What does rock bottom really look like? This is, clearly, a question that Shameless season 9 episode 12 wanted to examine — alongside if there is a right and wrong way to help someone amidst a devastating spiral.
The story was largely one of recovery, and also one of redemption. It also brought Fiona and Frank Gallagher together in a way we rarely see on this series. For so much of it, they’ve been diametrically opposed — Frank represents precisely what she is running from. He’s irresponsible, opportunistic, and cares about nothing other than himself. He also thinks, somehow, that there is a certain joy in his manner of life … but that it’s also not for everyone.
Frank doesn’t have it within him to tell someone to stop drinking, but the scene at the bar with Fiona may be William H. Macy’s finest work of the season. He tells her that she is an angry drunk, and there’s a difference between how she handles alcohol and how he does. We wonder about the subtext of this scene, and whether or not Frank knew, on some level, that her experiencing the full extent of his life would put her more on the good path. After getting drunk (again) and then exploding at most of her South-Side neighbors for being apathetic in response to the end of the blackout, she started to realize that something was wrong. There’s nothing worse than waking up, puking, and without water in complete shambles. Then, also seeing a business magazine and a reminder of what her life was.
What was the best way of fixing Fiona — Lip’s way (of trying to kick her out of her own home and force her to go to a meeting), or enabling her and just hoping that she gets better on her own? The writing seemed to suggest that Lip, despite being so young, may actually know best. She attended a meeting in the closing minutes, he saw her there, and that may be the olive branch needed to offer him some compassion. We’ve been reasonably on Lip’s side when it comes to his anger towards her, but there are limits — if she’s showing an effort to change, then there is no reason to keep her out of her own home. (We already think that throwing her stuff out in front of the house was a little bit extreme.)
Another powerful Frank moment tonight: Him explaining to Lip that he should take it easier on Fiona and that without her, raising the family wouldn’t have been possible. We don’t entirely agree with Frank’s logic, but at least his recognition of Fiona’s history is worth some commendation.
The state of Debbie, Kelly, and Carl
This is not going to end well it, and nor should it. If you were Kelly, why would you want to be a part of this? You’ve got some promise and hope for a great future, so do you really want to spend it being stuck between two siblings who are constantly fighting over you? It seems as though Carl and Kelly’s relationship is starting to crumble; yet, there’s still something more to tell here, and there are reasons to think that Kelly will high-tail it from the Gallagher house by the end of the season.
Will Tani keep the baby?
That’s the consideration right now, as she wants to ensure that she makes the right decision for her — she also wants to be the only one to make this decision. You do have to consider some of this as justification for some of Lip’s recent behavior — he feels like he’s got more of a say in this matter than she was willing to give him. Yet, in the closing minutes, it feels like the two are closer to moving forward together. Lip wants to be a good father, and maybe this is a chance to pick up emotionally where he left off after Xan was taken from him by child services.
Was this episode the series’ strongest in some time? That’s our sentiment at the moment for many reasons, whether it be the fantastic performances of Macy and Emmy Rossum or just seeing so much substantial progress made in big stories. Seeing Frank and Fiona work together to profit from the blackout had its fair share of funny moments, and also was the beginning of the end for the spiral. Meanwhile, seeing Kevin recover from his vasectomy, while also try to find a way to handle the hundreds of dollars of steaks V bought before the power went out, proved to be a nice chaser to some of the harsher, more serious stories that played out.
Shameless may be nine years along, but episodes like this one tonight proved yet again that this series can still be as humor-packed and poignant as ever before.
Preview what’s next on Shameless season 9 episode 13
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What are your thoughts on Shameless season 9 episode 12, and do you think that Fiona’s road to recovery is here? Sound off below. (Photo: Showtime.)