Episode 7 - A Bottle of Jean Nate
7 March 2012
Synopsis: Frank is deeply irritated by having to look after Peg. When she enlists Carl to set up a meth lab in the basement Fiona joins Frank in trying to get rid of her. Jasmine hosts a boat party and invites Steve so Fiona can spend time with him. Kev and Veronica bicker over whether to go look for Ethel or not. Ian and Lip fight to resolve their differences. Karen gets sick of Jody, kicks him out of the house and pulls Lip back in to her life.
The Good: As usual Kev and Veronica had the best story built on simple emotions. He misses his surrogate daughter and she feels guilty for perhaps being partly responsible for Ethel leaving. Their love for one another remains touching and their decision to have a baby of their own is a natural conclusion to the Ethel story.
Jasmine's story has been built well since the end of last season. Amy Smart has given a good performance and always seemed a little more into touching Fiona than a friend should be. If you throw in the loveless marriage and constant attempts to drag Fiona along on her nights out then their kiss made perfect sense. In a way Jasmine is a reflection of what Fiona could be but isn't. Jasmine was also stuck in a home full of kids when she didn't want to be. But instead of knuckling down and being responsible she tried to escape from it and now has nowhere to go. It's been a solid story but it's not clear where it goes now.
The Bad: The Peg story still isn't much fun to watch. Her attempt to restart her meth business was unforgivable and the cancer suggests she will now be hanging around neutering Frank for many episodes to come.
The Karen-Jody story was appalling. After six episodes of professing her love for him she wakes up one day and is suddenly sick of him. That's it. She goes from deeply in love to hatred in one day. If the point of this story was that Karen truly is the psychotic whore her Father claimed she was then I suppose it made sense. But that wasn't the tone I picked up on. Jody was suddenly presented as a bit pathetic in the way he made love and was in love with her. We met his tattooed friends who bluntly illustrated the downside of having children and Jody nodded along uncomprehendingly. He was then mocked for being stupid and sat outside the house singing to her, again in a supposedly annoying way.
That's how I read the tone anyway. Perhaps I'm wrong because what came across to me was quite the opposite. Jody didn't come across as annoying to me, he came across as passionately in love. He didn't seem stupid, he seemed trusting. His serenades spoke of his utter dedication to his wife in the face of irrational rejection. The fact that Karen jumped straight back into bed with Lip cemented her as an utter heel.
I don't know what to think of it all. As I said, if the purpose of this was to kick Jody off the show and reunite Lip and Karen then it was an utter failure. If that turns out to be what happened then it exposes both Karen and the writers in a horribly unflattering light. If I was meant to feel revulsion for Karen then it was still bad television (because of the confused portrayal) but mission accomplished I guess.
I wasn't happy with Kev and Veronica shipping Stan off to the nursing home. Surely she could lose her job over this and Stan's family need to be informed about what's going on. The fact that they didn't discuss the bar is another problem because surely that issue should be concerning Kev. I also thought the joke where Stan tried to leave for his baseball game naked was worse than cheap. The presentation of senility in such implausible fashion for the sake of easy laughter didn't sit right with me. We all laugh at Abe Simpson gags but when you go this far with it it becomes something else.
The Unknown: It was good to see Fiona taking a stand against Steve too. She clearly hates that she loves him and is smart enough to see that he isn't stable enough to be what she needs. He looked pretty douchey throughout the episode (including his choice of clothes), blowing off his new wife and expecting Fiona to ignore his lies. The problem is that television shows don't make a habit of showing us love stories that go nowhere. The "happy ending" right now would be for Steve to go away and for a new man who can support Fiona to appear. Somehow I doubt it will be so simple.
The Lip-Ian argument hinted at some depth to their feelings. When Ian complained that Lip would waste his life by staying with Karen I got a Good Will Hunting vibe. Perhaps it wasn't that Lip had been mistakenly handed the West Point application that bothered Ian. Perhaps it was that Lip would never consider filling it in. Once they fought though Ian went back to seeming pissed off at the misunderstanding and claiming that he lived in his brother's shadow.
However the episode ended with Lip dropping out of school and trying to find a job. What could be going on here is the idea that Lip has turned into Frank. He is throwing away his life on a crazy girl (who Frank likened to Lip's mom) and we should feel afraid for this wasted potential. If that is the direction of the story (particularly considering how unlikable Karen is) then it could be pretty interesting.
Best Moment: Kev had some fun moments while high on cocaine but the best moment was probably him and Veronica trying to catch Ethel 2 in the garden.
The Bottom Line: These last few episodes have been very troubling for Shameless. It's not the bad writing that bothers me as much as the return of all the characters to their season one situations. Lip is back with Karen. Sheila is back in her house. Steve is back trying to win Fiona over. Shameless is really good when it breaks from TV convention and shows us a grittier American family than we are used to. If it becomes a lame procedural comedy like any other then it will be a huge letdown.
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