Episode 4 - A Beautiful Mess
23 February 2012
Synopsis: Debbie develops a rash from the stress of running day care. Fiona insists that she has a birthday sleep over to relax. Fiona is getting constant abuse from Craig's wife and they eventually turn up at the door seeking a way to keep their marriage together. Kev encourages Ethel to spend time with someone her own age. Lip comes up with various schemes to get rid of Jody. Frank tries desperately to stop Sheila from making her way further into the world.
The Good: The overall theme of this episode seemed to show us ways in which Fiona and Lip resembled Frank. Lip, in particular, was full of schemes to screw Jody over and get rid of him just as his father was doing the same to Sheila. Frank even points out that Karen reminds him of Lip's mother. I liked the way Lip snapped when confronted by Karen in the bathroom. Earlier in the episode he had tried to pretend he didn't care when she refused to continue sleeping with him. Here though he forced a kiss on her, a pretty uncomfortable moment considering she is a sex addict. It seemed very much like Lip; he didn't want to tell her how he felt so he just showed her. He really did treat Karen poorly and deserved the kicking he received.
As for Fiona, she ended up hiding with Frank as last episodes actions came back to haunt her. She seemed a bit cowardly hurling insults at Craig's wife when you can imagine her having the same reaction if the shoe were on the other foot. The guilt and disappointment of it all pushed her to realise how much she misses Steve though which made sense.
Frank was typically clever as he "fixed" things around the home to make himself seem indispensible. Kev and Veronica's parenting conversations remain sweet and entertaining.
The Bad: The sign which Craig's wife and kids held up in the street (about Fiona) was completely implausible. It was one of a number of oddly cheap moments here. Frank's plan to fire a gun in Sheila's vicinity and hope it frightened her felt quite lazy. It seemed like a pretty lame gag to lead to him wearing an eye patch. That led to him hiring a one-armed man from the bar to try and scare Sheila indoors. That was a story from another comedy (literally if you saw Arrested Development 110) and was a complete contrast from the serious wrongdoing from last week.
The culmination of these silly attempts to reverse Sheila's progress saw the wheels of a plane fall out of the sky in front of her. This terrifying moment was about as shameless (ha ha) a deus ex machina moment as I can remember. If somehow it leads to Frank getting his comeuppance then maybe it will have served some purpose. But as it was it came across as a pathetic attempt to keep Frank and Sheila in the same place so that the writers wouldn't have to think of a new storyline. The tone was also a problem as once more it looked like Frank was meant to be a lovable rogue and not the leech that he is.
The Unknown: The episode felt more disjointed and less focussed than any this season. There were a lot of different storylines getting started (Carl, Debbie and Ethel all having new kids to interact with) and different people to deal with (The Heisners, Adam). Fiona and Lip both had emotional outbursts which came seemingly out of nowhere. To some extent this reflects reality more accurately then perfectly constructed stories. But there is a reason why TV formulas work and by veering so far from that there were times when this was less enjoyable than it might have been.
Debbie's sleepover was something of a case in point. Not every story has to push your emotional buttons but I didn't know what to make of her botched birthday party. Apparently she has no friends, craps on those who do like her and is attracted to people who are bad for her (Little Hank, Holly). I'm not sure quite what it did for her character. She didn't seem to care too much either about her stress rash showing or not having real friends. Hopefully it will all help build her story but it felt a bit unfulfilling here.
Best Moment: When Fiona learns that she has to work at the club Ian and Lip happily step in to run the birthday party. They both scoop Debbie up and carry her off lavishing her with affection. That was a very nice moment of family solidarity and maturity.
The Bottom Line: Like the Gallagher home this episode felt a bit chaotic. Sometimes that can feel authentic, other times it can feel unsatisfying. This was more of the latter but no big deal.
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