Last season, the HBO hit ‘Shameless,’ was routine and boring. Thankfully, the first half of season 9 made a strong comeback.
‘Shameless’ wrapped up the first half of the season with episode 7 on Sunday, Oct. 21, before its mid-season hiatus. As expected, the family is dysfunctional, but there is finally progression instead of pointless plot.
Ian is going to the slammer for burning a car in the name of LGBTQ rights. Fiona builds up her apartment building before finding out about Ford’s double life. Debbie realizes the truth about her sexuality amidst a fight for equal pay and sexual harassment. Lip becomes a temporary surrogate for his ex-flings’ niece while fighting relapse. Carl is determined to be accepted to West Point. Meanwhile, Liam is excelling school and uses it to his advantage.
“Shameless” was stuck in its ways
After a grim ending to season 7 with Monica’s death, season 8 was as lost as the family was. Some of the plots were exhilarating, like Carl’s psycho girlfriend. Still, “Shameless'” seems to have recycled old seasons.
The formula is as such: Fiona has issues with some sketchy man, Frank uses someone for personal gain before getting kicked in the crotch at the end of the episode and Lip is codependent on someone.
After so many years on the air, it is easy to see how a show based on shock value might run out of ideas but luckily, the writers switched it up.
This season does old tricks better
Season 9 follows its usual formula with fresh twists. When Ian must go to court, Fiona tries to relinquish control and tell him what to do. Surprisingly, she is lost when everyone rejects her help. Before, Fiona was frustrated that she was the go-to for everyone’s problems, but she is now struggling to let them go.
This newfound self sufficiency in the kids is refreshing. Allowing them to move on brings realism back to a show sometimes too shocking to be believable.
Fiona also takes a pretty cathartic fall. While she is normally the one to pick up her siblings when they fall, the roles suddenly switch. Watching her gain strength through her family instead of being drained by them was a surprising twist, and a welcomed one at that.
When Debbie is questioning her sexuality, several people doubt her, including her own girlfriend. Even Ian accuses her of not being “gay” enough, or being a “pillow princess.”
This is an actual issue that people face. No one ever really addresses the gray area between sexuality. It is usually chalked up to someone seeking attention. But people who are unsure of their sexuality can certainly relate to having others around them telling them they are straight or trying to be follow a trend. “Shameless” is great at unearthing issues most people never consider.
What will the rest of the season bring?
It is no secret that this will be Fiona’s last season, as Emmy Rossum has openly stated this. But as the season goes on, it is easier to foreshadow that Fiona will take some sort of risk and finally free herself from parenthood.
As for Ian, his character is really important in terms of mental health. He accepts responsibility for his actions instead of pointing fingers elsewhere. Still, is there more to Ian’s mental health issues? We know he has neglected his Bipolar Disorder medication, but blowing up a car and ending up in jail is a pretty serious action. Nonetheless, I will admit I am only happy Ian is going to jail because the “Church of Gay Jesus” plot was growing tiresome.
Another repetitive aspect was Frank’s frequent short-term relationships and flings. Too often the viewer watches attractive women throw themselves at him while he uses them for personal gain. But this time, during another liver failure, he befriends a drug addict, and becomes her caretaker in exchange for sex. Somehow, it seems like this relationship might actually add some substance to his life. There is only so much of narcissistic Frank that a viewer can take.
One thing is for sure, skits with V and Kevin are always a saving grace. Something about Kevin’s newfound feminism in a bar of old misogynistic drunks is genuinely cute. Although he is not the brightest, watching him willingly navigate and advocate such venues is an endearing break from calamity.
All in all, Shameless tends to fall victim to the same song and dance. But something about this season seems transformational, and makes the second half season premiere on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 all the harder to wait for.