Episode 10 - A Great Cause
18 August 2017
Synopsis: Monica finds the squirrel fund and she and Frank go on a shopping spree. After buying a car and loads of drugs she treats Debbie to some dolls and tries to get Ian to enlist. Steve is having Estefania's lover shipped into the company but loses his container. Fiona is seduced by Monica's temporary competence and takes a job at the club while also dreaming of college. Lip helps Ian clear up the issue of Mandy's pregnancy.
The Good: The squirrel fund has been the key to the whole season. The summer setting was designed to show the Gallagher's gathering money to live off when school restarted. The moment when Monica found it was a dramatic one. It was instantly clear that disaster would follow. Lip and Fiona's final scene confrontation was a good effort at capturing the ramifications of this but it wasn't enough.
The Bad: The big problem in this situation is that Fiona looks dumb. I pointed out last episode that she was foolish to trust Monica with baby Liam after her history of irresponsible behaviour. Now all it takes is two days of competence for Fiona to begin taking jobs and planning college courses. Maybe if Monica had been present and responsible all summer then I would have bought this. Instead Fiona looked criminally naive and her frustration at the end of the episode just wasn't earned.
Compounding the trust she placed in her mother was the fact that the squirrel fund was so easy to find. Considering what a crafty man Frank is it doesn't seem credible for a tin in the kitchen to be an effective hiding place. The sight of Fiona cleaning up the kitchen in business clothes should have been a poignant moment. Instead it felt more like she got what she deserved which was definitely not the intention of the story.
The rest of the episode was a massive disappointment. I've been complaining for most of the season about tonal inconsistencies. Sadly I began to feel a familiar note throughout this episode. I felt there was contempt for the working class subjects of the show and a desire to exploit the worst behaviour of people for comedy and convenience.
The revelation that Mandy's baby was the result of her father drunkenly forcing himself on her was deeply inappropriate. There is no way that story can be told in any other context than a dark, depressing and serious one. Instead Mandy claims it's no big deal and grins as she raises cash for an abortion. To trivialise that story makes it hard to take anything the show does with its minor characters seriously. I wasn't particularly pleased to see Lip go from taking responsibility for the baby to suggesting they frame Terry.
Frank and Monica were passable in their enabling love affair. I don't know why we needed the scenes with Frank being left to hitch hike. Monica's ignorant racist rant at the enlistment office may have served the story of her loss of competence but I felt there was an attempt at shock value too.
The same was clearly true in the pointless story of Steve smuggling Estefania's lover Marco into the country. Steve doesn't really belong on the show anymore. He remains a spoilt rich kid playing in games that are too big for him. There's no chance that he is going to be killed for messing with a drug boss' daughter and so the more she and Marco swore the more it was clear that this was just an attempt at humour that was bombing for its lack of any subtlety.
The crack addict who wound up at Sheila's door was pure shock value. The Priest basically pushes her into taking him in and then her first thought is to euthanise him. There's been no transition from Sheila being naive and moral to suddenly being willing to kill people to end their suffering. The deaf, dribbling, addict was a horribly exploitative idea to try and get us to laugh at the grossness of the imagery. When writing so shamelessly pushes for laughs like this I can't enjoy it.
The Unknown: The Kev and Veronica story finally started to irritate me too. They have become the Ari and Mrs Ari (Entourage) of Shameless. They argue, they make up, they have sex. That's all they do.
Best Moment: Lip did his best with the final row with Fiona. I can't fault his delivery of "hide the goddamn money" or "how'd that kool-aid taste going down?" But there's nothing he or Fiona could do to save this story from the mess it's become.
The Bottom Line: This reminded me True Blood. A show where the characters never change they just re-enact the same misery over and over again but with grosser or more extreme scenarios. If the producers want to make a tragic show about a family that will never rise above its miserable station that's fine. But that has to be treated with gravity and not flippancy. I'm not here to laugh at misery for its own sake. How is that fun?
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