Episode 306

This week “Shameless” takes a new turn because, unfortunately for the Gallagher kin, child services has stumbled upon their unsupervised household. As a result, the siblings that typically work so well together are now separated in the foster care system. This concept could have succeed exceptionally, but it came off as merely average.

Frank Gallagher made the anonymous phone call to child services a few episodes back and I was wondering when they were actually going to address the point. Last week the showrunners finally did, and incorporated it ingeniously into the final minutes of the episode. The series begins perfectly this week as the Gallagher kin are predictably unfazed by the situation because, as Lip puts it so elegantly, “It’s not [their] first time at the rodeo.”

Fiona lucks out because she’s an adult and can hang back with boyfriend Jimmy, who seems more effeminate episode to episode. Jimmy doesn’t do much this week though, so all the focus is on Emmy Rossum. Once again, Rossum is great as Fiona and I had no complaints about her acting, but the storyline really was just decent overall.

In comparison, William H. Macy is hysterical to watch as Frank and this week his job was done very well. Frank was blackmailed, per Fiona’s determinacy, to jump back on the wagon and help get the kids back. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Frank try to convince Sheila to pretend to be his ex-wife for the day and then later struggle in required parenting classes. Plus, even though the way that Frank was able to pass the drug test is gag-inducing, it was still funny because of how characteristic it is of him.

Debbie Gallagher is unfortunately all by her lonesome this episode. Debs gets placed in a home with a single mother who has already been given the responsibility to take of care of what seems like an endless number of foster kids. How the system would let this fly is beyond me, but Emma Kenney does some good acting in this situation nonetheless. She is obviously comfortable in her role and works well with her character’s evolving Fiona-like qualities. Kenney carries her storyline this week, but the downside is that it wasn’t very interesting since her circumstance is never perilous, comical or dramatic––it’s just there.

Carl and youngest sibling Liam are placed together in a household with a lovely gay couple. The two gay men have no problem telling Carl that they are a biracial couple specifically looking for a biracial baby (how the two Caucasian Gallagher parents ever ended up with a black baby is beyond me). Despite the fact that the gay foster parents have a delightfully stunning apartment and flawless intentions, Carl decides that it would be best to thieve from the two men, rummage through their pornography collection and even vandalize their flat while he’s at it.

Carl is a natural and even talented juvenile delinquent and Ethan Cutkosky has fun playing the part, but I cannot help but think that a child in that situation would not be so eager to give up the obviously beneficial opportunity. “Shameless” failed here by not connecting this portion of the plot with a true life situation and instead going for the easy laughs.

Lip and Ian do not qualify for foster care, so they are instead placed in a group home, which according to writers John Wells and Paul Abbott means a prison scenario for the two brothers. Jeremy Allen White has owned the role of Lip since the show began and this episode is only another testament to his worthy performance. Lip has always had his way with words, and even though he is a sarcastic pain to the staff this week, he is able to talk and bribe his way out of fist fights and other situations, eventually earning him the right to sneak people in and out of the home.

As Ian, Cameron Monaghan also does some exceptional work here. Ian is a typical shy kid, which may have something to do with having to constantly hide his sexual orientation, but he has no problem standing by his eldest brother as he manipulates the foster care system. Lip and Ian work very well together, so it would have been nice to see them on screen more often.

I understand that “Shameless” has a lot of characters to deal with, but this week’s episode had a chance to take an unexplored concept and mold it into something that would give viewers a glimpse into the reality of the foster care system. This recent episode was not completely unrealistic because there were some relatable points, like the unreliability and unnecessary complexities of the foster care system. However, the writers did not delve deep enough into the topic, and even though episode six still had its moments of laughter and sentimentality, the plotline was instead taken to an absurd level.

Ian Gallagher gets to slip away from the group home as a result of Lip’s bribery. So, like a teenage girl with summer crush, he immediately heads to boyfriend Mickey’s house. Ian and Mickey seemed to work through all their relationship’s emotional insecurities, but creator Paul Abbot just had to take one of his infamous twists and give it that extra squeeze of lemon.

As Ian and Mickey are in the midst of love making, Mickey’s father stumbles into the house and is instantly infuriated. Terry Milkovich is not known to be the nicest or most morally straight man, but beating two high school boys almost to death and then ordering and forcing a prostitute on your homosexual son seems much too over the top. I can only say that during the entire scene I was sitting with my jaw dropped, trying to determine how I would address this in my review. After some thought, it would have worked – to a point, if the scene was not as excessive. It would have been better to leave the beating on a milder note and introduce the prostitution concept later on.

Meanwhile, supporting characters Kevin and Veronica are still having baby troubles. At first, the two are entertaining to watch as they try to aid Fiona in her quest to get the kids back, but they realize that they are unable to take any children in. This is the point where the writers could have just left the couple out of the show, or just continued to keep them around as supporting characters while Kevin spit some more one-liners like, “Jerry Sandusky can probably get a foster kid.” But for some reason, creator Paul Abbott is determined to make Kevin and Veronica’s storyline work.

As a fan, I can say that I’m exhausted of hearing about the two’s pregnancy problems. I can also say that introducing a mother-daughter threeway to the couple’s sex life for the sake of having a child does not work as well as one would think.

“Shameless” needs to buckle down and pick a direction instead of bouncing back and forth between what does and doesn’t work. I usually love the ridiculousness involved, but there is no need to completely bowl audiences over with insane story arcs. This week, Abbot and the writers made a mistake by sacrificing their wit for shock value, and for that the show loses its essential comic characteristic.

Rating: 2.5 Stars