Episode 309

This week’s episode of “Shameless” was surprising, considering this season has fluctuated from week to week. Luckily, “Frank the Plumber” gave fans a very successful installment of the dark comedy that originally kicked off the season with a bang and provided the unexpected from the get-go.

Emma Kenny does marvelous work this episode, which is something that I have been looking forward to ever since the young actress began gaining more screen time and having a chance to showcase her developing talents. Although her character, Debbie, spends the majority of her time with the more experienced actress Joan Cusack, who plays Sheila Jackson, Kenny is hardly overshadowed. The two work well together as they create a mother-daughter bond.

Steve (Justin Chatwin) was also good this week, but not great. Steve is head over heels for Fiona (Emmy Rossum), but reexamines his priorities after he gets a sweet taste of rich life once again. He can barely handle being a barista, and after being mugged and losing his car, it is hard to blame the guy as he considers going back to med school and leaving his life with Fiona behind. Chatwin does a decent job as a man caught in the middle, but I’m hoping next week’s developments give Chatwin a chance to step up his game. Steve’s storyline deserves a stronger effort from the once-phenomenal Chatwin.

While Steve is off experiencing a midlife crisis, Fiona picks up another job. Rossum is too cute and talented in her role for audiences not to appreciate everything she puts into her character’s story this week. Fiona is working as a temp at a sales agency and doing a damn fine job, but having to simultaneously raise five siblings is hard to balance. Rossum is very comfortable with the hard-working side of Fiona, so every time she is placed in a new work environment, we know she is going to own each scene. Along with some light humor, flirtatious interactions and a possible pursuable long-term storyline, fans witness more than the usual trope of Fiona’s job struggle as a sympathy ploy.

Ian Gallagher’s boyfriend, Mickey Milkovich, continues to have an identity crisis and wrestles with his sexual orientation, but hell, I would be too if my father was beating me to a bloody pulp to force me to be someone I’m not. Sadly enough, Ian will not stand to accept the fact that Mickey is now going to marry some broad that is pregnant with his child––a plot point that pinches at the moral fiber of Mickey’s situation. As Ian, Cameron Monaghan is fantastic this week. Monaghan is able to transition well between a rough and tumble persona and boy desperately seeking bliss in his unique relationship.

Lip Gallagher is having some relationship problems of his own, and Jeremy Allen White brings out the best of his character. Whether it is arguing with girlfriend Mandy Milkovich about her choice to apply to some top-tier universities for the Man, or trying to solve conflicts started by the newly reintroduced Karen, White was made for his role. In addition, White’s sarcastic grins and little smirks are the cherry on top of the scene Lip has with an MIT recruit, who has a battle of wits with the stubborn Chicago latchkey kid.

In the midst of all the drama, there needs to be some wild bursts of comedy. Thankfully, William H. Macy has no problem taking the character of Frank Gallagher to another blown-out-of-proportion circumstance. Macy plays a good drunk, and Frank is compelling and funny enough (in a black comedy way) to keep our attention––even if he is becoming the new face of the gay community after he tries to exploit the system for some menial insurance checks. For some reason, new roommate Christopher (Christian Clemenson) goes along with the idea of filing for a domestic partnership, but no matter how ridiculous the circumstance may be, it is classic “Shameless,” and Clemenson provides some great quips in the process.

Hopefully “Shameless” can continue on this path as I count down the 3 episodes that are left. If Paul Abbot can keep his show on this track, I can only hope for the best from the series and its actors. I predict that this will not be difficult after being shocked by the surprising cliffhanger at the end of this most recent episode––let’s just say Mandy’s been up to no good.

This installment is an unexpected win for the “Shameless” cast and crew, so I’ll give it a higher rating than I usually do based on its ability to blend dark comedy with heart wrenching drama.

Rating: 4 stars