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The Case Against Frank Gallagher: Is It OK to Root For Someone to Die Miserably and Alone?

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | February 24, 2014 | Comments ()


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Addiction is a terrible thing, and my heart goes out to anyone who struggles with it. I am less inclined, however, to sympathize with those who don’t battle their drug addictions, but freely indulge in them not for months, or years, but for decades, even at the expense of everyone around them. It’s one thing to relapse once, twice, or even three times, and in the process, f*ck up your child’s life. It’s quite another to never even bother to take steps toward recovery, and to feel no remorse for wreaking life-altering havoc upon those around you and continue to do so with absolutely no compassion for the daughters, and sons, and friends whose lives you have ruined.

Meet Shameless’ Frank Gallagher, reckless, selfish life ruiner.

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Frank Gallagher gives exactly zero f*cks about the destruction he causes, or the people he takes advantage of in order to afford himself drugs and booze. Frank Gallagher will call child protective services on his own family, he will risk his family’s shelter, steal their grocery money, and he will shave his son’s head and pass him off as a cancer victim if it means getting his tap turned back on at the local tavern. Frank Gallagher is an awful human being, redeemed only slightly by a wicked good sense of humor and an occasional, all-too-brief moment of fatherliness that always ends up being self-serving.

In this season of Shameless, Frank Gallagher is dying of liver failure owed to decades of substance abuse. I’ll say about that what my Granny said after my Pa — a lousy drunk who cavorted with prostitutes in the home he shared with his wife — passed away of a kind of cancer he also brought upon himself: Good fucking riddance.

Frank, however, has found a sympathetic ear in a long-lost daughter he abandoned (the fantastic Emily Bergl), even before she was born. He tracked her down in a trailer park, charmed her, and nearly f*cking slept with his own daughter before he revealed that he was related. Why? In an attempt to convince her to donate part of her kidney to him. It would’ve worked, too, if his daughter had been a match. I’m glad she wasn’t, because that might have extended the life of Frank Gallagher.

I want Frank to die miserable and alone, because that’s the fate he deserves.

When Frank passed out in his family’s home in this week’s episode after injecting too much heroin, and once again risked the welfare of his kids — who would’ve been sent to foster care had a social worker made a planned visit — I agreed with Lip: Get the unconscious old sh*t out of the house. Dump him on the street, if need be, and let him die. It’s what he deserves, it’s what he brought upon himself, not because he’s an addict, but because he strives to be an addict, and to be the very best degenerate in Chicago.

William H. Macy has done a remarkable job with the character, affording us not the occasional moment of sympathy, but of amusement. He’s the series’ comic foil, but Shameless no longer needs him. The kids are older, and the cast is well-established enough that Macy is not by himself bringing in any viewers, and Gallagher has exhausted his comic usefulness (there’s a certain irony to this, since the UK’s version of Frank Gallagher is the longest serving cast member on the show). There are plenty of other obstacles that the Gallaghers can contend with other than the self-destruction — and the collateral damage — of one of their own. With all the adversity the Gallaghers already face, they’re never going to get ahead if their father continues to hold them back.

I don’t know what the writers have in mind for Frank Gallagher for the rest of this season, but I hope it doesn’t involve any last-minute miracles, an unexpected liver transplant, or a misdiagnosis. It’s too late for redemption. It’s time for Frank Gallagher to die.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • BLynnzew0484

    Really?! Why did any of you start to watch this show? Frank Gallagher has lived out his usefulness? Really? Frank Gallagher is the reason for being in this show. I can't believe you would turn on him now considering he is probably the reason any if you started watching shameless in the first place. Yes Frank had a drinking problem which he probably still would if he wasn't dying, and currently has a drug problem which is warranted seeing as he is in pain even though he I setting them illegally. It is probably his only choice seeing the state medical insurance is in right now anyway along with the fact that he needs the money to pay for the liver transplant. Aside from all that because that's who frank is. You resided yourself to that fact when you started watching. You can't tell me you started watching shameless in the hopes that you would see everyone clean themselves up and live happy Martha Stuart channel lives did you? You really can't take what frank does to heart cause he is a character made for television to amuse us. All it would be if he died is the kids trying to get along to make it in a world alone with no parents to speak of since mom is MIA. Not one character aside from little Liam is an angel on this show so why kill frank. Come to think it it everything has gone to shit with everyone the minute frank got sick. Don't you think that maybe before they were all working so hard seeing Fran like he was to not be like him that they did the right thing for the most part and now that he isn't around aka dying they are falling apart one by one. And one more thing Carl in my opinion did not turn into a moral oral. Have you been watching the show? He is just now starting to rob stores and hold people up. In my opinion this show is a success and all the message boards about it prove me right. I in no way mean any of this to down you people but this is my opinion.

  • Abby Cadabby

    This is 100% why I have never been able to bring myself to watch Shameless. All the trailers about the "hilarious" deadbeat dad ruining his kids lives never struck me as fun or even as comedy.

    I have seen some phenomenal clips of Emmy Rossum's acting on the show, so I know I'm missing out, but I just plain don't want to hate William H. Macy.

  • Tom

    One thing I just remembered is that at the very beginning of the show Frank was still an asshole but at least said he cared about his kids and seemed to try to not fuck up. As the years have gone by he no longer shows any interest in them. It appears that he stopped trying to care about them except when he needs them for his own purposes. He has given in completely to his addiction. This is enough evidence for me that he is done. He should just die.

  • Al

    My own father was so much like Frank that the show is hard for me to watch at times. He chased death harder than he did anything else in life. When he finally caught up to it I was relieved. I wonder what real life monster Frank is based on?

  • kirbyjay

    My father wasn't a street degenerate alcoholic, just your run of the mill one. I never had sympathy for him because he chose the alcohol over everything else. They say it's a disease? Then get treatment. If you don't, you are a selfish fuck.

  • e jerry powell

    If it's not okay, I guess I'm going to hell several times over. Frank Gallagher isn't even in my top ten for that. He's on the list, but there were so many before him.

  • Ben

    I work in the Addiction field and I see people everyday who are working themselves to the bone to get clean and stay clean.

    But at the same time I see people who blame everyone and everything but themselves when they slip. And Frank falls into that group.

    It's never his fault. He has zero recognition for the damage and the repercussions of his actions.

    A slow death is what Frank deserves, and a liver failure death is never a nice passing.

  • dizzylucy

    I've watched the whole series in just a few weeks, and I'm ready for him to die. I like Macy and he did a great job, but it's time.

    Have to say, I've never liked Emily Bergl in anything (I think it roots back to her Gilmore Girls character) but I'm liking her in this a lot.

  • Sean

    Yes, Frank has outlived his usefulness. Now that Fiona has turned out to be just as much a fuckup. My only concern is the effect on Carl. Who once seemed destined to be a serial killer, but now seems to be the moral center.

  • pajiba

    Weird, right?

  • Jenn Hamm

    Fiona has issues, for sure. But she is hardly on the same level of fuckedup-ness as Frank. She's imperfect and has made mistakes, but she really does love and tries her best for her family. She'd not a fuckup by any means- she has just made some fuckedup mistakes.

  • kali yuga

    Frank created all these kids, doesn't care about them at all, and then saddled his daughter with the responsibility. Fiona, for all her problems, just had the shit handed to her, and, as Jen said, she does care about her family. The two are not even close to the same.

  • Sean

    And refuses to admit to them. Or even notice what is going on around her. She has never made an effort to deal with Carl. And ignores Debbie and her current issues. When she is the only one that could actually make a difference.

  • Naye

    To be fair Fiona is not actually Carl or Debbie's parent. As voiced by Lip last season, all of those kids have been busting ass to get by, and not just Fiona. They love her bu they don't treat her like their mother, and she can't really treat them like her actual kids i.e. make them behave, or come home at night, or not steal and fight and a,b,c,d. She's always had bigger issues to handle, and with the Cups job she finally got a chance to relax. I can understand her not turning into super mom. Yes, she made a huge mistake. I think her unwillingness to admit to it was because for all these years she had been doing everything right, and one wrong was going to set her right back worse than where she started. I can believe that would be a hard thing to admit, especially to Lip who clearly wants to be the one that's needed.

  • kirbyjay

    Lip's giving Fiona far too much shit over this. She took on all of those kids and provided a home and love for them and basically missed out on a life. The minute she has a little breathing room and has some fun, a horrible accident happens and yes, her life is ruined. For a daughter with two incredibly fucked up parents and no moral guidance growing up, she came through for all of them, including Lip. Cut her some slack.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I kind of agree with both of you. If Fiona is the shit, Frank is the diarrhea.

    The slide from being someone who makes some fucked up decisions to someone who is fucked up is steep. Fiona is so far up her own ass and full of her own superiority to notice that she's on it.

  • Iron

    Yup. I'll not get into it but watching frank die would be incredibly cathartic

  • MauraFoley

    I battle with these feelings about Frank. Thanks for the great piece.

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