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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

'Fiona Interrupted' is Shameless

Showtime's Shameless brings its second season to a close with "Fiona Interrupted," which finds many of the Gallaghers (and their friends) contemplating change. Frank (William H. Macy) is intent on breaking Monica (Chloe Webb, China Beach, Twins) out of the mental hospital, but finds most of his children unwilling to help. Fiona (Emmy Rossum) determines a new list of priorities, which Jimmy / Steve (Justin Chatwin) hopes to be included on. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) also has some tough choices to make concerning his romantic life. Karen (Laura Slade Wiggins) gives Sheila (Joan Cusack) an ultimatum: the baby goes, or Karen will.

What does Karen expect when she makes Sheila choose between her and the baby in "Fiona Interrupted?" Karen is pretty much grown, and has proven repeatedly that she doesn't need her mother. The baby, on the other, definitely does need someone to love and care for it. Considering that he has Down syndrome, he isn't likely to be adopted. Sheila does the responsible thing by taking in her grandson, and the police, when Karen calls them, agree. Sheila makes the only decision she can here.

Why does Karen hate the baby so much? Is he a reminder of the person she is? Does she not like herself or her promiscuous ways? When she sees the baby's face, is she reminded of the drugs that she consumed during pregnancy? Surely Karen's anger is directed at least as much at herself as at the infant. Otherwise, her character has become a psychopath, and there's no reason for her to continue on Shameless, as no viewer will like or relate to her.

Lip loves Karen. He wants to be a father, too, but he also genuinely adores Karen herself. Even as Karen pushes him away over and over, Lip is willing to stand by, and likely would, even after he learns that baby is not his. However, these monstrous actions by Karen in "Fiona Interrupted" drive him away. That's not to say that Lip is done with her forever. But it will certainly take a lot of time and apologizing for the eldest Gallagher male to consider getting back with his first true love.

Might Lip find a replacement companion in Mandy (Emma Greenwell)? Mandy is just a warm bed for Lip, but she really seems to be interested in something more with him. And while Lip initially shoves her off and avoids talking to her about a relationship, he seems more accepting by "Fiona Interrupted." Does this mean he is warming up to her? Might he consider something more than a friends with benefits arrangement? He should have already considered this, seeing how dangerous her family is, and if he isn't ready to be serious, he needs to find a way to let her down gently.

Emma Greenwell has now played Mandy in more episodes of Shameless than Jane Levy (Suburgatory) did before leaving the show. Despite this, it's still hard not to see Levy in the role, and miss her. Greenwell does fine, but she seems to lack that extra spark and subtle layers that Levy brought to the part. One wonders if Greenwell would be better received had she been the one originally cast as Mandy. This situation brings to light the problem with recasting. Bottom line: avoid it at all costs!

Fiona has Steve, er, Jimmy back. Will Shameless ever pick a name for him? Jimmy makes the most sense, given that it is his real name, and someone else is now using the identity of Steve. But since he is called Steve for all of season one, there will be an adjustment period for the audience, which is probably why both names are currently being used. Either way, Fiona gets back with the guys she loves.

When Shameless begins season two, it is kind of nice to see Fiona play the field. She has a lot of responsibility, and deserves some fun. Settling down with one man is kind of a grown up thing to do, and Fiona does enough grown up things in her life already. Which does not mean that she doesn't deserve love. Fiona, more than any other character in the series, sacrifices everything for her family. That's why, despite how fun it is to see wild and free Fiona at the beginning of the season, it's also a bit of a relief to hear Jimmy confess his love, and to see her accept it.

Of course, there is always a wrench. In the final moments of "Fiona Interrupted," Fiona's happy ending is interrupted by the appearance of a battered Estefania (Stephanie Fantauzzi) at her door. Technically, Estefania is married to Jimmy's Steve identity, and because of the time she spent with Jimmy, he feels obligated to do something. This is reasonable. Even though Fiona has enough drama to deal with, she should be OK with this because she won't want to see anyone get hurt, and Estefania's guy, who is now using the Steve identity, is hurting her. But will she regret Jimmy helping Estefania if things get too hairy? And how long can Estefania stick around before Fiona gets too jealous?

What's more, Estefania isn't the only problem. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) sleeps with Jimmy's father, Lloyd (Harry Hamlin, Army Wives, Veronica Mars, L.A. Law). This happens before the Gallaghers meet Jimmy's family in "Fiona Interrupted," though Lloyd is interested in continuing the affair. Ian seems reticent, thankfully, now that he knows about Lloyd's wife and kids. But Fiona is bound to be upset, and Jimmy must be told. Without knowing more about Jimmy's family and home life, it is impossible to know what repercussions may arise from this situation.

Which is just plain sad. As mentioned, Fiona deserves her happy ending. She has to give up a good job, and likely, dreams of college, to continue in her role as the caretaker of the family. Thus, her love life should not be a chore, too. And clearly, there will be a bumpy road on the way to happiness, if she stays with Jimmy. If she doesn't... Well, let's just hope that her future suitors are better matches than the batch of guys that she has dated this year.

And Ian should get a little cheer, too, which he won't with Lloyd. An affair with an older, married man who has his own family is bound to end in disaster, which Ian should already know, based on past experience. Hopefully, he will not repeat his mistake.

Frank is lost without Monica in "Fiona Interrupted," and assumes that his kids will be, too. Surprise, surprise, only Debbie (Emma Kenney) agrees to help Frank carry out his "rescue" plan. Why does no one else care?

The Frank and Monica drama is old hat to the elder Gallagher offspring. They have seen the rollercoaster ride that their parents take them on, and want nothing more to do with it. Debbie, on the other hand, does not have those clear memories of what it is like to be with both of her parents. She is really enjoying having her mother back at home, despite the Thanksgiving suicide attempt, and would like to continue this living arrangement. Who can blame her? Kids crave their parents until they learn better, as Debbie's older siblings have, repeatedly.

Debbie and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) are deeply upset by Monica cutting herself in the kitchen. This should be a sign that helping Frank get Monica back is a mistake. It's not like Frank has become a loving father with Monica around, though he is home more. Monica buys her children things (with the money that she stole from them), but, as a bi-polar drug user, is in no shape to take care of them. Thus, while it's nice to have a mother and a father in the house, Debbie and Carl are without their parents around.

But Debbie helps Frank bust out Monica anyway. The family's happy reunion lasts all of two minutes, until Monica takes off with her new girlfriend, Jill (the amazing, hilarious Jenna Elfman, Dharma & Greg). Jill is a deeply disturbed individual, waiting to see if she's competent to stand trail for violence against her husband. Monica knows how to pick 'em, doesn't she? Is Monica in danger, running off with Jill? Who knows? But that's a plot for another season. What's shown in "Fiona Interrupted" is that Monica's behavior is erratic, and she has no problem abandoning her family. Again.

As soon as Monica is gone, though, Frank returns to the total loser that he is, and soon enough, his kids carry him out and dump him in the alley. Frank is better with Monica around, but only slightly, so it's not with a great sense of loss that he is put back on the street. Losing Monica is a serious blow to Frank's happiness, as Monica is the only woman he seems to care about. His other trysts all have ulterior motives, but with Monica, Frank shows his heart. To the extent that Frank can, that is.

Debbie, Carl, and the others will be OK. No matter how terrible their parents are, they have older siblings who are dedicated to making sure they grow up all right. Let's just hope that these latest shenanigans don't scar them too much.


Shameless has been renewed for a third season, and will return to Showtime.

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