*spoilers, obvs*

What's with this last season of Shameless? I'm honestly trying to figure out if there's a new showrunner or something, because I barely recognize this show. This season seems distant and detached from where we started, with the gritty real-life drama of a struggling family on the south side of Chicago.

My theory: they've gone full Sopranos. Frank never woke up after having his organs stolen, and this whole season has been his coma-dream. I mean, what were the big plot points? Frank gets a huge windfall payout of a life-changing amount of money, which he blows on cars, drugs, and girls. And then, in case that was too realistic a plot line for a washed-out alcoholic living on borrowed time (and organs), he gets his hooks into a beautiful, sad, young doctor. A doctor who apparently wants to spend all of her money buying him booze and drugs and flying him to a tropical paradise while fucking him and rapturously listening while he holds court. Especially at the end, where she dies by walking sadly, dramatically, and nakedly into a vivid purple and gold ocean at sunrise. I mean, who actually kills themselves all artistically like that? That's how people die in power ballads, not in real life. C'mon. This situation could only exist in Frank's most feverish of fantasies. Or in a really weird, uncomfortably sexist writer's room full of people who seem to have forgotten that Frank Gallagher is The Worst. Good things are not supposed to happen to Frank! I'm honestly confused - is the viewer supposed to be happy for him, and then bittersweetly sympathetic, after all he's done in previous seasons?

As for the other plot lines. What I really loved about this show was its honest depiction of poverty - having to scam and hustle to keep the lights on, stealing food for the group, and taking real pleasure in small luxuries. This theme has gone fully AWOL this season. Fiona, who fought so hard to keep the family together, is barely present while struggling in a yawn-don't-care love triangle between Lukewarm Olaf the Band Oaf and Simple Simon the Addict Pieman. Lip, who was struggling to pay for school while busting his ass in a hairnet, gets his bills paid for with a wave of the hand and some "hacking" dialogue and is now driving around in a brand-new BMW gifted to him by his (long suffering, rich, and super pretty ) fuck buddy. And Debs, when buying buying Plan B, condoms, and a pregnancy test, is much more concerned about the brand of condom than the fact that she's dropping almost eighty fucking dollars on family planning stuff. In what world does Debs have that kind of money to toss around? Hell, I have a good job and even I might blanch at that receipt.

My only explanation is we're living in Frank's fevered coma fantasy where Jimmy Steve is inexplicably alive only to disappear again (OMG TEASE) and Fiona's apparently paying all of her bills comfortably with a waitress job. Remember how excited she was when she got insurance coverage? What happened to that? Meanwhile, Debs is providing grandkids and making it rain at the drug store, Carl is living out his own Scarface fantasy, and Lip is cruising around in a new car while pretty, wealthy women literally throw themselves at him. Ian gets himself out of a court-martial with one lawyerless tete-a-tete and, after hanging out with Monica, somehow manages to get home with no money or transportation. Only to break up with Mickey! Who but Frank would come up with such a terrible idea?!

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It wasn't until the last minute of this show, where a crazed Sammy chased Mickey around the house with a gun while the others smoked and smirked, that I recognized this show. I saw a small kernel of what it used to be and what I loved - the unbridled craziness and fearlessness. But up until those last few minutes, I honestly thought I was watching the Frank Gallagher Fantasy Island Showcase Showdown.

Although of course I'll still watch the next season. Despite my criticisms, I still really love this show.