Shameless “Can I Have A Mother” Review

Every episode of Shameless is one huge juggling act of tones. This is a show that has some really dark moments and can turn around and introduce some slapstick comedy a heartbeat later. It’s a credit to the actors and the writing that the transitions are so smooth. This is what I would call a challenging show. That it’s taken me so long to finally “get” Frank is, to some extent, a fault of the writers, but it’s more a fault of my own and now that I do “get” the character Frank and am not irritated every time he appears on screen, I really appreciate what the writers and William H. Macy (who, I believe, co-wrote this episode) have done with that character. This is a character who we’ve seen plenty of times on shows and movies aimed at older kids: the abusive father who is rarely more than a villain in the shadows. This show dares to humanize him (to an extent-Frank still has his utterly ridiculous moments) and, with this episode thanks to the reintroduction of Grammy, it shows the cyclical effects of abuse and it manages to pull off the scene were Fiona comforts Frank by telling him “Don’t worry. My parents sucked too.” It’s a scene with so many layers and it’s heartbreaking and sweet and weird and dark all at once. I can’t think of another show on television that could pull off a scene like that.

Shameless has very much embraced serialized storytelling to an extreme. There are so many characters and storylines moving at once that it’s difficult to analyze this show on an episodice basis whereas with a series (and I’ll pick another Showtime hour long drama) like Homeland, which is also serialized though not to the extent of Shameless, there’s more of an episodic beginning, middle and end.

For someone who has watched the show from the start, the little scenes like Lip trying to extract some sort of emotion out of Ian or, later on, when Lip talks to Karen, tells her that he wants her to have an abortion, I think those are the moments that really stand out. Seeing Lip, who was always the hero of the show, drinking and sitting on rooftops (there was some lovely sunset photography in this episode, from Lip and Fiona on the roof to Fiona on the porch) and turning into a grouch, slowly descending into despair – did he mean what he said to Karen, or was he just trying to twist the knife? It’s a fascinating character arc and I’m really interested to see where it ends up.

On the other hand when it’s Fiona sitting opposite Steve, the scene doesn’t click. It doesn’t click because Steve isn’t a compelling character and he’s not played by James McAvoy, who did so much with his version of Steve in the UK Shameless. Fiona is one of the best characters on the show and I hope that the writers don’t squander her storyline by dragging her down to Steve.

The major development I suppose in this episode is Ethel’s farewell. It was possibly the weirdest storylines a show has ever done. Period. While I didn’t love it, I kind of liked the fact that the writers decided to go the polygamist cult route, even though they never really got anything much out of it other than a novelty storyline.

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.