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Thursday, January 16, 2014

SHAMELESS Brings "Pleasure" To Those Who Watch It

Article first written for Seat42F.

Showtime’s SHAMELESS begins its fourth season this week with “Simple Pleasures.” Picking up shortly after last year left off, a lot has changed, despite the relatively short time jump. This season represents a new chapter in the life of the Gallaghers, and I’m anxious to see how it develops.

If this show has one lead, it’s Fiona (Emmy Rossum). She’s never been doing better than she is right now. Similar to how we last saw her, she has a steady job and is dating a good, solid, honest guy, Mike (Jake McDorman). But what we didn’t see before is that her new higher income and social circle have allowed her to actually have a life outside of the home. I don’t think she’ll ever neglect the family she’s in charge of, but it’s nice to see her not solely defined by it.

Part of why Fiona has the luxury of moving forward is because Debbie (Emma Kenney) and Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) are growing more mature. They do so in differing ways, but their emotional and physical development has taken a step forward, making them seem more adult. As such, they should have more solo stories from here on out than previously, on level with Fiona, Lip (Jeremy Allen White), and Ian (Cameron Monaghan), whom they have always seemed to be a step behind. Maybe the youngest Gallagher will even finally get a thread.

Now, neither Carl nor Debbie have left childhood behind completely. In some ways, Debbie and Carl are still kids, which is actually nice, as children don’t grow up overnight. The question is, are they just acting older because Fiona has left them on their own more and they are forced to take more responsibility? Or are they going through normal development at a natural pace?

There is more room for Debbie and Carl because a number of main characters are no longer occupying screen time. As “Simple Pleasures” begins, Frank (William H. Macy), Ian, and Jimmy / Steve (Justin Chatwin) are all missing. This does change the dynamic of the series overall. As viewers, we sort of know what’s happened with them, or at least we have more information than the other characters, but their fates are still unresolved as the episode starts.

Early in the hour, though, one of the three does show up, kicking off what could be a whole new arc for the character. I don’t want to spoil things, so I’ll remain vague, but let’s just say that the person in question has taken the path they were on as far as they can go, and they will either change or be done entirely in the near future. The other two are completely absent for now.

Sheila (Joan Cusack), despite having no direct reason to still be around, maintains a presence on SHAMELESS. She is a lost soul, and with her entire family gone, it makes sense that she would turn to the Gallaghers, whom she has more connection with than anyone else in town. It seems a delicate arrangement, and I’m not sure it’ll last, but I love Cusack, so I’m in no hurry to see Sheila go.

The Milkovichs, long characters on the show, have more of their own story in “Simple Pleasures” than we’re used to. Mickey (Noel Fisher) is pining over Ian, of course, and regretting his marriage, while Mandy (Emma Greenwell) is very much still in love with Lip, who is away at college (yes, the episode follows him there, apart from everyone else). Because the Gallaghers are no longer are serving the same roles as before and Sheila’s loved ones are absent, there’s plenty of room for the Milkovichs to step up, and I am curious where their threads might go next.

Besides all of this, there’s a big twist with Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey), someone relatively important dies, and a couple has sex for the first time. So “Simple Pleasures” is eventful on its own, even while kicking off a brand new batch of stories with some changed characters.

SHAMELESS returns this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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