Showrunner John Wells miscalculated the direction “Shameless” should go in the post-Fiona era.
If the Season 10 premiere is any indication, the problems with the show have only been further magnified. “Shameless” is a show that revolves around multiple central characters, so when it was announced that Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum, “Cold Pursuit”) would be written off the show this season, the news was upsetting, but did not completely ruin my expectations of what was to come. However, it was the quality of the storylines themselves, rather than Rossum’s absence, that has decreased the critical acclaim that came early on in the show’s run. With nine seasons and 110 episodes of character development to work with, it baffles me how much content Wells chooses to ignore. By picking and choosing which events from prior seasons to engage in, Wells effectively erases what happened.
This is not a new development: Numerous storylines have been introduced, only to be sidelined with no explanation. Despite all of this, dedicated fans, like myself, who have watched the show for years still find reasons to be optimistic, yet critical. Next week will reintroduce “Gallavich” — the relationship between Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan, “Gotham”) and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher, “The Red Line”) — to the narrative. When a new season starts, the first episode is supposed to set the tone to give viewers a preview of what this season will be about. This leaves viewers wondering why “Gallavich” was not explored in the premiere, with the rest of the storylines being stale and not worthy of including in a premiere.
Somehow, the writers made Debbie (Emma Kenney, “The Connors”) less likable. The 18 year old has now assumed the authorities previously held by the former family matriarch Fiona. Part of this is managing the $50,000 check Fiona left the family. But, in typical Debbie fashion, she is secretly buying and returning fancy clothes that she keeps in a storage locker, in order to pick up women at hotel bars instead of saving for a rainy day. If you need more evidence for why Debbie is the worst, when she does this, she tells her family that she is completing job training and leaves her daughter next door. On another note, Debbie is certainly not 21 and does not look it — there is no way a fancy hotel would serve someone who looks as young as her.
Two of the most misused characters on “Shameless” are Kevin Ball (Steve Howey, “Dead to Me”) and Veronica Fisher (Shanola Hampton, “Three’s Complicated”). Last season, their young identical twins were enrolled as one student at a private school and this plotline was largely ignored until it was convenient for the show. This latest installment features Kevin being insecure about his age due to his miscalculated belief that there is some correlation between his sneakers and his basketball ability, a convenient excuse to get him back to the place where he spent a lot of last season: a gay strip club (because of the better tips, even though he is straight). This development was uninteresting, as Kevin being bad at basketball didn’t come as a surprise to me nor has it ever been brought up before so there was little reason to care about how it would play out. Veronica is being utilized to help the youngest Gallagher, Liam (Christian Isaiah, “21 Bridges”), discover more about his African-American identity. Where this plotline falls short is that Liam has spent much of the previous season exploring his racial identity with his friends, raising a simple question — why didn’t this happen sooner?
Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy, “Krystal”), the alcoholic patriarch of the Gallagher clan, is engaged in his usual scams that will amount to nothing. Carl Gallagher (Ethan Cutkosky) graduated from military school and had an absurd amount of sex with his girlfriend. Oh yeah, I almost forgot — Lip (Jeremy Allen White, “Homecoming”) is now a dad and his girlfriend Tami (Kate Miner, “Deviant Love”) is in emergency surgery and we’re left wondering if she will survive … even though she appears alive and well in the promotional images for the season.
The only thing I’m not classifying this season of “Shameless” as a failure is because the problems I have with the premiere are no different than those I had with past seasons. The reason “Shameless” continues to be renewed, in my eyes, is because of the potential that still exists. Even a decade later, there are still so many stories to be told with characters we have grown to love. But until Wells realizes this potential, “Shameless” may continue to be aimless.