Episode 9 - Hurricane Monica
16 March 2012
Synopsis: Monica and Frank are back together with passion and she is determined to spend time with her children. She pushes hard and partially wins them over. Lip seeks refuge with Steve and works out that Estefania has a lover elsewhere. Sheila and Jody become convinced that the house is haunted as Frank sneaks in looking for Peg's money.
The Good: This was surprisingly good after a string of poor episodes. The show is still trying to carry too many stories at once but the ones which worked here had some emotive power.
I think what helped this episode stand out was that the ongoing stories finally stuck for once. We've jumped around a lot this season but here we got a bunch of stories (the adoption, Jody-Sheila, Peg's death, Carl's football, Steve-Fiona) where scenes followed on fairly directly from what we've seen in previous episodes.
The strongest story remains Lip, although the show never lets him carry a scene for too long. His twin determinations, to protect his child and not go back to school, drove him on his moody journey. His sarcastic lashing out was consistent through each conversation with some working (Kev), some failing (Professor Hearst) and some being met in kind (Steve). Professor Hearst's words were hard to hear but necessary, Lip can't scam his way through life without finishing high school. Similarly no matter what he has done for friends in the past (Kev) they can't help him survive or at least they will want something in return (Steve). You could see him finally starting to realise what a cold bitch Karen is as well but refusing to leave her for the sake of the child. Then when he saw Fiona you could feel the need they have for one another. They have been playing surrogate parents for some time and with their real parents back in the picture each could resent the other for not being there to stand side by side.
It all built Lip's world up effectively and it looks like he might be in for a nasty shock given how the episode ended. Remember that Lip slept with Mandy (204) and there's no way Ian is the father.
Jumping back to Fiona I liked the way her story played out. With Lip gone she gave in to Monica's offer of help and obviously quickly checked up on her to see that nothing had gone wrong. She holds the line in her anger toward Steve and pushes Lip to come home even if she won't ask him directly. By episodes end when she joins in the partying I bought that she would allow herself this brief chance to relax given how stressed out her life normally is. Despite my initial reservations (See The Bad) I thought she reacted just about appropriately to her mother's return.
Moving on to Monica I thought her story was very interesting. I suppose she could return to the main cast but I assume this is another flying visit. The clues are all there with her bi-polar denial and her lack of an answer to the question of why she broke up with Bob. Given her track record she had to behave impeccably for us to believe that the children would accept her attentions. And she did. It was a terrific performance by Chloe Webb who was full of energy and love but with an underlying childishness. Her relentless positivity did win over most of her children and her earnestness seems genuine if not permanent. The writers used her own gay relationship to have her bond with Ian at a club which was good stuff. Seeing each of the Gallagher children slowly melt in the face of her charm onslaught was emotive as we see the temporary joy it brings and fear for its absence. It was also entertaining to see the passion which she and Frank share.
Frank's tears at his mother's passing were understandable. I thought they were mixed in nicely with his more predictable behaviours so that they didn't appear false. We also saw his skills with a guilt trip when he convinces Fiona to let Debbie spend time with her mother. He can see how temporary this all is.
The Bad: Steve's laptop mic is amazing isn't it?
Initially I thought it was ridiculous that Fiona would leave Liam with Monica. Last season she tried to take him away (110) and so it was a poor choice to start her story with that particular child.
The Unknown: It made me wonder quite how the show can continue to deal with Liam after this season. It's already pretty farfetched that Fiona can leave him alone as much as she does. When he starts teething and other delights how will the writers deal with him?
The Sheila-Jody story was clear and well communicated so I don't think it made for bad television. But it struck a much sillier tone than everything else going on and felt misplaced. With Sheila sleeping with her daughter's husband it also feels like the writers have abandoned the Jackson family characterisation. Sheila's relationship with Frank was already muddled and now this moral woman has committed a massive guilt-inducing sin. It doesn't do a lot for Jody either and with Karen making Scrooge look appealing I don't see a way that their antics can lead to enjoyable viewing. Perhaps Lip is going to have to insist on a paternity test soon to get at least one baby off his plate.
Best Moment: The most emotive moment was probably Lip and Fiona at the football game but I liked quite a few scenes here.
The Bottom Line: This surprised me. Despite the nonsense next door at the Jackson's I thought most of the episode used Monica's return well to stir the emotional pot. Lip, Ian and Fiona are all dealing with their issues and their mother's return shined a new light on each one.
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