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'Shameless' Season Finale: The Thing Keeping the Gallaghers Together Is What's Destroying Them

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 27, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | January 27, 2020 |


I am largely estranged from my family, and I have been for about 12 years. It’s not because they are “problematic,” although they can be. And it’s not because I don’t care about them, because I do. It’s because after the birth of my son, and a visit from my mother soon thereafter, I basically made the decision that I didn’t want my children growing up as I did, under the belief that extreme dysfunction is normal. If you believe that drugs, mental illness, depression, sexual abuse, and suicide are part of life because those are the conversations you hear around you, then you might grow up thinking that’s normal, and if you think that’s normal, you don’t expect for more. In some cases, the cycle of poverty can be self-fulfilling if you never have the opportunity to step outside of it.

And the truth is, if Fred grows up in or around the Gallagher home, he’s not going to expect for more. That’s just a f**king fact. You can believe that Tami is the “villain” in this situation because she wants to raise Fred in Milwaukee and separate Lip from his family, but I’m sorry: Fred and Tami are Lip’s family now. You can choose to raise your child under Southside rules, or you can get your child out of the f**king Southside and give Fred the chance that Lip missed out on.

Last night’s season 10 finale of Shameless hits most of the right emotional beats — I found myself getting weepy during a goddamn Ed Sheeran song — but if you think about it, Lip’s storyline is deeply troubling. Mickey and Ian finally get married, and — god bless them — they get the perfect Gallovich wedding, after Mickey’s homophobic father burns down their wedding site, forcing Lip to hastily put together another wedding that puts to good use all of the Gallaghers’ charm and street skills. It is a perfect Gallagher event. Frank keeps his sh*t together; Ian uses his Christian followers to keep Mickey’s father from murdering Mickey; Debbie distracts the wedding hall’s proprietor with a fake sob story; Carl, uh, he sleeps with the same high-school girl who police try to arrest Debbie for sleeping with at the end of the episode (which will turn into a storyline about Debbie being on the sex-offender registry next season, which is dumb but also karmically fair, given how Franny was conceived).

Fred doesn’t need to grow up like this. Franny doesn’t, either, honestly, nor does Liam. Unlike Franny or Liam, Fred has an opportunity for a better life, and Lip has decided to decline that opportunity so that he can stay close to his family. He and Tami get in a huge blowout over Lip’s fears, insecurities, and short-sightedness, and Tami tells Lip to go f**k himself and threatens to take Fred to Milwaukee with her and leave Lip behind.

She should have. However, after the blowout, Lip returns to the wedding reception, and when the bartender offers to put rum in his coke, Lip says yes. And then he asks for more. He falls off the wagon. The other shoe finally drops, as we all knew it eventually would. The good news is: Lip does the right and responsible thing, and he goes to his sponsor so he could go to a meeting. The bad news is, Tami sees that he is drunk (and sees that he was taking responsibility for it) and Tami takes pity and decides not to move to Milwaukee, after all. It’s implied that she instead decides to move into a crumbling fixer-upper with Lip so that he can stay close to his family.

I don’t think that Lip meant to use his sobriety to manipulate Tami into staying, but that was the end result, which is ironic because last week, Lip argued that he couldn’t move to Milwaukee because it would be bad for his sobriety. No, living in a dysfunctional, co-dependent environment where Lip is capable of taking care of everyone else but himself is bad for his sobriety.

There’s one season of Shameless left. The thing that I hope for most in this show is that the series finale includes Frank’s funeral; that Fiona comes back for the funeral but immediately leaves again; that Carl joins the police force; that Liam is taken in by his Black relatives; that Debbie marries her Sugar momma; that Mandy Milkovich be played by a fourth actress; that Mickey and Ian take over the Gallagher home and raise 10 adorable children in it; and that Lip gets the hell out of the Southside and lives a quiet life where Fred never has to grow up believing that dysfunction is normal. Family is what keeps the Gallaghers together, but it’s also what prevents them from succeeding.

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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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