Episode 8 - Parenthood
7 March 2012
Synopsis: Fiona insists that Lip go back to school. He agrees to only when she does too. As she prepares to take the GED he helps Karen look for a couple to adopt their baby. Jody patiently lives in the tent while sneaking into the house in the day to help Sheila take care of Peg. Peg tries to kill herself and finally asks Sheila to hold a pillow over her face. Frank wallows in the misery\joy of losing his mother and takes drugs to pass the time. He also walks in on Mickey and Ian having sex. Mickey quits his job and plans to kill Frank. Carl loses his football coach but Steve steps in.
The Good: This repaired some of the damage of the last two episodes.
Lip's performance throughout was excellent and helped carry two stories at once. His desire to prevent his child from suffering through the same upbringing that he had is deeply admirable. Karen's indifference to the fate of the baby clearly weighed heavily on him. It seemed like he might try and persuade her to keep it but then it also appeared like the penny might be dropping on what kind of a person she really is. Adding to his confusion was the return to school. He clearly doesn't want to be there even if he didn't have Karen to worry about.
His two confrontations with Fiona neatly bookended the episode. The two of them brought the emotion to both situations and it was emotive to see the pressure Lip feels. Kev's friendly joke that Lip should go be a genius so that they can all sponge off him was cunningly written. Lip is now the same age as Fiona was when she dropped out of school and yet he is expected to be different. Perhaps he would treat Fiona differently if he knew of the job offers she is turning down. Lip is the best thing about the show right now and I hope the writers follow up on this.
I was pleased with the presentation of Jody who effortlessly drew sympathy. His kind hearted behaviour and selfless energy make it clear that the character hasn't really changed. Sheila was typically kind too in looking after Peg.
Steve began his reintegration into the show properly here taking up the same role he had last season. I was fine with the football coach story especially as it gave a positive outlet for Carl's aggression. It was good to see that Estefania doesn't really buy into any of her relationship with Steve either.
The Bad: For the second time this season a character was euthanised. I don't know why the writers think that's funny. It's hardly the most offensive thing on TV but I don't see the comedy in it. Peg was a black hole on the show because there was no way I could feel sympathy for such a horrible woman and yet her situation was pitiful. It's been a weird arc for Frank too who once again was out looking for sympathy. As with Peg there's no way he can receive any at this point and so I wasn't sure what to make of his drug induced haze.
I wish the Lip story had had more time to come naturally to this point. The pointless side plot with Ian took up time and then we had the weird Karen 'turn' last episode. It meant that his reaction to being back at school felt abrupt rather than organic. In a way I wish the adoption story could have been separated out too but perhaps that was important in building his sense of stress.
The Unknown: I didn't know what to make of Mickey sparing Frank and heading back to prison. I suppose the easy conclusion would be that he really does have feelings for Ian and would rather just be a f*ck up than have to deal with coming out. I feel like that story needed more time to develop and struggled to fit tonally into what Shameless has become. With Peg and Frank making it so hard to know what the producers are going for we suddenly had to accept that Mickey and his brothers were all cold blooded murderers ready to take someone down at the drop of a hat. With two deaths already this season and Frank's sudden turn to drugs it feels like the writers are trying to cram in as many shocking ideas as possible into the show rather than pacing them out to extract maximum value.
Karen's callous attitude seems to cement her as a hate figure. It's hard to argue with her greed in general. She comes from a poor background and if someone is willing to pay for a baby then why wouldn't she cash in? But her utterly crass attitude toward the baby and her own level of culpability pushed things over the edge. Coupled with her outrageous treatment of Jody we are clearly meant to not like her at all. I don't yet see the value in this. She is Sheila's daughter and she remains the nicest character on the show. I can't see good TV coming from her realising what a monster she is living with.
The fact that Frank and Sheila are still together means she didn't take in the full implications of his rant at Jody last episode. I suppose that's better than having him kicked out without it being the culmination of a major story. Frank's out of nowhere visit to his ex Monica will hopefully give us something out of Peg's visit.
Best Moment: Lip's guidance counsellor Mr Healy comes to talk to him about his potential.
Mr Healy: "I had a teacher take a special interest in me, when I was your age."
Lip: "I'm sorry to hear that. Did he use a condom?"
The Bottom Line: I can only repeat my complaint about most of this season: there's too much going on. That might not be a problem if there was tonal consistency but there isn't. The different stories are hitting quite different emotional or comedic notes and it's leading to exhausting and unsatisfying viewing. This was better than the last few have been but it should be.
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