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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 | February 24, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 24, 2014 |

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.


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.

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.