It wasn’t a huge send-off. There were no twists. Steve/Jimmy didn’t reappear. She didn’t try and restart her real-estate empire (“fool me once …”), and she didn’t die. Fiona Gallagher just … left. “It’s time to leave this Southside hood rat crap behind you and go on with being an adult,” Fiona’s public defender told her before she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. And that’s exactly what Fiona did. She said goodbye, first to Ian in prison (he is set to return to the series next year), then to Debbie, and then to Lip, and finally to Frank, who offered up the closest thing he could get to acknowledging what she meant to the family (“You did a good job. Monica wasn’t up to it. You stepped in and helped. Thanks.”) before Fiona walked out of the Gallagher house for the final time. “See you around, Frank.” She got on a subway, then she hopped on a flight to an unknown destination in a sunnier climate, taking a plane for the first time in her life.
It was not a sad departure, although it was not without its wistfulness. She left while Lip was out getting food for her Gallagher bon voyage party, but his smile when he returned to see that she’d already left said it all: “Good for you. You deserve it. I’ll miss you.” That sentiment is not dissimilar to the one viewers may feel about Emmy Rossum’s departure from the series after nine seasons. It was long enough. She deserved to leave. We will miss her. See you around, Fiona.
The rest of the ninth season finale was typical Shameless, which is to say: Sweet and funny, but no big deal. The series doesn’t raise the stakes much for finales, because the stakes are always high for the Gallaghers. Carl and Debbie trashed Kelly’s truck because he broke their hearts, but when Kelly called Debbie out on it, she displayed the sort of maturity and selflessness necessary to become the show’s new big sister and caretaker (Debbie is only a couple of years younger than Fiona was when the show began): “You broke Carl’s heart, Kelly. And he’s throwing his life away because of you … you rejected him, and West Point rejected him. He’s rejected and he’s giving up, and that is on you.” (It sneaked up on me, but after nine years on this show, Emma Kenney has transformed into a very strong actress.) Kelly, in turn, crashes Carl’s job at the fast-food restaurant, quits on his behalf, and ensures he goes back to school. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and man up … are you done being a pussy and ready to go back to being the man I love?” Kelly and Carl are back. Meanwhile, Debbie also managed to convince Liam to move back home, but only after agreeing to his 46 demands, most of which entail better surrounding him with his racial and cultural heritage.
Finally, Lip and Tammy’s story is … messy, as relationships on Shameless are wont to be. Turns out, her risk for breast cancer is reduced if she has a baby, so she’s going to. But she’s not sure she’ll keep it. Or if Lip will. And they’re not getting married, because even with Tammy, Lip can’t admit that he loves her. “I like you,” is the best he can offer, but at least it’s the truth. And it’s enough. For now. And if Tammy decides to keep the baby, Lip will be a good father, because he can do exactly what a good father can do. “Just love ‘em, man,” Kevin tells him. “It’s hard to fuck them up if you just love them.”
It’s honestly the best parenting advice anyone could give. And aside from a $50,000 check that Fiona left behind for Debbie, that’s a wrap on season 9 of Shameless. It was a messy, frustrating, up-and-down season of the series, but it always is. That’s just Shameless, but with characters like these, and the sense of warmth that permeates every episode, it’s not a show I could ever imagine quitting on.