the show has previously said that his behavior had nothing to do with whether or not he was taking his pills. These recent episodes have confirmed that he was off his meds when he was leading this movement. That means he doesn't get as severe a sentence as he could have for his actions. And yet, he is still facing some punishment. He was still destructive. He broke the law and will be spending several years in prison. That may not be the kind of ending the audience ever expected for Ian. It could be seen as the sole way to get him back together with Mickey though. Ian and Mickey's relationship was the best story for both characters. It was actually the heart of the show for a long time. It was made complicated only because the actors chose to leave at separate times. It's interesting how Noel Fisher came back for a couple of episodes in the seventh season only for Ian to realize that he couldn't run away from his life in Chicago to be with Mickey. And then, Monaghan came to the writers saying that he wanted to leave the show soon. He was very accommodating in allowing the writers the time to build up this story. It means he exits in the middle of this season. But at least it does have that happy ending with Ian and Mickey reuniting in prison. That's absolutely crazy. But it's so rewarding and surprising as well because the audience had no idea that it was coming. This grim fate appeared to be all there was for Ian for the foreseeable future. But then, Mickey is there in the cell with him.

With this being Monaghan's final episode, it's strangely not all about Ian and the family celebrating him in his final day of freedom. Ian doesn't want to spend this day getting into more Gallagher trouble. He just wants a nice, relaxing day where people aren't making a big fuss. His whole life is about to change. Right now, he just wants to stay at the Gallagher house for as long as possible. He doesn't want people changing their lives for him. And so, Debbie goes to work, Carl spends the day with his new girlfriend, Lip starts a new gig, Liam helps Frank track down a woman and Fiona comes into new money problems. It's very much a standard episode of what the show has become in its later years. Every main character is busy with something crazy and chaotic. The show continues to operate under the assumption that these characters must maintain messy lives even though they have aged a decade since the audience first started watching them. But there are still plenty of sweet and earnest moments that celebrate Ian and his connection to the family. Sure, Kev and V have come to expect some Gallagher knocking on their door and interrupting their lives. Of course, that joke would work better earlier in the show's run and not now when the two of them are frequently isolated from their friends next door. Plus, their story has nothing to do with the Gallaghers. Instead, it's about their daughters doing something inappropriate at school. That forces them to mature as well even though it's ridiculous for the show to say that they no longer use these sex toys after V just dusted off her old dominatrix outfit in order to help Carl get into West Point. As such, it seems like the storytelling and awareness of the season has grown scattered. But it's still meaningful when Kev offers to drive Ian and the family to the prison to drop him off. That's a sweet gesture that shows that this ensemble really is a family. They care that one of their own is being taken from them. But he's leaving for a new sense of happiness as well - even though Ian is likely going to get out long before Mickey does.

Meanwhile, it's just strange to see how much of Ian's final day Fiona misses for some reason. It makes no sense whatsoever that she is at Patsy's celebrating the birthday of some random person who works for her instead of being at home eating Ian's last dinner. It shows how cut off from the rest of the family she has now become. She's operating on a whole new level. She cares about things like credit scores. She is aware of just how damaging her decisions now could mess up her ability to expand her business in the future. She is realizing just how poor of an investment she has made with this commercial real estate property. It's costing much more than the hundred thousand dollars she put in at the start. It's crazy that she thought that's all the money that it would take in order to develop this massive building. It's even crazier that she assumes the turnaround will be quick. That's been the case with all of her previous business properties. She assumed ownership of the diner, laundromat and apartment building and was quickly able to make a profit from them. She continues to earn a living thanks to those properties. And now, she believes she is capable of moving on up in this world to bigger and better opportunities. She does so not really learning any of the lessons that came from her successes. She was incredibly lucky throughout all of these ventures. Even when problems came up, she was able to get rid of them simply by acting as a Gallagher. She didn't have to deal with any ongoing consequences. And now, she finds herself on the hook for even more money. She can't pull out of this investment. It's devastating. It gives Fiona a solid emotional hook for the season as well. The season so far really hasn't been offering her anything of real note to do. It mostly seemed as if Rossum was leaving on a whimper instead of an exciting and complex story. That appears to change here with Fiona realizing just how unwise she has potentially been. And yet, the show still has to follow through on that tease with it previously backing out at the last minute too many times for the audience to fully expect that to actually happen here just because the actress is leaving the show.

Additionally, all of Fiona's problems also mirror ongoing issues with Ford. It's apparently not enough for her to be facing an uncertain future in her professional life. The show also has to make things complicated and dramatic in her personal relationships. That's been a consistent story for the season. However, the show has presented no real reason for anyone in the audience to want Fiona and Ford to stay together as a couple. They are mostly together because it's what the story has previously set up. There is drama now because of the random inclusion of a mystery phone of Ford's. Does it logistically make sense that Ford has a wife and son when the audience knows that he has fathered many children for lesbian couples around the city? This doesn't seem like a responsibility that fits into his life at all. And yet, that's what Fiona discovers when she tracks down where he is after he storms out following a fight. Moreover, they have been fighting all season long. The fights have followed the same pattern as well. It was easy to see Ford's perspective as he was warning Fiona that she was acting impulsively and irrationally. She didn't want to listen to him and then he apologized to her. It seemed like the show was asking the audience to be forgiving of all of Fiona's actions no matter how ill-conceived they were. And now, she realizes that she is to blame for this latest fight and has to apologize to him. But the show can't even deliver on that moment because it once again has to make Ford out to be this guy constantly apologizing to Fiona for his behavior. In order to balance Fiona's mistrust, Ford needs to have this massive secret he's been keeping. In the end, all it seems to do is throw Fiona's life further into disarray. She ruins her car because of it too. It's because of all of this melodrama that she misses saying goodbye to Ian which also doesn't feel like something that she would naturally do.

It's not as if it was impossible for Fiona to make it back to the Gallagher house to celebrate and be there for her brother while also dealing with these new problems in her life. Lip manages to do exactly that even though he is hired to be a sober companion for a B-list actress, Jen Wagner, for a couple of hours. It's a job he is doing as a favor to one of his friends in the program. It's a story that mostly just brings in Courteney Cox to have fun in this world as she and Jeremy Allen White run around Chicago. There is a nice sense of push and pull between the characters as well. Despite her being from a foreign world to the Gallaghers, Jen is still at the kitchen table eating a meal from White Castle in order to celebrate Ian. She has no clue who any of these people are. She's just here because she can't drink. She has a job to do and the company can't afford another public relations nightmare. Lip brings her back home because his replacement is running late and can't trade off when he is suppose to do. And yet, Jen still fits well into this strange environment. She can laugh at the outrageous stories from the Gallaghers. She can offer Debbie advice about her questioning her sexual identity. She can be supportive. But more importantly, she doesn't distract from what really matters in this story. Lip is helping her stay sober so that he can stay sober. He needs to be sober in order to support his family. His brother is going to jail and he needs to be there for him. It's moving and shows just how easy the bond amongst the family can be. Jen was a very difficult client for Lip throughout the day. But he was still able to get enough money to get Ian started in prison on the right foot. That's a gesture that means something even though they are saying goodbye for now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Face It, You're Gorgeous" was written by Nancy M. Pimental and directed by Allison Liddi-Brown.
  • This is actually a busy episode with special guest stars. In addition to Courteney Cox and Noel Fisher, the stories also feature Bob Saget and Katey Sagal. Now, Fisher only returns for that surprising and rewarding ending. Meanwhile, Saget feels woefully underutilized as a bit player in Kev and V's drama at the preschool. Plus, Sagal seems like the only one who will continue to appear this season. And yet, this is what success affords the casting department. They can bring these actors in for these stories - even if they are just one-off appearances.
  • On the one hand, the show-and-tell with the theme of bringing in something that represents your parents love for each other is really weird. On the other hand though, it feels exactly like something that would be asked from a Catholic institution. They are certainly presumptuous about all of these children coming from happy homes. That's apparently the joke as well because the priest running the school is just as depraved as Kev and V while also trying to make them feel ashamed for their sex lives.
  • Will Lip continue to act as a sober companion? It's a job that he didn't know about at all. His family is confused by it as well. And yet, he makes decent money doing it. Plus, he associates it with helping him stay sober. However, would he have relapsed if Jen took a drink of something? If so, he may be placing too much responsibility on other people's sobriety in order to stay sober himself. Just because someone falls off the wagon in this program doesn't give him the right to do so as well.
  • Frank is going to be nothing but a bad influence on Ingrid. When she was introduced, she seemed just as wild and crazy as he was. But here, it's clear that she is someone ashamed and horrified of that side of her. She trusts that her medication will work. When it doesn't, she doesn't like the person she becomes. With Frank so enamored with her to the point of stalking her, he is going to convince her that she's better as her crazy self which is absolutely horrifying.
  • The door remains open for Cameron Monaghan to return to the show at some point. The show is purposefully vague about how long his sentence actually is. When he was talking with his lawyer in the past, his options were revealed. But the show doesn't confirm his exact sentence here. That's probably for the best as it allows it to keep things open to whatever happens behind-the-scenes in the future. Noel Fisher came back several times after his initial exit. Plus, it's likely that the family will still want to visit Ian while he's in prison.