“That’s the most important thing to find: someone to love, right?”
The Gallaghers constantly get themselves into trouble. That’s one thing that they can’t deny, and we know that for a fact because we’ve watched their antics for the last five seasons, laughing and cringing and crying along with them. At the same time, there’s a uniting force that grounds all these characters: their need to find happiness, to find people who love them for who they are. The word “happy” pops up quite a bit throughout the season five finale, and the episode raises the question of whether these characters can ever be truly happy. “Happiness is overrated,” Sean says at the end of the hour.
In fact, these characters go through the episode asking for explanations, attempting to make sense of feel-good words like “friend” and “happy” and “love”, attempting to make sense of the situations unfolding in front of them. “Is that what we are: friends?” Fiona asks Gus. “Does she make you happy, or is it just about the sex?” Amanda asks Lip. “What does ‘I love you?’ even mean?” Ian asks Mickey at the end. These characters all want to be connected with people who care about them, but the situation is never as simple as a mere word may suggest. Real life is complicated and messed up and difficult, and that’s what makes these people so compelling to watch.
I have to say, though, some of these characters became significantly less compelling over the course of the season. For example, it’s nice that Kevin and Veronica are now back together, but the split this year left something to be desired. In addition, Carl was nothing more than a kid caught in an uninteresting–albeit entertaining–storyline. Furthermore, Lip’s storyline took a downturn after that wonderful monologue in the middle of the season. Finally, the main question surrounding Fiona was “Can she love someone who is not addicted to chaos?”, but that’s not a question I want to see the show hitting over and over again. I’m happy she doesn’t end up with Sean or Gus at the end of this finale, as that would be the ultimate disservice to a character Emmy Rossum has done such a fantastic job building up. It’s understandable that with everything spinning out of control with her family, she’d want to find some kind of stability, but we all know that “stability” is not a word in the Fiona Gallagher dictionary.
Interestingly, though, it was Frank’s character who went from “extremely grating” to “kind of sweet”. Frank found someone who made him happy, and what resulted was a side of him we pretty much never saw beforehand. Bianca’s the best thing to happen to Frank, and I absolutely have to give a shout-out to the lovely performance by Bojana Novakovic during her time on the show. Bianca heads off into the ocean at the end of the episode, but just as she leaves an indelible mark on Frank, Novakovic leaves an indelible mark on a season that was more scattered than usual. “Thank you, you’ve made me happy. I’ve never been happy.”
The Ian-Mickey storyline is another one that you simply can’t tear your eyes away from, and Noel Fisher and Cameron Monaghan are wonderful in the break-up scene at the end. In an inversion of their relationship from earlier in the show, Ian’s now trying to figure out whether his relationship with Mickey can actually work, and as he says, “You can’t fix me because I’m not broken! I’m me!” Mickey’s undoubtedly better for Ian than Monica the Meth Dealer, but even though Ian leaves Monica at the end, her lines about finding somebody to love still resonate; he does not want to feel like someone has to fix him. That “somebody” clearly should be Mickey, though, but it seems like the Ian-Mickey character arcs this season are going to end on a dull note. It’s pretty much a reversal of what I expected: Ian slowly realizing that he needs to get better, that he needs to take his meds, that Mickey’s really the one for him. I realize that what I want to happen with the two is not necessarily what will happen–the show is oftentimes about how bad the Gallaghers are at maintaining relationships, after all–but the execution of the ending is still not great.
And of course, here’s where the episode takes its sharpest turn. The show’s always handled the comedy-drama balance well, but the final sequence here feels so tonally dissonant, so strange for such a big moment. Not only does Sammi suck, but where we leave off with Ian and Mickey is not satisfying at all. It’s not that everything needs to be tied up in a big bow; rather, it’s as if the moment is brushed off, as if the episode is unsure of what exactly it wants to do and where exactly it wants to leave us. In my mind, there’s no question that season five was a step down from the brilliant season four, and this ending confirms it. At the same time, I just can’t quit these Gallaghers. I’ll be watching them on their journeys to happiness, wherever weird places that may take them. Bring on season six.
SEASON GRADE: B+
(I’m being very generous with these grades because I’m in a good mood)
-Ian doesn’t care that Mickey’s getting shot at? Okay, then…. Noel Fisher, please come back next year; there’s some fixing that needs to be done with this storyline, because jeez.
-I have no problem with sex scenes in general, but when your show is only willing to show one of its gay characters having sex when it’s with a random girl, there’s a problem. It especially sucks because the sex scenes we do see are so clearly gratuitous.
-Bojana Novakovic is very attractive. This has been an observation.
-Fiona-Debbie scenes are always great, even if the storylines surrounding those scenes aren’t. Anyway, it’s clear that Debbie’s attachment to Derek is influenced greatly by her view of his family; it’s the “perfect family” in her eyes, and it’s a departure from the chaos that has reigned under Fiona. As we see, she can easily throw Fiona’s words back at her, pointing out everything that her big sister did wrong.
-You deserved that, Lip.
– “They call it the poophole loophole.”
– “You just mashed 15 different insulting metaphors into one incredibly nasty sentence.” Vee’s mom is awesome. Aside from the metaphors, she also has another one of those “happy” lines: “Make your man happy!”
-Walter is cooking meth. This has to be a Breaking Bad reference.
-More Lip-Ian scenes, please! The one we get during the credits is great, and their reactions to Frank saying “She’s gone”–laughing it off–are great at illustrating what others (rightfully, considering his history) think of Frank. It’s kind of sad, though, considering the audience knows what he just went through.
-What happened to the gentrification storyline? I was anticipating it tying in with Lip’s struggle between his two lives, but in the end, it pretty much went nowhere. Sure, it had an influence thematically, but it feels like it got lost in the shuffle somewhere.
Photo credit: Showtime, Shameless