Shameless season 2 stumbles upon its third entry with this week’s “I’ll Light A Candle For You Every Day,” as Frank Gallagher continues wooing the ailing Dottie (Molly Price), while Fiona flirts with disaster by meetingup with her married high school crush Craig (Taylor Kinney). Unlike last week’s “Summer Loving,” this week’s Shameless breaks the bank a bit on asking us to accept Frank’s horrible behavior, however entertaining.
There’s a big gap between comically cruel, and just plain despicable. I’m thinking of your Benders, your Al Bundys, your Barney Stinsons, those with inherently selfish behavior but with enough good and self-awareness to keep us empathizing with them through their worst acts.
This fine balance is something Showtime has yet to achieve with William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher in Shameless. Sure we’ll see him look out for his children now and again, but for every act of kindness Frank Gallagher will deliberately prevent a dying woman from receiving a heart transplant for her pension fund.
Much of the first season of Shameless was marred by its inability to find a balance between the more kitchen-sink heavy drama of Fiona and the Gallagher brood, and Frank’s more outrageously despicable behavior, something its second season hasn’t quite landed on yet either. Dottie (Molly Price) made for an interesting foil to Frank in that she seemed to awaken some genuine affection within him, despite his schemes to cash in on her pension after death, and now with her passing they’ve created a moral vacuum with no recourse. I doubt if Frank will every face any kind of consequences, or even true guilt for his role in denying Dottie her heart, making his actions in the past two episodes something of a waste of time.
Shameless represents a difficult show to respond to given how it unfolds as more of a symphony of immorality, with its characters artfully drifting between good and bad with very few extremes. Take Fiona’s behavior in ‘I’ll Light a Candle For You Every Day,’where she alternates between flirting with a married high school crush, to treating herself and the family with money found in a lost purse, to alleviating her guilt by working to return the money, only to keep it to spite the understandably outraged victim (Mageina Tovah), and finally giving in to a minivan romp with her former crush. The highs and lows of that statement alone keep me from reasonably pinpointing where we should invest in Fiona, let alone react to her minimalist call to the long-missing Steve (Justin Chatwin), who himself lies in something of a morally ambiguous position.
And who could forget the moral ambiguity of Karen (Laura Wiggins) so enthusiastically accepting her elder boyfriend’s proposal, hours after casually taking advantage of Lip’s sexual availability, despite his obvious prodding of the situation? Or the West Point graduate blithely endorsing Lip’s parking meter credit card reader? Or Frank landing drunkenly in church to pray for Dottie, only to end up stealing the collection box? I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the twisted landscape these characters traverse, but it is of interest to see how mortality plays a factor in ‘I’ll Light a Candle for You Every Day.’Much as Frank finds himself briefly humbled by Dottie’s death, so too does the threat of damnation motivate Fiona to return the woman’s money, while Deb’s youth prevents her from rationally accepting her first brush with death last week.
There are some interesting parallels to draw in that despite Frank’s despicable ways, often his family sinks to similar depths, particularly Fiona. There’s a moment between the two where Frank appears at the Gallagher household and fetches two beers from the fridge, while Fiona subtly puts one back, and Frank just as subtly reclaims it, the whole sequence running alongside a separate discussion to the scene. In that way I like how Shameless plays with the dynamic between the Gallagher patriarch and his eldest, that despite their differences they share an intrinsic, almost playful understanding of one another.
Elsewhere there’s a bit of narrative momentum on Kevin attempting to purchase The Alibi Room despite Vi’s objections, and I imagine Fiona’s less-than-passionate affair with Craig Heisner (Taylor Kinney) will come back to haunt her, but overall ‘I’ll Light A Candle For You Every Day’left me feeling somewhat cold. It’s not that the exploits of the Gallaghers aren’t entertaining in their own right, but I’m hoping as the season goes on the stories become more personal and less ‘outrageous.’
And Another Thing…
- I want a job where I can lay on top of a naked and writhing Emmy Rossum, and softly whisper ‘dead people poop themselves.’
- I suppose it hadn’t occurred to me before, but I appreciate the attention to detail in that part of the reason Fiona always works such low grade jobs was that she had to pull out of graduating high school to fill in for her mother.
- ‘I can’t wait to die!”Why?”To be closer to God! If it weren’t a sin, I’d kill myself so it could happen sooner!’
- I can’t see this becoming a regular trend in movie and TV, but thought it interesting the way the show popped up actual texting bubbles for a phone conversation. Ignorance of the way modern technology affects the exchange of dialogue was the reason people kept popping up in Clark Kent’s barn to deliver ten seconds worth of information on Smallville.
- Something of a recognizable figure now with guest roles on American Horror Story and Hung, I wonder if we might see Mageina Tovah’s character again down the line.
- Ugh, terrible green-screening behind Justin Chatwin for his brief return.
What did YOU think?