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I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed with the latest episode of Shameless. Where the show is usually refreshingly daring, it has temporarily become stale and predictable.
The first beef I had with The American Dream comes in the form of the main plotline. This episode follows Fiona’s attempts to boost herself into success with her nightclub venture. We’re treated to the predictable pattern of Fiona getting herself further and further into debt as the promises thousands of dollars to the club owner, the mob liquor vendor, and the inspector. The whole time Fiona assures everyone around her that it’ll all pay off and she’ll be rich, which makes it inevitable that she’s going to fail.
In fact, it’s difficult to feel any sort of suspense throughout the episode because it’s just so obvious that she won’t succeed. It almost makes The American Dream tedious to watch. We have to sit through Fiona’s entire planning process even though we know exactly what the result will be. At the end of the episode when she does, in fact, fail and she loses a hundred bucks, I was honestly surprised she didn’t fare even worse. I think the writers were too easy on her, completely taking away the risk factor for her high-stakes gamble. We’re set up throughout the episode for this massive failure, and then it’s not really delivered. And a lackluster result is even worse than the predictability.
It seems that every other character’s plotline has hit a roadblock as well. Lip is still refusing to apply for college, and makes boatloads of money through harebrained schemes that somehow work out. No change there. Although tricking the rich Lakeshore kids into thinking Wilco is playing a secret show was pretty hilarious to watch. Yet the brief comedy is marred by Mandy’s bland attempts to get Lip to apply for Carnegie Mellon.
Ian is still having sex with every guy who looks at him for more than three seconds. We’re briefly introduced to a kid in Ian’s ROTC camp who he’s in the middle of having sex with, and three seconds later Mickey arrives and kicks the kid aside. Then Ian promptly begins having sex with Mickey. Firstly, ew. Secondly, it seems that Ian’s entire plotline lately has been “let’s see how many people I can have sex with.” What happened to his military dreams, or his struggles in school, or his friendship with Mandy? He’s become a totally flat character who exists only to remind audiences, “See? We’re diverse. We have a gay character.”
In fact, there were only three things that happened in the episode to make watching it worthwhile. The biggest one was the character reversal of Debbie. Remember sweet Debbie, the only one to care about Frank? Well, this time Frank messes with the only fan he had left, and Debbie now understands her father’s true nature. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see a child lose faith in her father, but it certainly makes Debbie a more compelling character. And it was a relief to see at least a little character development among all the stagnation.
Another little gem: after being kicked out of his house yet again, Frank calls the department of child welfare to report his family for neglect. This could potentially be huge—the Gallaghers could be in enough trouble to split the family apart—and yet we don’t see it come to fruition in this episode. Hopefully this little nugget of information pays off later in the season, because it was the only major plot point the episode had.
And finally, Kevin’s wife returns toward the end of the episode. One would think, no problem, Veronica already knew about this. However, the episode ends with Veronica spending the night at the Gallaghers’ so clearly it didn’t go very well. Again, hopefully it pays off later, because it was a weak attempt at drama since we never see what happens.
All in all, The American Dream was disappointing. I have faith in Shameless, and I assume it’ll get better from here on out. I’ll treat this episode as a blip in an otherwise spotless series.