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'Shameless' Recap: 'A Great Cause'

Lindsey Romain Lindsey Romain
March 20th, 2012 10:20am EDT

CBS CorporationThere’s an underlying issue with Shameless that’s sometimes hard to put a finger on. I’ve noted it often, and usually sweep it aside; the show is fun and I’m entertained, so why fuss? But every once and a while it’s so noticeable that it’s painful. I spent the better part of this weekend re-watching the firstseason on DVD, twelve episodes in a rapid-fire succession, and finally came to terms with what it is that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not the cold-hearted indifference of Frank Gallagher or the often-ludicrous mishaps his kids get mucked up in. It’s not even the over-the-top ticks of characters like Shelia or Jody. No, it’s something that’s hard to pinpoint until it’s beating you over the head: continuity. The show is an intangible melting pot of loose ends and back-and-forths. Sometimes it’s the fumbling of dates (When did Monica actually leave the family? The first season gives us about four different possibilities.), sometimes it’s character beats, sometimes it’s Chicago geography. Last night’s episode was an unfortunate mash-up of all of the above, with a little incest and misplaced Costa Ricans thrown in for kicks.

Continuity Issue #1:

Why in God’s name would any member of the Gallagher clan trust Monica? Sure, she’s more sympathetic this time around, seemingly tempered by a dose of bi-polar medication and a leave of absence from controlling girlfriend Roberta. She sneaks Debbie and Carl out of bed for a late night screening of Paranormal Activity 3, which is irresponsible parenting but still somewhat charming. She’s making breakfast and taking Liam to doctor appointments. But the total disregard of suspicion when she starts showering the kids in gifts doesn’t send up any red flags. She buys Debbie a carload of American Girl dolls, which are about $100 each, without any raised eyebrows. And when Ian hears that she bought a car, he smiles and walks away. Meanwhile, no one checks the squirrel fund, left so haphazardly in a kitchen cupboard. For a family so fiercely guarded from the parents that wronged them, I had a hard time believing that any of them would be so careless with their summer earnings.

Nothing was as egregious as Fiona’s acceptance of the New Monica. Fiona, the one who walked out on her family at the mere sight of her mom last season. It was great to watch her finally treat herself to the luxuries she deserves, like a run on the beach (never mind that she would have had to run for a few hours to reach the beach from her house – sometimes a familiarity with actual Chicago geography hinders my enjoyment factor) or the pursuit of a good job and scholarly accreditation. But the Fiona I’ve known for two seasons would never leave Liam in Monica’s care, would never let the dishes stack up in the sink, would never trust her parents to pick her siblings up from school. It’s great to see her unwind, but it’s hard to believe she would submit to total ambivalence in the process. At least it gave way to a particularly poignant scene at the end, when Lip returns to the house after bailing Monica and Carl out of jail for reckless driving (with Carl at the wheel). It seems Lip is the only one still impervious to Monica’s charms, and he makes Fiona very aware of the missing money and complete dishevelment of their family. Fiona finds Monica in a catatonic, drugged-up state and relinquishes by kicking her washing machine in a fit of frustration, then submits to the mound of dirty dishes left behind. Emmy Rossum continues to act circles around this character, and it’s a true testament to her talent that she saved an otherwise dim episode from totally capsizing, but it still didn’t explain Fiona’s sudden lobotomy.

Continuity Issue #2:

Perhaps minor, but Lip can suddenly understand Portuguese? Seemingly so, since he can decode what Estefania is saying (“It’s like Italian,” he says.) when she vents frustration at Steve for the misplacement of her true love, who Steve tried to bring Stateside so he can court Fiona without interruption. After last episode’s lengthy scene of Lip relying on a voice-activated online translator, this was particularly noticeable. It’s not some horrendously offensive slip-up, but it’s enough to totally distract from the moment, which itself is lame plot fodder to reconcile Fiona and Steve and keep Lip wrapped up in other things for a while.

Continuity Issue #3:

Monica says that Debbie, Carl and Liam were all conceived under the influence of drugs, which negates last season’s statement that she had no idea when or with whom she got pregnant with Liam. It’s possible that she’s associating her pregnancies with periods of drug use, but it’s still obnoxious.

Other Stuff:

- I enjoy Shelia, and her relationship with Jody is funny, but it slides her even further from relevancy. If Frank is no longer under her care and Karen and Jody are pretty much officially over, it seems like a step back to pit the two together now. How will next season bode when the actor who plays Jody will be a season regular? Probably quite boringly.

- I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when we found out Lip wasn’t the father of Mandy’s baby. Then I groaned a lot because HER DAD is the father. How sad/disgusting/disturbing/weird. In the last episode I thought it was pretty inevitable that it’d be Lip’s kid, especially since he gets her pregnant in the British series. But I like that we’re instead returning to the Ian and Mandy Are Best Friends/Fake Lovers angle, which is way more interesting and adorable. Plus, I wasn’t sure I was ready to dump all of the emotional investment I’d finagled for Lip-as-Karen’s-baby-daddy into Mandy’s situation, too.

- Now that we know Veronica can’t get pregnant but still wants kids, it seems pretty obvious that she and Kev will adopt Karen’s baby, no? 

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