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Recap: Fiona's Exit Comes Into Focus on 'Shameless'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 4, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | March 4, 2019 |


All of the predictions about Fiona’s exit from Shameless based on earlier episodes (even our own) are all a moot point. Emmy Rossum didn’t decide to leave the series until the end of this season, so the writers only rewrote the last two episodes to account for her departure (I think that Fiona’s decision to go to an AA meeting at the end of last week’s episode may have been written after the fact, as well). With only two episodes with which to work, and — presumably — existing storylines in place already, the writers weren’t really able to work toward an organic end-point. They had to do their best to make a last-second change to an existing arc.

The season-long arc saw Fiona in the midst of another downward spiral, and while I’d have liked to see her emerge from it more organically — as Lip has since joining AA — Fiona needed to beat a hasty retreat from the series. She took an important first step by attending a meeting, but the series kind of cheated the recovery process by suggesting that she may not be an alcoholic — despite the family history, and the evidence of the last several episodes to prove otherwise — but someone who drank a lot because she’s had a bad few months. Maybe? Her felony assault, meanwhile, looks like it will be downgraded to a misdemeanor, so long as she continues attending meetings and maintains steady employment.

That employment came in the form of an overnight shift at a convenience store, where — lo and behold — her old investment partner materializes on the first night of her shift and the nursing home investment that Fiona had basically given up on last year suddenly begins to move forward, meaning that she’s about to collect on her $100,000 investment. In fact, her old investment partner is going to give her the cash now.

Honestly, I’m fine with the unexpected windfall, and I suspect that the writers had planted that months ago in the event that the Gallaghers needed $100,000 to save the house again, or keep Carl out of trouble with the mafia, or pay Liam’s private-school tuition. Instead, the show is going to give it to Fiona, who will probably use it to relocate to Los Angeles or New York to rebuild her real-estate empire (perhaps with Steve/Jimmy!)

The important thing is that Fiona and Lip had that conversation at the kitchen table. I don’t care how Shameless writes Fiona out of the show so long as she and Lip are on good terms. They got to share at least one more scene at the breakfast table, and for all of Shameless’ problems, it’s those scenes that make it worth watching week after week.

It is a good thing that I love these characters so much because the rest of the show is a mess. The entire season-long arc with Carl, Debbie and Kelly ended with Carl not even advancing past the first round of cuts for West Point and both Carl and Debbie being dumped by Kelly. The Carl and Debbie commiseration scene — after Carl beat the hell out of a guy for shooting at him — was a nice payoff, but hardly worth an entire season-long storyline. Also, how the hell is Carl supposed to get into West Point when he hasn’t attended a class of any sort all season long? And what was even the point of having his boss at the fast-food restaurant sexually harass him?

Meanwhile, nothing ever comes easy for Lip, and while his sobriety has been a constant this season (thank God), everything else remains in perpetual flux. He bonds with a girl abandoned by her mother, who returns for her daughter, before abandoning her to Lip again. Lip can’t adopt her, however, because — long story short — he’s a Gallagher. Meanwhile, Tami has evolved from a wedding shag into a woman trying to figure out whether having Lip’s baby is better or worse for her future cancer prognosis. Things aren’t going well for Lip, but I also feel like this isn’t a four-alarm fall-off-the-wagon problem. It’s the kind of problem that gets resolved in next week’s finale.

Meanwhile, Liam has been so sidelined this season that his sidelining became an actual joke in the episode. He ignores the phone calls from Fiona, Lip, and Debbie, who are checking in on him after realizing that he’s been missing for two days (he’s holed up in his bully-turned-friend’s house watching movies and playing video games. He’s in a much better place. Stay there, Liam). Honestly, I didn’t realize Liam was missing, either.

Typically, it’s Frank who is siloed into his own comedic-relief storyline, but it’s felt like that for several of the characters this season. Why don’t Kevin and Veronica interact with the Gallaghers much anymore? They live in their own show, where they deal with vasectomies, foster children separated at the border from their parents, and child-care issues, but they barely interact with the rest of the cast. It’s like poor-man’s Cheers over there; they even have their own Norm and Cliff in Tommy and Kermit. Frank, meanwhile, spent the episode in an ER trying to score opioids for his broken leg. He spends so much time in the hospital now that we’re actually getting to know the hospital staff (that would be a fine spin-off, as well).

It is a mess, but I also resigned myself several seasons ago to the fact that the storylines will probably never go anywhere (no one on this show keeps a boyfriend or girlfriend), and that the series will probably continue to tread water until every last cast member has left. I don’t really care. With Shameless, it’s not about the journey or the destination. It’s about who we spend it with, and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of hanging out with these people an hour a week, 14 times a year, as they succeed, fail, rise, and fall, but invariably always end up back in the same place: The Gallagher home.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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