"She doesn’t want to have sex. Something about her mom’s old boyfriend being in a biker gang.”
And so the prophecy of the Shameless Bible dictated that on the 12th episode of the fourth season, Frank Gallagher would walk, or rather wheel himself, or rather have his young son wheel him, to the frozen Lake Michigan. There, he would take the bottle, or rather have said son give it to him, and he would stand up and proclaim himself alive, all with the gorgeous Chicago skyline in the background. Because, against all odds except for his own, he is still alive. Frank is still here, you fucker. “Frank Gallagher. I’m alive!”
He is all of us viewers. After a seminal season 4, and a very solid finale, we’re defiant. “That all you got, John Wells? That’s it?! We’re not crying! We’ve cried in ‘There’s The Rub,’ in ‘Iron City‘ too and again in ‘The Legend of Bonnie and Carl,’ but you’re off in ‘Lazarus’. We’re not fuckin’ crying!” Just then, Frank shows just the most fleeting hint of regret. Of shame. He made it but at what cost, he seems to think.
Well, you’ve got us yet again, you fucker. In ‘Lazarus,’ showrunner John Wells continues the season-long theme of growing up. If this season 4 shows nothing else, it’s that the members of the writers’ room have grown up—it’s only fitting that the characters do as well.
Perhaps nobody grows up quite as much as Mickey Milkovich (played by Noel Fisher). The pride of the Milkovich family finally manages to move away from its considerable shadow —if he hasn’t physically left his bedroom, he does so figuratively. His coming out party was satisfying for reasons beyond his strong right that connected with his fascist father’s jaw in ‘Emily.’ It’s perhaps the one storyline that remains intact from the pilot episode and to see Mickey finally stomach the strength to stop living a lie was beautiful. Except that it’s followed by a depressive episode from Ian Gallagher (played by Cameron Monaghan), proving that the pair’s relationship and love story really mimics Ian’s bipolar disorder.
I’m thrilled to see that Mickey doesn’t appear fazed by it, or not enough to leave it all behind at least. Like Kevin, who was his nemesis just a minute ago, tells him, no one cares who he’s sleeping with. All his life, Mickey thought everyone would but no one ever does. And now he decides to jump into it with both feet (and head first!). Though he doesn’t want to say it, Mickey is afraid. He’s scared of what it means to be depressive and is fully and wholly protective of Ian.
Lip Gallagher (played by Jeremy Allen White) also grew up. He’s left home and realized that “college is a lot harder than it seems.” But he’s learned that if he applies himself and lets others who want to help him do just that, then good things happen. And if she buys him nice things, then it’s fine too. Lip understands that growing up also means growing apart from people (read: Mandy Milkovich) you were once very close with and Lip is at peace with that. I think.
Debbie Gallagher (played by Emma Kenney) has had to walk the fine line between child and adolescent all season, and she’s learned the hard way that there arethings “more enjoyable than humiliating your peers.” It’s a treacherous learning curve, too, and she’s retorted to drastic measures to maintain sanity. Joining #TheThreeMusketeers, it turns out, was just one of those mechanisms to pretend she’s a grown up while still protecting herself from real-life consequences….Sort of. All season long, Debbie has wanted so bad to grow up so quickly and so badly, but she quickly sees it’s a sham. Being a grown up sucks and that’s why she’s thrilled to see her sister again. (And those tears. #THOSETEARS!!)
Carl Gallagher (played by Ethan Cutkosky) gets a crash course in the perfect modern love story, the one that ends badly—because they all do at his age.
They don’t involve sex either, and Carl is probably thankful for that. He’s not supposed to start to have liked Bonnie, “or anything funny like that,” but this season I’ve beaten the drum that sometimes the heart knows reasons the body doesn’t understand. In Carl’s case, both the heart and the body saw the same thing—and it still went nowhere, Carl. Life sucks like that, but you’re also young. Learning the hard way sucks, but it’s also the very best way to learn.
Did Frank Gallagher (played by William H. Macy) grow up? He grew old, perhaps as old as his ex-kidney was, but did he grow up? I’m not sure. He’s still just as obnoxiously defiant of death and common sense, though he does genuinely regret all the pain and hurt he’s cause those he holds close to his heart in his family.
And in the end, when he sips from the bottle of scotch, it’s his decision. As everything he does in Shameless, when he’s not about to have a kidney or a liver replaced/removed in surgery, everything is always his decision. If he wants to go to Wendy’s, he’ll go because it’s his damn decision.
Fiona Gallagher (played by Emmy Rossum) grew up too, to come right back where she first started. At a shitty job, with a dysfunctional and difficult life but surrounded by her siblings that she loves and who love her…and she’s just about to meet Steve yet again.
But growing up doesn’t mean being perfect. You make mistakes and you learn from them. The non-death off-screen death of Jimmy/Steve/Jack (played by Justin Chatwin) in season 3 allowed everyone at Showtime an out in case they ever wanted to shake things up. Despite any- and everything the powers that be at Shameless explained, there was always a possibility that Steve would be brought back. And waddayaknow, Wells waited until the very ending of this season 4 to bring him back. At least the annoying Estefania isn’t with him. And at least, it seems like it was a genuine surprise of other members of the cast.
The return of Jimmy/Steve/Jack? Meh. I’m happy he’s back, but I think it’s a cheap narrative ploy. Will it ground Fiona back in? I don’t know. All I know is that it was his absence that’s allowed the show to grow up in the first place. But that’s a discussion for another day. Right now, I just want some Sterling Old Regal. God, what a season, you fucker!