Shameless: Season 7
Many television series popular here in the United States were imported from Great Britain. Possessing an Anglophilic heritage does not ensure success as a significant reason for the popularity of the original is based on the wonderfully distinctive elements that define English storytelling encompassing all genres from their dry humor to their famous dramas. One immigrating show that has proven its value is Showtime’s ‘Shameless.' Based on a BBC series of the same name it retained the fundamental premise as the names and particulars of the family but by the time of the seventh season, under consideration here, the storylines are definitively American. The primary reason for the successful migration across the pond is the universal nature of the dominant theme, poverty. Both sets of Gallaghers are poor, eking our subsistence below the accepted income that designates poverty. In the British variation, the family is also forced to face the prevalent prejudices against the Irish is a cornerstone of a substantial amount of the bawdy humor. Although not as significant a factor over here, the dark comedy at the expense of the poor is universal. Consider for a moment how many sitcoms and dramas revolve the poor, or, at least the poor working struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck. Audiences can either readily identify with the dilemma or are glad that their lot in life is better than the characters. Few would argue that watching an impoverished family struggle year after year would tip over as entertaining to tedious an onward to depressing. The greatest strength of this series is, in its fundamental construction. This season was particularly noteworthy as a turning point, each member of the Gallaghers clan undergoes a major life change or due to circumstances beyond their control or the exertion of sheer willpower and intestinal fortitude. Previous seasons have always split the stories into individual narratives, but for season seven, the synergistic effect is stronger than ever.
Somethings never seem to change. All this time Gallaghers patriarch, Frank (William H. Macy), is still only concerned with what he can beg, borrow or steal, emphasis on the latter, from life. The responsibility of providing for her five younger siblings is Fiona (Emmy Rossum). Some of her brothers and sister are legally adults and provisionally on their own, but the inevitable predicaments are entangling them remains squarely on Fiona’s shoulders for resolution. The smartest of the cadre is the eldest son, Philip, better known by his nom du voyage, Lip (Jeremy Allen White). This season he is desperately attempting to piece his life back together after his self-destructive binge that negated each of the miraculous advantages that fell in his lap. Losing his scholarship, due to his neglect, the woman he loved, a married professor and a job as an RA in his dorm, Lip was forced to face the overwhelming evidence that he is an alcoholic, a trait at least partially inherited from his multi substance-abusing father. Fiona is also extricating herself from a substantial nadir in her rollercoaster life. She is the sibling most likely to succeed if she can overcome the Gallaghers’ curse of self-destruction. Fiona could turn a court-mandated job at a diner, Patsy's Pies into a promotion to assistant manager. When her boss/fiancé Sean Pierce (Dermot Mulroney), relapsed as a heroin addict, she is left to run the establishment on her own. Firing the ragtag crew of current employees, Fiona hires replacements who are capable. She revamps the image and therefore the profitability of the diner.
What forced Fiona’s hand in this makeover occurs when the owner of the diner, Margo (Sharon Lawrence), informs her she is closing the place. Fiona decides to buy the business. Her innovative approach to running the diner turn it into a popular and lucrative endeavor. She then decides to buy the property which leads her to buy out Wendell's, the laundromat across the street, owned by a sweet, elderly woman with dementia. Fiona sinks to a moral low point when she tricks the woman into selling the property. With the help of friends, she repairs the place and can sell it for 100% profit. This gives Fiona the idea that flipping properties is her true calling. She starts off by purchasing an apartment with a man she met in a seminar. Of course, she has a sexual relationship with him that ultimately complicates her life and business. This does appear to be a persistent theme with Fiona, her lovers help her improve her life, and she dumps them soon afterward. This season Fiona discovers the freedom of Tinder which allows for carnal gratification without emotional involvement. This demonstrates the complexity of Fiona’s personality and the amazing talent possessed by Ms. Rossum in expressing it so masterfully. Fiona has always expressed a psychological duality. Forced as a teenager to quit school to care for five younger siblings she had to assume full parental responsibility. There is also a side to her that she a true South-side Chicago girl. She enjoys having fun and if challenged never backs down even if the altercation gets physical or underhanded. Fiona’s most shining trait is her as an unwaveringly fierce friend and sister.
Transformations permeate most of the Gallaghers this season more so than in previous seasons. Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) has always had deep-rooted psychopathic tendencies demonstrating the classic danger signs for a burgeoning serial killer. Animal abuse, pyromania and utter lack of empathy. After release from his stint in juvenile detention, Carl amassed a considerable amount of money selling guns and drugs. He turned from his life as a criminal because of a girl in his school, Dominique (Jaylen Barron). The most extreme test any man could face for a woman happens when she refuses to give him oral sex because he is uncircumcised. He undergoes an exceptionally painful surgery that required abstaining from any arousal. Unable to keep away from lusty thoughts he constantly rips out the stitches necessitating more painful procedures. They break up when Carl discovers that Dominique gave him gonorrhea. The break up but Carl continues to associate with her father, a police officer, who helps him to become accepted to the military school. The structure and discipline had a profoundly positive effect.
Next up to undergo a major life change is Ian (Cameron Monaghan), has always felt alienated from others because of being gay. His insecurities and predilection for self-deprecation often pushed him into jobs as a sex worker in a gay nightclub. He recently hit bottom which did result in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a mental condition inherited from his mother Monica (Chloe Webb). Ian fought to become a paramedic working out of a firehouse. After becoming involved with a fireman, Caleb (Jeff Pierre), Ian decides to switch positions and undergo firefighter training. Ian is afflicted with the tragic curse of the Gallaghers, the habit of falling back into the influence of very destructive people. In this case, that person is Ian’s most serious boyfriend, Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher). Just when things start looking up for Ian, Micky escapes from prison and convinces Ian to run away with him. Fortunately, he comes to his senses. The Russian connection extends to Fiona’s best friend, Veronica (Shanola Hampton), better known as V. she and her husband, Kevin (Steve Howey) own the local gin mill, The Alibi Room. When it experiences financial distress, Kevin hires Russian hookers to open a clandestine ‘Rub ‘n Tug,' that offers manual release for the neighborhood men. The leading Russian woman, Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter). To get her a green card, she goes from live-in babysitter for V’s triplets to becoming a threesome ‘couple’ sharing sexually with Kevin and V. The cagy Russian turns around and tricks Kevin and V to signing over the bar to her.
Arguably one of the most heartbreaking character arcs is with the other daughter, Debbie (Emma Kenney). At 16 she is an unwed mother of Franny, named after her father. His advice was inserted herself into a home where the wife is dying and take over the family. She winds up in a reasonably stable relationship with a disabled man with some mental deficit. Fiona and Debbie were both [pregnant at the same time with Fiona urging Debbie to go with her for an abortion. When Fiona has the procedure, and Debbie refuses for the first time the sisters are estranged. Frank continues his typical surreal character act including starting his own, for profit, homeless shelter and dealing with the death of his ex-wife, Monica, from a brain tumor. In all cases, the acting in this series remains the gold standard for premium cable with outstanding performances by every member of this synergistic ensemble cast.