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Shameless “Simple Pleasures” Review (4×01)

12 Jan

Episode 401The Gallaghers are finally back.

Shameless is a show that I’ve loved from the beginning, but season 3 helped it evolve from a great show into a fantastic show, showcasing William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher in ways that we never saw before. It was a much more focused season with a brilliant finale, and it had me salivating for season 4.

Now, season 4 is here. The show’s much more mature now, delivering its storylines without the usual Gallagher shenanigans; I said a similar thing last week about Community’s premiere, and I think both of the shows are going down some intriguing paths. For Shameless, it seems as if we’ve reached a key turning point in its run; whereas season 1 consisted of myriad entertaining, yet almost childish, storylines, we’re now seeing an increasingly melancholy, toned down take on the Gallaghers. Sure, part of the charm lies in the wacky antics of the early days, but I’m fully invested in these characters now, and I want to see how the writers take the show in a new direction.

A common theme in “Simple Pleasures” is solitary. Frank’s beaten down and teetering on the edge of death, and he’s someone who’s lost pretty much everything; going off on a tangent, this is very similar to Sheila, who’s now sitting at her table alone. Getting back to Frank, the only person who bothers to interact with him is Carl, which is very understandable considering he needs a father figure to help him through puberty. In fact, the two are in a shared situation of solitary; Carl’s trying to navigate the tricky waters between childhood and adulthood, and Frank’s essentially ruined his adulthood.

Debbie’s another person navigating those waters; she’s starting to make a transition as well, hanging out with a sexually adventurous friend and starting to date. It’s not looking like the story’s going to end very happily, though, as she’s had to sacrifice a lot of who she used to be to keep up. Although this could easily fall into the generic “bratty teenager” storyline, Emma Kenney is a good actress who can hopefully keep this grounded.

Speaking of grounded, Lip’s come across some difficult times in college, and that is exactly what he needs. He’s a smart guy, but he’s always been measured up against those around him; he needs to learn that he isn’t necessarily going to be wildly successful if he puts in the effort he puts in. The shot where he’s walking through the crowd of frozen people–which is a beautiful shot, by the way–is very telling; he believes he’s too good to conform to societal values, but that just alienates him even more. I love ya, Lip, but this is good for you. I have no doubt you’ll pull through.

Of course, not everyone’s in a bad place. Fiona’s doing well with her job, and she has a boyfriend who obviously loves her. For the first time, she has a steady paycheck and can afford to dole out a few more dollars of lunch money. Yet, at the same time, it seems as if it’s all a bit “too” perfect; after a relationship with Jimmy, who seemed to want to avoid Fiona’s problems, Fiona’s now the one shielding her personal life from Mike.

All in all, it’s a more melancholy, contemplative episode that sets up an intriguing season, and it is sure to still be a very entertaining hour each week.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-Ian’s not around; hopefully we see some more of him later.

-Mickey’s losing control of everything around him, becoming increasingly conflicted about Ian and his work. I find him really interesting to watch.

-Emmy Rossum’s fantastic, as always.

-Veronica’s pregnant! I’m looking forward to seeing the Kevin-Veronica dynamic this season.

-I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover this weekly, due to the multitude of riches on Sunday night: True Detective, Girls, The Walking Dead, etc.

Photo credit: Showtime, Shameless

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