Simple answer? Yes. But it’s complicated.
Let me back up a little though. Ian and Mickey aren’t the most functional or healthiest couple on tv. And they aren’t a couple I would like to imitate in my life. But they are the most interesting, completely devoted, honest couple currently depicted on any show.
We’ve raved around here about how Shameless is the only show on tv that accurately portrays what it’s like to be poor in America. But it’s also the only show that honestly depicts what it’s like to be completely dysfunctional. So while Andre and Bow Johnson are the reassuring, stable example of what everyone should aspire to, Mickey and Ian are what too many couples are. Dysfunctional couples still love each other even if they can’t quite get it together. And we don’t have nearly enough examples of them. They’re not a bad couple. They just have real, complicated issues to work out, and they do so imperfectly. The fact that they’re also two gay men whose character development doesn’t resort to cliches about gay men (ahem, Cam and Mitchell) has made them the most complex, difficult, but endearing couple on the show.
Sure, there’s the poverty, the mental illness, the substance abuse, Mickey’s father who disapproves of his son’s sexuality so intensely he’s physically and sexually abused him, and, most alarming for me, the physical altercations between Mickey and Ian. But they also are firmly on the other’s side. They want the same thing even if they disagree about how to get it.
Which of course leads to their actual disagreements. And to some very sticky, gray areas. Domestic violence is a serious, often deadly issue. It cannot be downplayed or excused. I feel really uncomfortable even identifying a couple who beats each other up as one of the best on television. But I’m also not sure that I could argue with the results.
Would I prefer that they managed to get some of their spark back without pummeling each other? For sure. But they seem pretty genuinely happy to me. I feel really icky about it, but I’m glad they were brutally honest enough with each other to work through how they need to treat each other while dealing with Ian’s diagnosis. They’re not really doing anything the way that I want them to, but I really hope whatever it is they’re doing, they keep doing it together.