Shameless can be uncomfortable and disturbing and wacky and darkly hilarious, but what makes it special is its ability to turn those moments into something heartfelt, something poignant. It doesn’t just focus on the joke aspect of a situation; it also explores the ramifications of certain actions on certain individuals, and as a result, it creates a distinct style and balance for itself that is rare among television shows.
Take “The Two Lisas”, for example, which features some of the most difficult-to-watch situations we’ve seen on the show (and that’s saying something). We have Carl being nicknamed “Carl-lingus” for his dalliances with a line of girls who apparently desire a 12-year old’s ubiquitous mouth, and we have Debbie losing her virginity to a plastered Matty at her party. There isn’t much more to Carl’s storyline yet, but Debbie’s becomes a really intriguing look at the transition from child to adult, at the relationship between her and her older sister. Last week’s episode ended with a Fiona who realized that Debbie was getting pulled into the adult world, and this episode brings a disturbing instance of rape. In the loveliest scene of the episode, the two sisters sit side by side in the yard, one person’s hand on top of the other as the sun shines above them. It’s a beautiful acting moment for Emmy Rossum and Emma Kenney, and it’s an indication that things are changing, that the show won’t shy away from the ramifications of Debbie and Matty having sex. At least, I really hope the show doesn’t.
That idea of change is prevalent throughout “The Two Lisas”, and it manifests in two goodbyes at the end of the episode: Mandy’s and Sheila’s. On the former, the sex scene between her and Lip feels like one of the few times these days that a sex scene on TV actually feels meaningful, and it’s yet another showcase for Jeremy Allen White and Emma Greenwell. It seems like one of the few times that Mandy’s been able to be completely honest about her feelings, but it’s a bittersweet moment that ends in a goodbye. “You are gorgeous, you are sweet. you are funny, and you are very smart,” Lip says, but it’s later clear that he’s moved on when he responds to her “I love you” with nothing; with that, she leaves with her abusive boyfriend, and the more things change, the more things stay the same.
That idea is pretty much encapsulated by Frank Gallagher, who appeared to have improved this year but remained the same asshole he’s always been. At the end of this episode, all those pent-up frustrations explode during a scene in which he essentially explodes at Sammi and Sheila…and there’s also a literal explosion. Sheila finally decides to take the initiative and leave Frank, and her decision is rooted in the very telling conversation that occurred earlier in the episode:
“Don’t squash my dreams, Sheila.”
“Frank, what about my dreams?”
-Emma Greenwell and Joan Cusack were only guest stars this season. It looks like Mandy’s and Sheila’s stories are both pretty much over for now. Kudos to both of them for their work throughout the series.
-Wonderful acting by Rossum as Fiona’s listening to Gus play the guitar as well. Like I’ve written before, I hope there’s a more different storyline to be told for Fiona this year, but there’s no denying that Rossum will handle anything that she’s asked to do.
-Congrats to William H. Macy for his SAG win!
– “Debbie, a million guys would kill to be raped by you.”
– “I can’t stand your unreasonably complicated cooking!”
– “You statutory raped yourself!”
Photo credit: Shameless, Showtime