When Jimmy was revealed to be alive at the end of season four, it was alarming because it meant the return of a polarizing character, but also because it represented something of a step back for Shameless. It seemed like Shameless had mostly kicked its habit of making the most shocking or unexpected story choice, even when it doesn’t feel like the most satisfying one. Everything about Jimmy’s return has been designed to deliver the biggest gotcha possible, but beyond the element of surprise, Jimmy hasn’t added much of value. “Tell Me You Fucking Need Me” was yet another episode functioning as a Jimmy-Steve-Jack-in-the-box, but the surprise this time was simply in how abruptly the story petered out.

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Bringing Jimmy back wasn’t a fundamentally bad idea, but the writers executed Jimmy’s return in a way that makes it really tough to argue in its favor. The biggest blunder came before the story had even really begun, back when Jimmy was initially shown to be alive. Neither Fiona’s flirtation with Sean nor her impulsive marriage to Gus have had room to breathe or develop in a natural way because Jimmy has been lurking, waiting to jump out and complicate Fiona’s life the moment she’s got things halfway figured out. Watching the season unfold without awareness of Jimmy’s fate would have made those stories much easier to invest in. Instead, it has been like watching Fiona painstakingly build a house of straw, fully aware that Jimmy is on his way to blow it down. Showing Angela in the car with Jimmy at the initial reveal was also too much too soon. Angela’s odd behavior could have provided the season with an element of mystery, but we knew all along she was spying for Jimmy because we’d already been introduced to her.

Though I was never high on the idea of bringing the character back, I was eager for the show to finally trot Jimmy out and do what they planned to do with him so Fiona’s storyline could finally shift out of neutral. But I assumed he would be around a bit longer, and his swift departure leaves me feeling conflicted more than anything. Apparently, the plan was to bring Jimmy back for two episodes, long enough for Fiona to cheat on Gus with him and remind the audience how much of a colossal asshole he is, then whisk him back out of the picture with little fanfare. There is one bright spot: After learning Fiona cheated, Gus asks to meet with Jimmy and decks him once he sees Jimmy’s smug face. In that moment, it feels good to have Jimmy around. Aside from that, the Jimmy affair doesn’t feel like a great use of time in a show with this many characters to service.

The case can be made that it was necessary for Fiona to finally confront Jimmy and rid herself of that ghost. In this new conclusion to the Jimmy and Fiona story, Fiona gets to make the decision she never got to make the first time. She gets to really choose Gus, but beyond that, she gets to choose what Gus represents, which is a life in which routine, consistency, and delayed gratification are enough. But given what Fiona went through in season four with Mike and Robbie, she didn’t need Jimmy to show her that cheap thrills can prove incredibly expensive in the long run. Fiona has collected enough evidence to build that case on her own, and so her affair with Jimmy isn’t a learning opportunity, just another dumb mistake. Hopefully it isn’t a dumb mistake that ended in a pregnancy, but it’ll come as no surprise if it does.

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“Tell Me” makes plenty of time for the rest of the Gallagher clan, but it mostly shuffles the deck a bit without making huge leaps in most of the storylines. The major exception to that is Debbie, who gets yet another amazing moment when she confronts Derek about their relationship. For a couple seasons now, Debbie has been trudging through the worst parts of female adolescence, longing to claim her womanhood while everyone around her insists on treating her like a little girl. Like most young women her age, Debbie has struggled with self-esteem issues. But as a result of meeting Derek and learning how to fight, Debbie has been able to take that self-doubt, paste a photo of Holly on it, and pummel the shit out of it. The speech to Derek is fantastic, and Emma Kenney demolishes the scene. I haven’t been as giddy about anything else this season.

Ian is trying to acclimate to his new surroundings while he’s on psychiatric hold, and he’s still in a state of denial about what he’s dealing with. He’s eager to get home to Mickey (and Yevgeny, who he mentions quite a bit) and doesn’t understand why he can’t just leave now that he feels normal. Lip is also struggling to adapt to new circumstances as he figures out how to incorporate his resident assistant duties into his already busy schedule. Lip has an emergency of his own this week, finding out that his grant money isn’t in place because he failed to renew his paperwork. He goes to get his own post office box, having learned a $12,000 lesson about the importance of getting his mail. It’s a moment that shows Lip is starting to grow up and take responsibility for what happens to him. In a house as chaotic and eventful as Gallagher Manor, it’s probably asking too much to expect consistent, respectful mail handling.

Stray observations:

  • As usual, Frank and Sammi continue to be awful to each other, and awful as characters. I adore William H. Macy and Emily Bergl, but there’s appealing about their relationship.
  • I need to talk about how much I hate what’s happening with Kevin and Veronica. I hate it. I hate it so much. It was trying my patience all along, but the Svetlana angle has driven my irritation to new heights.
  • So apparently Jimmy is a big international thief of some kind, which…fine. And Angela is, like, his partner? Or his girl Friday or something? All of that confuses me.
  • Gus might’ve taken the affair with Jimmy a little too well.

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