A quick review of tonight's "Shameless" coming up just as soon as I cut off a corpse's toe...

Earlier this week, I published an interview with Emmy Rossum, who in addition to her obvious talents is also very smart and articulate about the show she stars in. I haven't been writing about it every week — this is one of those shows I find I enjoy more when I check in it from time to time — but this has been probably the best "Shameless" season to date. John Wells and company, more than ever have before, have really nailed the balance of sick comedy and gut-punching tragedy, have cast Frank almost entirely as a villain rather than clumsy comic relief, and given us some big stakes for all the characters. (Even Carl thought he had cancer for a few weeks.) This child services/custody mini-arc has been perhaps the best story the show's told so far, packing in so much craziness (and that's not even including what Kev and Veronica have been doing in order to conceive) at the same time it's abundantly clear how scary this situation is for Fiona and all the kids.

And all of that led to that great scene in the courtroom (you can watch the clip again below) where Fiona laid it on the line for the judge, opening up about just one of the many, many, many horror stories she has(*) about growing up as Frank Gallagher's daughter. It's a simple speech, not flowery, but the very fact that Fiona is willing to say these words out loud, in public — to admit the real pain Frank has caused her, rather than to just shrug it off with the usual Gallagher toughness and black humor — means everything, and Rossum's performance shows how much this matters to her.

(*) About the only thing I didn't like about that courtroom sequence was that Fiona and the older siblings didn't attempt to bury Frank in stories of not only neglect, but abuse, whether physical (Frank hitting Ian back in season 1) or emotional (the camp that the judge seemed vaguely impressed by was the result of Frank tricking his son into thinking he was dying of cancer). Obviously, the writers wanted to set up a situation where Fiona has responsibility for the kids but no legal means of keeping Frank away, but it didn't quite play. Nonetheless, I was pleased that the judge saw through Frank's crap and there wasn't an attempt to create false drama where Frank is able to trick a gullible outsider. 

The judge's solution in a way changes nothing. Fiona has already been acting as the kids' mother, and Frank is still a part of their lives. But as the judge and Jimmy both point out, this changes everything. Now Fiona can't dream of running away to Rio anymore. She's in this all the way until at least Liam's 18th birthday (which, given the way the kid ages, should happen around 2051). Jimmy's not happy about this, and Fiona doesn't know how complicated things about to get — that Cousin Patrick has just legally inherited the house, that Karen has returned and will inevitably blow up Lip's life (just as soon as she's done watching Jody, um... you know), that Jimmy has the sexy and unencumbered wife to run to at any moment — but for the moment this preserves the status quo and makes it harder for the kids to be flung far and wide the next time there's a problem. And for the moment, keeping things the same lousy but endurable way they've been is an enormous, satisfying victory for Fiona and for the show.

What did everybody else think? And how are you feeling about season 3 as a whole so far?

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