Every time I think I've about had it with "Shameless," it shows up with a bag of surprises and I'm hooked again. It's the show I just can't quit, thanks in large part to the fearless maiden at its center: Fiona Gallagher, played by the too good to be true Emmy Rossum. She wrangles her siblings through the pratfalls of adolescence and rarely finds time for herself. And while the second season has been a real test of faith for both Fiona and the audience, last night's finale proved that the heart of "Shameless" is the true anchor in the sea of chaos that threatens to drown it every so often. As long as it continues to turn back to its roots – the Gallagher siblings, united as one – it can make for some pretty memorable TV.
Luckily, "Fiona Interrupted" offered up a grab bag of good things for our heroine. Not only did she pass her GED, but she's also back in good graces with Steve, whose bizarre marriage and shady business is out the window after helping Fiona deal with the aftermath of her mother's suicide attempt. When the family returns home from the hospital after the incident, Steve grabs a bucket and helps Fiona mop up the bloody floor, holding her hand for support. I tend to dislike Steve when he's pouring affection on Fiona like she's some needy puppy. But I liked this moment, nearly silent, when he showed her that he was there for her instead of trying to take care of her. It paved the way for the most emotionally rich moment of the evening: when Debbie and Carl interrupted Fiona and Steve's bedroom love session later that night to let loose about their mother's grisly display of depression. Watching the Gallagher siblings clutch each other and cry with Steve in the background was about the closest the show has ever come to making me want to break down as well.
I was a little disgruntled with the Karen storyline, truth be told. I've seen chatter on the web about how horrible Karen has become this season, and while I can agree that her choice of words make her unsympathetic at best, I can't help but feel a little sorry for her. She was clear from the get-go that she never wanted to keep her baby, so the pressure from her mother and Lip to let the newborn stay in her house felt cruel. And the fact that her mother essentially kicked her out of the house in favor of the baby, even after Karen's obvious emotional degradation, doesn't seem like the right choice. I'm glad to see the end of Lip's affection for her, but I'm sad to see her issues neglected like that. She's a young girl who's hurting, and now that everyone has dismissed her from their lives, where can she really go?
The moment that didn't register as strongly as I would have liked was Lip's return home. It seemed easy that he could just slink back into school and take his exams without question, but I was willing to accept it. And yet I would have enjoyed a more tumultuous arrival back home. Fiona seemed too easy to submit to him when he strolled back through the door at the episode's end. While I'm sure we'll see more on that next season, it still wrapped things up a little neater than I would have liked.
The other portions of the finale that left me a little bitter were the Monica and Ian threads. Frank and Debbie freed Monica and her new lady friend (played by a barely recognizable Jenna Elfman) from the mental hospital only to have them run away together. Watching Monica ditch her family once more was even more heartbreaking than last season. How long before she completely derails and ruins all of their lives for good? The aching on little Debbie's face said it all: good riddance Monica, please stay away for good.
Ian's bit was the most gaudily unbelievable thing yet. Turns out, the older man he shacked up with last episode is actually Steve's dad. How long before that one crops up in an uncomfortable, horrible way next season?
The episode was mostly a hit, thanks to the heavy emotional beats and the lack of loose threads, but season two as a whole was pretty erratic. The highs were high and the lows were super low - but it's in the nature of the show to turn corners at every speed. I'll be interested to see how this fares on a re-watch. The first season watched in one fellow swoop hits harder than watching singular bits week after week. Maybe this second season will feel more tight, too.