Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW: 'Shameless' - Fiona's Life Comes Crashing Down Following Her Car Accident in 'Down Like the Titanic'

Showtime's Shameless - Episode 9.07 "Down Like the Titanic"

Debbie finds Fiona at a low point and helps her pick up the pieces. Fiona continues to face pressure from Max Whitford on her investment hubris. Tami stumbles back into Lip's life. Frank enjoys the honeymoon period of his relationship with Ingrid, but reality interferes soon enough. Kev and V disagree about the future of their family.

After nine seasons, it's difficult for any show to find new shadings of its characters. And yet, Shameless manages to do so with Fiona in "Down Like the Titanic." This is a version of the character that has never been seen before. She is absolutely broken. She has had her fair share of hardships and breakdowns in the past. She did go to jail after all for overdosing a toddler. But here, she risks losing everything she has built for herself over the last few years. She would be destroying her entire life for no reward whatsoever. It all comes crashing down on her. She has a couple of tremendously horrible days. She discovered that Ford has a secret family that he has kept from her. Moreover, she owes Max $25,000 or risks losing her entire $100,000 investment on the commercial property. She is broke and destructive. She takes out her sorrow and anger by being depressed and drunk. After her car accident, she doesn't do the reasonable thing of reporting it to her insurance or filing a police report. She isn't doing the responsible thing. Instead, she is doing the Gallagher thing. She is avoiding any potential consequences while trying to earn some cash by selling the lies in a convincing way too. She gets support from her family. But she remains a massive wild card throughout this entire hour as well. The family has gotten used to Fiona no longer being at the house. She found her own independence and was making something that took her far away from them. But now, she is back. They weren't even allowed to get used to the disappearance of one of their own with Ian now being in prison. Fiona is back. But she's not the same, older sister they have always known. Instead, she presents more as one of the problematic parents they have all tolerated in the past. This family isn't the best when it comes to helping each other through their problems. Fiona gets support from Debbie and Lip throughout this story. And yet, they have their own lives to live as well. When left on her own, Fiona is barely functioning and that's so disruptive to see. It's unexpected and proves that the show can still tell new stories with these characters even after all of these years.

Of course, all of this conveniently ties into Emmy Rossum's forthcoming exit from the show. Up until this point, it didn't seem like Fiona's story was a worthy sendoff for her. It just seemed expected that she would continue to succeed as a businesswoman and her relationship with Ford would flourish. They would go off together to have as happy an ending as this show could produce. It would allow things to remain open-ended should Rossum ever want to drop back in for an episodic guest appearance. And now, the show is absolutely crushing Fiona and all of the hard work she has achieved over the course of the series. These last few seasons have absolutely placed her on an upward trajectory. She was the Gallagher building a sustainable future by living in and adapting to the real world. She was still capable of doing things the Gallagher way. She forced the family of squatters out of her apartment not by doing things through the proper and legal channels. However, it always felt like things happened too easily for Fiona as a businesswoman. She was always lucky with her successes. She earned a quick profit with all of her businesses. She could turn around everything that she bought. Sure, she risked it all by taking out multiple mortgages on her apartment complex. But that was still a smart investment for her. And now, it's played as the thing that is dragging her down. She renovated this building and was able to live there. She built this new life for herself. She got out of the neighborhood and the messed up family drama. But that's also why it makes it so satisfying to see her get this crushing realization that she isn't as smart as she believed she was with these businesses. Sure, it's still absolutely devastating to see her life torn to shreds. But she has avoided consequences for so long that it verged on seeming nonsensical. And now, that order has been restored.

The show has always been at its strongest when the audience had a clear understanding of Fiona's motivations. When the emotional connection was present with her story, the show could do absolutely anything. It just needed to keep us engaged with her. As such, that presents a huge question for a tenth season without Fiona in it. Will the other Gallaghers be able to step up and fill the void? Ian's absence isn't all that noticeable here. In fact, it allows more time to be spent on the other siblings and help them feel fully realized as well. As has been stated across the later seasons of the show, every main character has their own unique storyline. And so, there is just less time to make any individual one feel special like the early seasons did because they didn't have to spend so much time on Debbie, Carl and Liam. With Ian gone, that means things are a bit more relaxed with these major plot points. Sure, all of this will be even more apparent when Rossum leaves the show. As the focal point, she won't be as easy to replace even though Jeremy Allen White has been just as important to the emotional core of the show as well. This season has been doing very delicate and precise work with Fiona. It's storytelling that hasn't always been very effective. In fact, it grew quite repetitive without it feeling all that interesting. Fiona's relationship with Ford isn't that great or exciting. It's certainly not worth the final visual of Debbie and her friends tormenting him as the asshole he is. But now, the landing of this story helps make up for the fact that Fiona hasn't been all that exciting a character this season. Now, it's easy to see the ways in which this story was introduced with the iffy circumstances of this commercial property and Fiona's tenuous partnership with Max. Sure, he presents himself as a genuine and caring guy here. But he does still expect to be paid back by Fiona with interest. She will still have to work to land on her feet once more. And yet, she seems much more interested in getting drunk at the moment because she has once again conveniently found a way out of this dire situation.

Elsewhere, the show is presenting love interests for the various characters who could be perfect matches for them once more. Kelly wants Carl to get into West Point with her. She sees him as the perfect guy for her. She seems like a solid match as well. She's not controlling and delusional like Kassidi was. Nor does she freak out about learning the various antics he has gotten into in the past because of his upbringing. She's actually excited to learn that he qualifies for this special program because his studies aren't strong enough to get in. Meanwhile, Lip has to interact with Tami once more. That was always expected because he is a major part of Brad's life. She is his sister-in-law after all. They would likely go to the same functions. The show was encouraging them to be a couple at the start of the season. That didn't work out then despite the constant pestering. It might work out now even though Tami still presents as a horrible human being. She shows up late to the christening. Plus, she offers to give cigarettes to all of the children who also attended this ceremony. There's no reason for Lip to show an interest in her after the way that she put him down when he asked her out. And yet, he still gives her that second chance. She could still be a bad influence because she is a woman in her twenties who still enjoys to party and avoid any responsibility in the world. That's not an energy that will be healthy for Lip's sobriety. She doesn't take it all that seriously. But right now, the story is mostly just interested in proving that Lip isn't as bad at sex as Tami first suggested he was. That was apparently the biggest thing that needed to be addressed in order for the two of them to present as a solid couple. They do have some nice banter going on though. So, the potential is still there for them to be a compelling source of drama moving forward.

And finally, Katey Sagal has provided a nice jolt to Frank's storyline. He has gotten out of the awkward political storyline that defined him at the start of the season. Sure, Ingrid's introduction was handled in a somewhat weird way that suggested that Frank was going to have liver problems again. However, she now presents as someone who could shake up Frank's life in a scary and unexpected way. Over the course of the series, he has drawn many women into his world. He finds so many of them intoxicating and intriguing. He is open to whatever life may have planned for him. He is mostly just trying to find a way to survive each day while having some grand adventure along the way. And now, he sees Ingrid as the type of person missing from his life since Monica died. He sees her as a crazy woman who can excite him in ways that he didn't expect. She makes him feel alive again. They have fun together. They have a nice back-and-forth of trading sexual favors and mocking her job as a therapist. However, Ingrid presents as a much darker individual as well. She may be too crazy for Frank to handle. That seems almost impossible. And yet, this storyline threatens to break Frank too. Randy is trying to warn him that this cycle of rage and violence only gets worse over time. Frank is so attracted to Ingrid when she isn't taking her medication. However, she also has the potential to kill him when she is in that state. She will stay awake for hours on end until she gets so delirious that she is filled with rage towards anything right in front of her. It's a pattern that Randy has seen time and time again. Frank finds a convenient way to get him out of the picture though. He will take over being responsible for Ingrid. That is no longer Randy's job because they are no longer married. But that only promises to lead to more misfortune and disaster because Ingrid is such a wild card to the narrative. Anything could realistically happen with her. That is frankly very exciting and intriguing.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Down Like the Titanic" was written by Molly Smith Metzler and directed by Silver Tree.
  • Kev is sad and depressed this week as well. However, his stems from a fight with V about the future of their family. She wants to get rid of all of their old baby supplies while Kev wants to hold onto them for when they have another baby. It's so bad that he isn't even able to put down Frank when he is acting ridiculous at the bar. This is a huge fight between them. And yet, she compromises in the end by being open to adoption with Kev.
  • However, is the show just completely ignoring just how difficult it was for Kev and V to get pregnant in the first place? Is it also forgetting that Kev has a son with V's mom? They are never seen anymore. Them having sex with her mother was one of the most shameless and memorable things the show has ever done. They did so because V couldn't get pregnant. And here, the show presents it all as a choice for V to decide whether she wants to put her body through the demands of pregnancy again.
  • Liam has only really had stories in the last two seasons. That was always weird because the other siblings had distinct personalities even when they were the same age as Liam was. Of course, the show has been very uncertain of how old Liam is as well. It was just a couple episodes ago when he feared he got a girl pregnant. And now, the show states that he is a 9-year-old entering the sixth grade. That's information that would have been more useful at the start of the season.
  • It's just as devastating for Fiona when she realizes that Rusty doesn't want to leave the apartment building with her. He would rather just wander around from apartment to apartment and have a bunch of owners than leave with her. He hasn't been a major part of her life. He has only popped up from time to time. But right now, Fiona needed that support and stability. Instead, she loses her dog alongside everything else.
  • Showtime is airing this season a little differently than the eight previous ones. It's producing 14 episodes but airing in two separate chunks. This is the end of the first batch of episodes. It is a somewhat awkward ending because some stories are just getting started. However, it's a strong enough episode to make me excited for the show's return in January. It will also be intriguing to see if this scheduling pattern has any impact on the ratings or Showtime subscriptions. If so, will it become the way Showtime airs the seasons in the future?