“Shameless” aired for an admirable 11 seasons, coming to an end just last week. The dramedy followed the Gallagher family living on the southside of Chicago.
The show became successful due to its beloved characters and phenomenal performances from the main cast. While any show’s quality would decrease after 11 years, “Shameless” remained a treasured show even as it neared its end. Despite the stellar ratings last week, many feel the finale was disappointing.
The finale began from where it left off in the previous episode: Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) overdosed. His children and grandchild tried to wake him, but he remained unconscious until after they all left his side, at which point he stumbled out the door in a daze.
The episode then followed each of the Gallaghers on their last adventures: Lip (Jeremy Allen White) worked at his new job as a delivery man, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) searched for furniture in their new apartment, Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) handed out tickets to unsuspecting drivers and Debbie (Emma Kenney) found love in a criminal on the run.
The finale wrapped up with everyone coming together at Kev (Steve Howey) and V’s (Shanola Hampton) bar to celebrate Mickey and Ian’s one year anniversary as husbands. Meanwhile, Frank was rushed to a hospital and died alone. The show came to a conclusion with a voiceover from Frank as he floated ghost-like over the bar and towards the sky.
The ending wasn’t terrible, but definitely lackluster. Frank’s death was predictable, but that wasn’t the problem. His storyline may have been the only successfully completed arc this season. Every other question we have is left unanswered. Will Lip sell the house? Will Kev and V sell the bar? Will Carl let his sister and niece run off into the sunset with someone dangerous? We receive no answers. The open ending feels less intentional, and more like the writers couldn’t commit to an ending for their characters.
Several characters had no direction this season and ended on a note that didn’t do them justice. We watched Lip, for example, develop significantly over the course of the show. He was a genius not living up to his potential and struggling with alcoholism. At the start of the season he got his life together for the most part — he had his own house he was working on, a job he loved, was sober and an excellent father. This season he lost his house, his job and was generally miserable. The finale changed none of this, and didn’t give us much reason to hope that it would in the future. Lip, a character with so much potential, continued to not live up to it. It’s not satisfying in the least.
Similarly, this season developed a relationship between Debbie and a solid love interest that was well liked by the audience, just to break them up at the last minute. Debbie was then paired with a dangerous criminal on the run. Liam, the youngest Gallagher, also didn’t receive any direction. We have no idea where he’s going, only that he’s now lost his father and will most likely have to mourn alone.
Aside from the poor endings, the episode itself fell flat. There was no suspense. It was predictable and bland — something “Shameless” typically never struggles with.
The final nail in the coffin for many viewers was the lack of acknowledgement for the show’s original lead, Fiona. While Fiona exited the show two finales ago, she played a huge role in the show’s success. Emmy Rossum was unable to return for the series finale due to COVID-19 restrictions, which is understandable.
What isn’t is the fact that Fiona was hardly mentioned in the last episode of the show she used to be the heart of. She moved away, but it seemed as though she’d been erased from existence. This didn’t feel true to the Gallagher family or the show.
Despite its faults, the finale did have satisfying moments. The parallels between the final scene and the pilot were appreciated. The ending, despite being unclear, was happy for the most part. Most notably, Mickey and Ian, the show’s most popular couple, received a well-earned happily ever after. Additionally, while most characters didn’t have a clear arc this season, Frank did. The show ending with his death and his children carrying on their own legacies felt right.
Even at its worst, “Shameless” was and is a beloved show. Its impressive 11-season run won’t soon be forgotten. Much like Frank Gallagher’s death, the show’s ending will undoubtedly result in a mourning period for many.
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I agree with most of this review.. As a long time Shameless fan, I have to add a few points. (contains spoilers)
One thing not mentioned is the scene where Lip delivers to the think tank where I believe he worked in the past. They give him a big tip and he pauses outside the building, obviously thinking about why he is delivering takeout when he has the ability to work for this company.
Another scene foreshadowing for one of the Gallagher’s was the scene with Carl. He meets his hook up and she is pregnant. (I thought she said she was on the pill.) They have/had chemistry so I agree with her as a partner for Carl. He seems to be finding his footing on the police force and now has the chance to have a relatively sane relationship.
Ian and Mickey’s anniversary party made me tear up. They will not have an easy time but they will have an interesting and passionate one.
Debbie fared the worst in the show’s glimpses into the future. Shameless writers have written her as a very toxic person who makes terrible decisions, She has always been one of the smartest Gallaghers so I am not sure why we are being left with this impression of her. Pairing her up with someone who actively steals cars seems improbable and unsatisfying. I believe she has the ability to turn her life around like all the others. Show us that.
Frank’s death scenes were appropriate and gave him have a proper send off. For better or worse, he has been a mainstay of the show for 11 seasons so it was befitting.
The series continues to make no mention of Fiona. One of the showrunners mentioned that she could not star in the finale due to Covid restrictions but I think they could have at least had her call on the phone.
All in all this was a fairly satisfying finale. I will miss the Gallaghers and I wish them well.