Father Frank: John Wells Executive Producer John Wells discusses the season one finale of Shameless.
One of the crucial aspects of a TV show isn't just how you react to it while you are watching, but what you think of each episode upon its conclusion. I found Showtime's new series, Shameless, which just finished a 12-episode first season, very conducive to some lively discussion afterward. My spouse and I watched the show at home in real (Chicago) time, taking our dogs for their nightly walk as soon as it was over. Our neighbourhood, though only 25 or 30 miles from the Gallagher's, may as well be 3000 miles away. Even so, this fictional family, first introduced on British television (with a British cast) has issues that most any family can relate to on some level. Nothing about the Gallagher's seems truly foreign, as loyalty and love of family are something (hopefully) everyone knows and understands. And so love of family and sacrifice for them amidst rather dire circumstances, despite all the far-out situations in Shameless, is the show's core theme, some aspect of which my spouse and I came 'round to discussing frequently.
Another commonality that non-TV families have with the Gallaghers is what we like to call 'dysfunction.' Essentially, a 'dysfunctional family' is one whose behaviour deviates from normal families--whatever they are.
Some folks say there is no such thing as a 'normal family' and the older I get, the more I think the saying, 'We are all dysfunctional in our own way,' is on the money. It's really about how we cope with the dysfunction, don't you think?
Episode 12 of Shameless, 'Father Frank, Full of Grace' was about coping with the fallout of some highly dysfunctional circumstances that impacted every family member as well as those involved with the Gallaghers (rock-steady neighbours 'Vi' (Shanola Hampton) and 'Kev' (Steve Howey) excepted--they literally played supporting roles in this episode).
The foundation of the show, perpetually drunk father 'Frank Gallagher' (William H. Macy) has lived with 'accidental' girlfriend, 'Sheila' (Joan Cusak) for most of the season. Her situation includes having debilitating agoraphobia and anxiety, an almost ex-husband (Joel Murray) living in her basement, and a very sexually active older-teen daughter who is dating the eldest Gallagher son, 'Lip' (Jeremy Allen White).
Daughter 'Karen' (Laura Slade Wiggins), and her father, who she once referred to as 'f*ck-face,' causing me to forget his character's real name, have a very strained relationship due to 1. her furious sexual activity and 2. his outrage about her behaviour coupled with his lack of a filter when he shares his opinion about it. Most commonly, Karen's dad calls her a slut. He's managed, by this episode, to have called her a slut in front of a roomful of people as they were supposedly 'making up,' sending her into a tailspin of self-destruction while seeking revenge against him.
Much more after the jump!
Karen manipulates a drunken/high Frank Gallagher and uses her sexuality as payback to her father by doing about the most radical thing she can, 'raping' Frank on web camera, then emailing her dad and his work buddies the video.
Meanwhile, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), who has been beside herself following the arrest of her younger brothers 'Ian' (Cameron Monaghan) and Lip for grand theft auto, has been offered the chance to get away from her life, which she lives solely to keep her siblings together and relatively functional. Steve (Justin Chatwin), her car-thief boyfriend, needs to leave town ASAP and he offers, plane tickets in hand, to take Fiona with him. This of course is a horrible choice, though a defining one for Fiona to make.
The consequences of both Karen's and Steve's actions affect just about everyone in the Gallagher constellation, in one case in the most extreme way possible.
It's going to be an excruciating long wait to find out about the fallout in the very-long-from-now season 2 (most likely debuting around the same time season one of Shameless did only a year later--in 2012).
One of the things about Shameless that has consistently given me conversational material is that when you think the show is gonna turn right--it goes left; in other words it's unpredictability. I don't think there's been a single disingenuous moment throughout but one scene in episode 12 took me out of the moment on screen.
Fiona's bf Steve is waiting to meet her at the airport. He's told her that they'd fly out of O'Hare Airport, with which I'm sure many folks are acquainted as it has been one of a handful of hub airports in the United States for decades. After a season full of awesomely authentic exterior shots of Chicago's South Side, I fully expected to scan the backdrop of Steve's airport scene for familiar O'Hare 'scenery'. Then Steve stood right in front of the airport welcome sign--a sign that said 'Welcome to Midway Airport'!
In his own way, Frank Gallagher (William H.Macy) by episode's end, shows some grace.