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Shameless has always been edgy; there’s no doubt about that. Typically the series manages to seamlessly combine outrageous sex scenes ad gritty violence with endearing comedy, and that’s what we love so much about it. But “The Helpful Gallaghers” took it to a new extreme and seemed to have left me with only one question: what’s with all the sex?
It’s a legitimate question. Nearly every plotline in this episode has something to do with either sex or genitalia. Again, Shameless has never been shy about sex, but typically there’s at least something else to the story besides screaming “look at all the sex we’re having!” And it’s not necessarily a bad thing (few shows can make sex quite as hilarious as Shameless does), but it definitely stands out.
Like most episodes, “The Helpful Gallaghers” doesn’t really have a main plotline, but rather several that weave together to create a sort of general theme. Typically the theme has been pretty easy to pick out, but for the life of me I couldn’t grasp this one. Perhaps I was too dazzled by the myriad of boobs parading across the screen. It’s a little baffling how the writers managed to pack so much bangin’ into an hour-long episode. In the space of five minutes we see Lip and Mandy going at it, and Kevin and Veronica trying to make a baby. Lip and Mandy’s story goes places from there, at least, but Kevin and Veronica’s entire plot for the episode consists of nonstop sexing in order to make a baby. That’s seriously the only environment we see them in.
And Sheila fans are treated to the return of an old friend: her giant box of dildos. Turns out Sheila is bored with her sex life with Jody and enlists Frank to convince him to…play her way. The rest of the episode is spent with Jody eyeing the dildo box in terror and Frank giving advice we never wanted to hear. This plotline is a bit fascinating, though, in a way. For the duration of the episode Jody fiercely avoids the depravity of his former life, while Sheila embraces hers, and even glorifies it. For all Jody’s talk about the end of his sex addiction, he may have chosen another addict to share his life with. This little revelation is an example of the subtle genius that is Shameless.
And of course, we can’t forget about Fiona’s new job at the grocery store. Remember the boss who wanted a blowjob in exchange for hiring her? It doesn’t end there; the female staff has a weekly “Bobby break” schedule set aside just for blowjobs. So obviously Fiona can’t let this slide and tries to stage a revolt. But the interesting thing is that her coworkers vote to keep the blowjobs rather than get him fired. It was an interesting comment on the extremes people have been forced to in times of economic hardship, and also a question about female sexuality as a form of currency. These women are using blowjobs to pay for time off, freebies, and lax rules, and while they complain, they seem to be fine with it. It raises a lot of questions. Is it sexual abuse and an assertion of male dominance, or is it a form of female empowerment in a way?
Aside from the blatant sexual plotlines, there are also the little moments in the episode that manage to incorporate sex in some form. Carl gets to go to his summer camp, still believing he’ll die from cancer. While there he meets a pretty college-aged camp counselor, and a dying boy whose only wish is to see a pair of real-life boobs. You know where this is going. So much sex is packed into “The Helpful Gallaghers” that even Carl gets to gaze upon the female anatomy. There’s also the implied sex scene between Fiona and Jimmy and the surprise “girl penis” moment from Mandy’s half-sister.
Probably the best moment of the episode comes at the end, when Jimmy’s father is kicked out of the house and shows up drunk to the Gallagher residence. He tries to climb in bed with Ian, only to find he’s groping Lip. Of course this blows both his and Ian’s cover, exposing the secret affair between a married man and a high school boy. Both Jimmy and Fiona get a shock when they learn their family members are sleeping together. But for all the surprise they both feel, neither of them seem to judge. It’s touching in a way to see their unconditional love for their family despite this cheating and statutory rape, although I think a bit of anger would’ve made more sense.