William H. Macy

Shameless has so many characters that even those you care about most have moments when they feel superfluous. I was shocked last year when Ian’s absence early in the season went over so smoothly. And when the most prominent characters can disappear for episodes at a time, the less essential characters feel especially unnecessary. “The Two Lisas” works towards pruning the Shameless family tree, which is a good move for the show’s overall health.

Joan Cusack’s Sheila has been the pure, unsullied heart of Shameless, a role she has shared with Debbie since the show began. It was initially unclear how Sheila would continue as a character if her agoraphobia prevented her from interacting with the rest of the southside universe. Though that aspect of the character seemed gimmicky, Cusack killed in the performance, and did her best work on the show during Sheila’s winning battle with her fear of an environment she couldn’t control.

It’s not clear whether this is the last time we’ll see Sheila, freed of the house that once imprisoned her, and mashing the pedal to whatever the next adventure is. But if this was, in fact, a permanent send-off for Sheila, it’s a pitch-perfect one. What leads up to it is a bit clunky, but that was unavoidable if the show was to stay on brand. In Shameless, outrageous moments are the steak and more subtle ones are the seasoning. But the result of having to send Sheila out this way is that it feels incredibly mechanical.

Frank’s Milk Of The Gods ends up being the catalyst for Sheila’s wanderlust. After Frank lands a massive beer order, he needs parts from a salvage yard to beef up production. But without money, Frank makes the very Frank-like choice to make a deal with the elegantly-socked salvage yard owner. In exchange for the parts, he agrees to set him up with Sammi, promising him he’ll get laid. When Sammi finds out, she confronts him with Sheila in the middle and the three spill into the street just before Sheila’s house explodes. Sheila could have just sold to the Lisas, but the signature of escrow documents isn’t as cinematic as a charred foot.

Advertisement

The episode also saw the departure, at least for now, of Mandy Milkovich, who has maintained less of a grasp on the show since Lip left for college. I doubt this is the last time we’ll see Mandy—Emma Greenwell booked a movie—but what a devastating, if temporary farewell. Mandy agrees to relocate with Kenyatta, and Lip makes it his mission to convince her to stay in Chicago. In one shot, Lip tries to cure Mandy of, as Ian put it, her “hood girl” low self-esteem. He tells her she’s sweet, she’s smart, she’s a good person. But what Lip can’t tell her is that he loves her. It’s the one weapon he had in his arsenal, but he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

There was a third major departure in “The Two Lisas,” if we’re counting Debbie’s virginity. I’ve been dreading this development for years now, wondering if I was prepared for a Shameless in which Debbie has had sex. I definitely wasn’t prepared for Debbie to have this kind of sex, which really wasn’t sex as much as rape. Debbie throws a party without supervision, having backed Fiona off with a snarl for the second week in a row. Everybody gets plastered on Milk Of The Gods, including Matty, who wakes up in Debbie’s bed disoriented and staring at a used condom wrapper. “You statutory raped yourself,” says poor Matty to poor, poor Debbie. It was a story I think I’ll be processing for a few weeks before I have a firm grasp on how I feel about it. It’s bold, that much is certain.

“The Two Lisas” was the rare Shameless in which Fiona is used sparingly, and it was necessary after two Fiona-heavy episodes. But Fiona gets some attention too, finally giving into Davis’ non-stop come-ons and agreeing to meet him at a jazz show. She arrives to find him canoodling with his live-in girlfriend, so she sidles up to Gus, using him to needle Davis. Their pretend relationship turns into something realer when he invites her to his place and woos her with a rendition of Damon Jurado’s “Beacon Hill.” Can there be one season of Shameless in which Fiona doesn’t make kindling out of some poor sap’s heart?

Advertisement

Stray observations:

  • Veronica started a titty-milk sweatshop. Her words, not mine.
  • Sammi to Frank: “I hope you die in a bottle of diarrhea!” Those are…strong words.
  • Debbie’s declaration of womanhood was classic.
  • Jimmy-Jack-Steve is moving in for the kill, with Angela inviting Fiona out to dinner. “My last relationship ended kinda messy,” says Fiona, in a classy, artful dodge.
  • I should be as grossed out by Carl’s new hobby as I am by Debbie’s new sex-offender status, but I will admit I’m not.
  • The Two Lisas aren’t scared of Carl, which is really unfortunate for them.
  • Ian is in the cleaning stage of his flight.

Advertisement