Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wasted Wednesday: Thoughts on Shameless Season 4

When Shameless first premiered on Showtime, I hated it.  The show was unnecessarily crude and featured scenarios that I was not comfortable watching.  I'm not sure what made me continue watching but I eventually made it to episode three and by the end, I was hooked.  The third episode of season one brought humanity to these characters and this story that I had not noticed before.  Finally I began to see how well crafted this show was and how ground breaking it was at the same time.  It is among the many shows on premium TV today that are breaking the mold in what television is and will be in the future. 
Watching Shameless on Sunday nights during the winter has become an insanely awesome ritual for me.  I gather some snacks and a drink and venture down into the basement where the big HD family TV is and I am allowed one hour by myself with my favorite TV show.  Every season always captivates me and leaves me begging for more.  Each season has it's own vibe to it yet they always remain completely and utterly the same.  But season four was a lot different than any of the previous seasons.  Shameless the TV show broke the mold and season four seemed to break Shameless's mold.  No longer was I watching the show where a dysfunctional family sticks together through shameless acts and questionable ethics.  Season four depicted a family still acting shameless but drawing apart and it really had me feeling crappy on Sunday nights.  Every time I finished an episode I felt like I had hit a new low.  This isn't a criticism of the season but just a general thing I noticed on a consistent basis. 
This week for Wasted Wednesday I want to talk about my thoughts about season four and how I felt about character development and the overall story.  WARNING, this post WILL contain spoilers from all four seasons.
Let's start out with Frank, our main man.  Frank is the character we all love, even though we hate him.  Because Frank has his moments of redemption that glimmer on the horizon for a few seconds but always burn out and are short lived and if he does do something good, it is usually for his own benefit and not to help others or grow as a person.  But this season was totally different.  At the end of season three, Frank and his oldest son Lip get drunk and afterwards go ice-skating until Frank throws up an enormous amount of blood on the rink.  He is taken to the hospital and told he must change his habits or he will die.  This was a huge twist on the writer's part and also a huge risk.  Putting Frank's life in jeopardy also jeopardizes the show.  This isn't Game of Thrones where a main character can be killed off and still go on.  Frank is the entire basis for this show and provides motivation for the other characters he impacts.  I would be very shocked if they killed him off which is why I found his storyline to be very weak.  As I watched Frank's life deteriorate before my eyes, I knew that somehow a last minute miracle would come and save him and sure enough, it did.  Frank hit a new low this season, manipulating his son for drugs, manipulating his long lost and forgiving daughter to help him (and by the way, Sammi was an awesome addition to the show), and just his physical appearance each episode was enough to make me turn my head from the screen.  Add to the fact that the story line was completely pointless for two reasons.  One is that we know that the show is not going to kill off Frank.  It's too obvious.  They didn't leave me guessing if he was going to live or die.  I knew he would live because while the other characters make the show and all are engaging, Frank drives the show.  Everything these characters do stems from Frank and what he has done, does, and will do.  Secondly, in the finale we see Frank receive a new liver and start up drinking straight away.  He even makes a speech to God saying that he won the battle against the almighty creator as he holds his beer bottle toward the sky as if he is going to throw it into the river but then takes a big gulp and then passes it to his underage son.  I get why the writer's wouldn't want to change Frank as a character but you can't give him such a life evolving storyline and then act like he wouldn't be changed in some way.  It was very weak writing which is usually not the case with this show. 
Next up is oldest daughter Fiona.  Fiona's story was hard to watch this season.  Everything starts out
really well and I was so happy for Fiona.  She had a great job and the Gallagher's were moving up on the poverty level.  But then she went and cheated on her boyfriend with his brother, left drugs out that her baby brother got into and almost died, went to jail but then went to house arrest and then went back to jail after not returning home one night when she felt she couldn't take what the world was throwing at her anymore. But unlike Frank, Fiona's growth was awesome!  She came to the realization that she does have her father gene's and she can't blame him anymore or anyone else.  In the end she has to look to herself.  I was very pleased with how her story ended for the season.
Lip's storyline was awesome as well as his character development.  His story was in my opinion the strongest of the season.  Watching him struggle with college and juggling family crisis and learning to forgive Fiona for what she did and moving on from's a lot of pressure.  And you see a different man sitting on the porch steps of the Gallagher household on the last episode.  The only story that I feel measures up to Lip's is the relationship between Ian and Mickey.  These two have been called the most realistic gay couple on television and I agree 100%.  Shameless bravely took on these two as early as season one!  Their relationship has bloomed since then and both have grown as people and so their relationship grew as well.  Mickey's coming out scene made me cry.  The two actors have a way of casting certain expressions on their faces that doesn't require any dialogue because you can read what they are thinking.  And it isn't just these two.  All of the actors are so incredibly gifted and clearly understand their craft.  I have yet to see a bad actor on the show.
Ian's storyline itself felt a bit forced, especially in the beginning and at the very end.  I guess him
being bipolar like his mother Monica makes sense since Frank isn't his father so we won't be seeing any of those genes.  I like that the show doesn't forget Monica even though she has been gone since season two.  I'm a little nervous to see where Ian goes from here because Monica's storyline really rubs me the wrong way and I find it difficult to watch.  I've grown to love Ian as a character and watching him go through this won't be easy.
Debbie and Carl's both had hard to watch scenes as well.  Debbie drove me up the wall.  I don't think the writer's are at fault because they are perfectly depicting what middle school can be like but watching Debbie having a count down to when she will lose her virginity was frightening.  I miss the old Debs!  I really hope the next season we will see her getting rid of her dumb sex obsessed friends and see her make new friends and meet a boy her age...though I do like Mattie even though he is way too old for her to date.  As for Carl, I found his scenes to be more agreeable which is weird to say.  Carl's storyline has gotten better and better with each season.  In season one he was definitely just a background, trouble maker character that only existed to cause trouble.  But he is now growing up and we see him yearning for a relationship with his father and constantly being let down.  I think the hardest thing to accept with these two is their defiance towards Fiona most of the season.  They completely turn on her which doesn't help her story at all. 
Kev and V had a strong storyline.  I wish there would have been more from them in the finale though.  It seems like the writer's were like, Oh the babies are born and that is all you really care about so now we can forget about them.  They should have been included way more toward the end.  And I guess I should also comment on Sheila's storyline.  Sheila is Sheila.  Joan Cusack was wonderful as always.  She always makes me laugh.  Both of these were different than usual which fit with the direction the writer's took this season. 
The finale episode was by far my favorite of the season.  One thing that made me super happy was seeing Jimmy/Steve...Jack at the very end.  When season three ended, I was convinced he was dead and was happy about it.  I was sick of him and ready for Fiona to move on with her new boyfriend, Mike.  But this season went so far away from what I know to be Shameless that I found I wanted Jimmy/Steve back!  I couldn't believe my own thoughts!  I can't wait to see where his story goes in season five.  The episode was also pretty great.  It was titled "Lazarus" which is referring to a character in the Bible.  The allegory behind this title is incredible.  In Frederick Buechner's book titled Telling the Truth, he talks about this passage in the Bible.  In John 11, Jesus arrives to find that Lazarus is dead and has been dead for four days.  Jesus weeps for Lazarus, his friend.  He weeps not only for losing his friend but for his inability to save him.  The son of God himself who can do all things was unable to save his own friend and so he weeps.  Afterwards, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  In the Shameless season four finale, each of the character's finally gets their happy ending...and I say that very loosely.  This is why this show is so incredible.  Right from the beginning the show starts out great and we are happy for the Gallagher's but then suddenly their family begins to metaphorically die right before our eyes, just as Lazarus died and Jesus could not save him.  But then, they are brought back to life in this final and triumphant episode just as Jesus brings Lazarus back to life.  It is a very moving depiction and a very daring place for the writer's to take the show.  The only complaint I have about the finale is something I already stated which is Frank's terrible speech to God when he drinks beer.  It just seemed to be poor writing and confirmed my superstition that this entire season his story was utterly pointless.  It was just there for the drama of it and Frank became a plot driving device rather than being a character driving force on the show like he usually is.  Overall, different season but strong season.  I hope they go back to their usual format though because I don't know if I can take another gut wrenching season like this one.
I can't wait for season five.  I hate these long premium channel hiatuses!  Waiting until January is going to be terrible! 
Do you watch Shameless?  What did you think of this season?  Did anything stand out to you that I didn't mention?  Let me know in the comments!

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