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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Shameless: “Parenthood”

Illustration for article titled Shameless: “Parenthood”
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The second season of Shameless is two-thirds through, and I still haven’t seen an episode that I would declare a perfect or very near perfect episode of this show. There’s always a distracting flaw that stops a lot of these episodes short of greatness. What’s interesting about this season of Shameless is that the distracting flaw is a bit of a moving target. At the beginning of the season, the issue was Frank, but the reappearance of Nana Gallagher has neutralized Frank’s faults, bringing out a more reflective, more human side of the character. But now Steve is being the biggest douchebag on the planet, so there’s still one ingredient trying its best to spoil the broth.

Overpopulation might be the biggest issue with Shameless at this point. That’s the whole point of course: There are too many Gallaghers, too many lovers, too many entanglements, hatreds and debts. But it’s becoming like Problematic Character Whack-a-Mole. Down goes Kash, up pops Estafania. A week without Jasmine is a week with Little Hank, or vice-versa. So it went with “Parenthood,” which was pretty strong throughout but hit some bum notes as usual.

It was a big week for Frank, who saw his dying mother through her final moments in the most bizarre way possible and wound up a target for Mickey Milkovich and his crew of like-minded, unhygienic street toughs. Frank turns up at the Kash and Grab to pick up some cigarettes for Peggy, but as usual, the door is locked since the Kash and Grab is still not so much a convenience store as a convenience store-themed hourly motel. Frank sneaks in through the back, and stumbles on Ian and Mickey’s afternoon delight, terrifying them both and leading Mickey to believe the only answer is to kill Frank.

Considering how long it’s been since we’ve seen Mickey, it felt a little brisk to have him suddenly plotting Frank’s death. But his motivation was easy to understand. Frank’s whole thing is getting drunk and saying something awful to the wrong person, and given how tenuous Frank and Terry Milkovich’s relationship is, it’s not hard to imagine Frank blurting out “Well my son is fucking your son” in the middle of a billiards game. In the end, Mickey doesn’t have the heart to go through with it, and opts to go back to jail instead by cold-cocking a police officer. It was a pretty heartbreaking conclusion to the Ian and Mickey story, with Mickey refusing to engage with Ian emotionally, then finding himself unable to kill someone he knows Ian loves.

Meanwhile, Sheila was figuring out how to hasten Peggy’s death, and after a few clumsy tries, Sheila finally takes her out by smothering her with a pillow. It was a disturbing scene, to be sure, but given the circumstances, it certainly beats Frank’s usual euthanasia method. Kudos to Louise Fletcher who has done consistently terrific work as Peggy, but she was especially awesome tonight as Peggy decided she wanted to end her suffering and choose to die. I loved the interactions between Sheila, Peggy, and Jody, whom I am starting to like more now that the writers are dialing back his goofiness a bit. He really is kind of an angel, and he definitely deserves better than Karen.

Lip continued his descent this week after Karen decided to give the baby up for adoption and dragged Lip on a hunt around Chicago searching for the biggest payday for their premium, all-white baby. Lip cons Fiona into getting her GED by telling her he won’t go back to school unless she does, and when she calls his bluff, he waits for her to fail. It’s been an awesome season for Lip, and this was another week of momentum for the character. He’s lashing out because he hates being the only Gallagher faced with high expectations. Everyone wants him to go to an Ivy League university and get rich inventing the next subprime mortgage, but he wants to stay around the South Side and take care of his baby, lest Karen sell it off to God knows who. So he tosses a chair with a classroom window and gets himself expelled, and when Fiona demands he enroll in another school or leave home, he chooses the latter. Lip is trying desperately to avoid becoming Frank, without realizing that the inclination to avoid responsibility at all costs is what makes Frank who he is.


Every plot in “Parenthood” worked for me, and as usual, my only complaint is Steve. Last week, Fiona told Steve in no uncertain terms that she was moving on from him, yet here he is still breezing into Chez Gallagher with coffee and donuts and offering to coach Carl’s football team like nothing has changed, even while he has Estefania in tow. (At some point, someone ought to explain to Steve and Estefania that being joined at the hip every moment of every day is not typical of a convenience marriage.) Fiona verbally jabs him, but tacitly approves of his overtures by refusing to protest loudly enough. It’s the same type of presumptuous, rapey behavior that made Steve so noxious to begin with, and here it is again. I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to view Steve and Fiona’s relationship. Are they supposed to be soulmates? Because all I see is a tumultuous opposites-attract fling with too much importance being placed on it by Steve and Fiona alike.

And look, that’s how some relationships are. There’s not much of a case to be made for them on paper, but for whatever reason the two people in the relationship have decided its right, so it takes on a certain inevitability no matter how deeply the two have wronged each other. But what I liked about Fiona in their initial courtship was how adamant she was about letting Steve know that he didn’t have a right to her space, her body, her company, or her family. If he was going to be there, it would be because she chose it, not because he did. Now she’s given up the fight and has basically left the ball in his court to come back when he’s found a way to offload Estefania (this after telling him last week that his willingness to divorce her was a major turn-off). You are a smart woman, Fiona Gallagher, but oh, your foolish choices.


Stray observations:

  • The final scene of Carl chasing Lip really got to me.
  • A Bacardi and Fresca actually doesn’t sound half bad. I love how Fresca is the punch line of soft drinks.
  • Sheila: “I heard you have cancer. I hope it’s painful.” Peggy: “Your wish is granted. You’ve got two more, don’t waste ‘em.”