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It’s hard for me to say whether this episode was fantastic or just blah. It was such a mixed bag. On the one hand, the character development by Frank was amazing and spot-on. But the ball was dropped when it came to other storylines.
Frank’s character arc in this episode was actually really impressive. Take a look at where he is at the opening, slap-fighting a bum for a sleeping spot on the train. Then flash forward to Frank taking the metaphorical bullet for Carl and allowing himself to be arrested. The Frank in the beginning is nowhere near the Frank in the end. This transformation is even more impressive when you realize that it was brought on by his own words. Frank’s ever-present lament at his family abandoning him is cut short when Carl smuggles him into the family van. With even Debbie turning her back on him, Carl is the only family member Frank hasn’t alienated, and the only one who will help him.
It’s entirely a case of naiveté, of course, especially his idealistic approach to robbery as a bonding experience with his father. But the fact remains that Carl is the only one who looks out for Frank. And what’s odd is that Frank has always been a man to stick to his principals. Perhaps they aren’t always good ones, but he does stick to them. So it only makes logical sense that he would stick up for Carl in return. As surprising as it is in the end (Lip even comments that “hell froze over”), when you think about it, it’s been a long time coming. It’s honestly the perfect act to redeem Frank in our eyes so close to the end of the season. Besides, I think Frank owed Carl for the whole cancer thing.
In contrast, the Lip-Mandy-Karen triangle was comparatively weak. Lip found out last episode that Mandy was the culprit behind Karen’s hit-and-run, so one would think this ‘Order Room Service’ would be pretty explosive. The reality, though, is that not much happens. Lip avoids Mandy and spends increasing amounts of time with the addled Karen. Mandy gets clingier and clingier until Lip explodes at her. Lip finally confronts her (sort of) but she’s already with someone new. The potential culmination of all these events is interrupted by Ian’s drunken misery. And that’s it. If the average person were to discover their current partner nearly killed their last partner, a lot more panicking and anger would ensue. It’s a huge thing, after all. Karen has practically reverted back to childhood as a result of the accident.
But let’s talk about that for a second. Maybe it’s because she’s lied and manipulated so many times in the past, but I keep waiting for Karen to break character and reveal she’s been faking it the whole time. Maybe I’m wrong and she really is brain-damaged. But think of how many times she’s pulled crap like this. Her return was based entirely on a false damsel-in-distress persona, so what’s to stop her from doing it now? I guess we’ll find out next week. What do you think? Is it real, or is she faking it yet again?
And then there’s the dramatic turn Fiona and Jimmy’s relationship has taken. Last week I was praising them for having “real couple problems” and now this week is the same crazy stuff all over again. Sex is used as a weapon after an argument yet again (have you noticed how many times they do that to each other?) and even Fiona’s boss recognizes it. He points out that Fiona is using him to get back at Jimmy, and he’s absolutely right. For some reason, whenever things go south one of them hops into bed with someone. For me, it completely diminishes them as characters. But the real kick is: what the heck is going to happen to Jimmy? The last we see of him, he’s being forced on a boat and hauled off to who-knows-where. He could even die for all we know. Definitely not a “real couple problem.” But then again, what am I saying? It’s “Shameless;” I should be expecting that by now. Although I will say that Fiona’s message for Jimmy at the end of the episode really did it for me. Her admission of defeat and willingness to make it work came from a very vulnerable place, and it made me like her more. I almost forgave her for nearly screwing her boss.
Now that I look back, aside from the slight disappointment in the Lip-Mandy plot, this episode is everything it needed to be so close to the end of the season. Ian and Mickey’s secret seems to be out of the bag, Jimmy’s probably in huge danger, and Frank is redeemed, which sets him up perfectly for something crazy and dramatic to happen in the finale. The set-up is right, now let’s see the finale deliver.