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If you’re a Shameless fan, you know there’s always a lot going on in each episode. The Gallaghers are a big family, after all, and to have a plot for each of them requires a lot of bouncing around. But for some reason, “The Sins of My Caretaker” seems to be even more erratic than usual, almost at the risk of becoming too busy.
Last episode narrowed the scope to Carl, Fiona, and Lip/Mandy (Landy?), developing each of their stories in depth. We discovered more about Carl than we ever have before, Fiona became more likable, and Lip and Mandy’s relationship deepened significantly. Yes, there was a baffling amount of sex throughout, but it felt like we were getting to know the characters better.
“The Sins of My Caretaker,” however, didn’t feel like that at all. Instead of focusing on a few characters with little plot beats about the rest of them, the episode tried to make the entire family (plus a few others) become the main characters. As a result we see the inner workings of each person’s life, but we aren’t really allowed to see it in any great depth. For example, we haven’t seen much of Jimmy lately, but the reveal of his father’s sexual orientation should have set him up for a big role in this episode. And he does manage to complain about it for the entire hour runtime, but because so many other plots had to be addressed the complaining is all we see. We don’t get to witness a confrontation between Jimmy and his dad or the way it affects his view of relationships or marriage. We only get that he’s “weirded out” by it. And his story ends when Fiona tells him to quit complaining and he gets pissed and has sex with Estefania. I suppose we could see that as his tendency to approach relationships like his father, using sex as a weapon, but even that is barely developed.
It cheered me up to see that Debbie finally got some real attention in this episode, too. For a while now she’s just sort of been in the background helping out, but now we see her heartbreaking problems with the “mean girls” at the pool. But this, too, only gets a maximum of five minutes of attention, and as a result these girls become caricatures of bullies. I’ve never seen real girls that horrible before (granted, I’m not a kid today, and I’ve heard it’s a lot worse now). It seemed a bit unbelievable, which might be a symptom of her plot being too rushed. And her solution to the issue seemed haphazard as well; I was hoping for her to fight fire with fire, but her near-murder of one girl was bizarre and less than satisfying. Although, I thought the tie-in with Fiona was done well; the Gallagher girls have to deal with cruel women, and they manage to stick together.
And what about Sheila and her dangerous foray into Jody’s former addiction? Her plotline, though it’s in the title, is the most rushed of all. I’ll be the first to admit that her starring role in a dying nun’s trashy blog is one of the funniest things I’ve seen from the series, and it’s great that she can once again be the source of comedy in the show. I missed that from her. But it’s barely acknowledged that she pushed Jody back into his spiral toward addiction, as is glaringly obvious. Yes, she briefly confesses her worries to the nun, but sex addiction is a serious matter, much more serious than a gay father or a couple of mean ladies at work. Yet this is the main source of comedy. Yes, it was hilarious, but it seemed like an odd choice; again, it could be remedied by a little more attention.
The whole episode felt like a season finale more than anything; all these plotlines converged into a climax at the end when a social worker shows up to see the utter chaos that the Gallaghers’ lives have momentarily become. Was the whole episode hastily thrown together so we could get to this “oh shit” moment? It certainly felt that way. Let’s hope now that the climax has happened, the show will slow down just a bit and give us the information and depth we crave.