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Shameless in America. Part 3. Seasons 5 – 7. The King Must Die.

Frank has broken everything. He has broken himself and his family but more importantly, he has broken the cycle; he ruined Fiona’s wedding. Not just in the sense of showing up drunk and high but in the sense of – life can not continue, it cannot grow. Nothing will thrive.

The king must die. So the tribe, the family and friends try to kill him. They throw him off a bridge into the river. It’s a long way to drop and it’s winter so the water is freezing. It should be enough to finish him but he is Frank and he endures and because the god of the Gallaghers is a psychopath, arbitrary sadistic and full of rules and no mercy, Frank lives. And because William H. Macy has signed a contract to renew his work and the show is making money Frank cannot be killed off so easily.

If there is a flaw in this it is the selective way in which the show gives depth to the characters. Kev is both believable as a good-hearted dumb lug who lives on the surface yet is noble. He is troubled yet aloof. It’s believable yet a weak link overshadowed by the angst and depth elsewhere. Frank should have died and if he lived he should have set fire to the family home. Something more awful is implied as if to be inevitable and as good as it is if there is a central flaw it is that the show does not race headlong into the bleak and bitter truths of the tragedy it depicts.

And yet it comes close.

Thus, Fiona beating her mother’s corpse. It was exactly what any sensible person would expect. And the brutality of the fight over the meth when Frank, demonic, psychopathic, self-absorbed, ruthless, failed king that he is, attacks his daughter.

And yet, again, the show almost but does not quite reach the depth one wants. It does not skate on the surface – it is too smart to fail like that – but it does skate. It skates somewhere close to the tragedy its stories imply and it skates close to the depths of shadows that walk side by side with the ugly truths it reveals. It is often awful yet, it seems, it should be more awful than it is.

Lip is every hood rat struggling to escape the ghetto without betraying his conscience. South Side or not Mickey asks as he hands him a gun. Helene asks the same question – you have a choice. Drop the Noble thug schtick…

But at what price? For Fiona it is to sell out and move out and move up while looking over her shoulder at what’s been left behind and what’s to be taken away. Yoga studios and organic coffee houses in place of hundred year old mom and pops because colonization offers only two choices – collaborate or surrender and be crushed. As Frank says: Soon it will only be the wealthy and the fucked.

And the sex. What about the idea of sex in Shameless? It is feral. It is almost always a kind of an assault and even in a tender moment when Lip tries to convince Mandy that she is of value it becomes compromised and fails. She says she loves him and he cannot answer her and because of a thousand other things and because he cannot rescue her (because he cannot rescue himself) she leaves and returns as a well paid whore. And about this, about sex without the jarring presence of a car crash, Fiona, speaking of a man who has not attacked her (a man she will betray), has not insisted, she says – those middle class boys take their time; wait for permission.

Young girls getting pregnant. Boys who are borderline psychopaths prepare to join the army where they can be full-time psychopaths and what of Ian – at the border between America and Mexico, between a slim grasp of compromised normalcy and being permanently outside of everything  – outside of the law, outside of family, outside of his country. Gone. But he does not go. He returns but to what? The law is corrupt and brutal. His family is corrupt and brutal. His country is corrupt and brutal. The South Side is corrupt and brutal.

The king must die but he may live and alive or dead there seems to be no hope only not being defeated.

Fiona trades up. She is on her way. She is digging an escape tunnel with a spoon.

Eugene O’Neil knew the Gallaghers. So did James Joyce and Faulkner. So did the Greeks.

And we know them too.

Look in the mirror.

Look out your window.

Look up from your phone.



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