Shameless, ‘The Legend of Bonnie and Carl’ review: Black and blue balls

"I can almost taste the garbage- and urine-scented air.” 

 ‘The Legend of Bonnie and Carl’ is a racetrack that brings the viewers along for the run on snow that Fiona makes. (Hey, there’s that reminder that she did run track in high school.) It’s not an episode that’s as gut wrenching as ‘There’s The Rub‘ or as ‘Iron City‘ were, because it couldn’t possibly be, but by the end of the episode we know that it’s a war with plenty of battles.

We’re Fiona. We’re overwhelmed and we just want to know what in the hell exactly happened.

In ‘The Legend of Bonnie and Carl,’ showrunner John Wells dots all the I’s and crosses all the I’s. Every storyline of the show goes into fast-forward, and Wells asks his characters that they pick their battles—because, oh yes there sure is plenty for them to choose from.

Lip Gallagher (played by Jeremy Allen White) fights the battle that no 18-year-old should ever have to fight. (One thing—is he really just 18? Unreal.) That fight between youth and adulthood is staring him in the face every morning when he wakes up. Should he go to class or help his siblings? Should he break up with Amanda or enjoy the comfort she brings? Should he overlook what he knows first-hand, that the Gallaghers always figure something out, and focus on his studies, or should he move back home and accept to live in Fiona’s footsteps? Should he flight or fight that big black guy coming for him, or—well, okay, he acted swiftly here. Unfortunately, it might be the one battle which has had the most dire consequences already, as his sometimes-fling Mandy Milkovich (played by Emma Greenwell) can attest.

Debbie Gallagher (played by Emma Kenney) has been on a rampage this season. Debbie! Yes, the same Debbie who used to cry at whatever sight of trouble and “rescue” missing children, this Debbie is now leaving non-poisonous snakes in the car of the “skank” that “stole” her “boyfriend.” Debbie has picked her battle, though she realizes too late that the battle was chosen for her by the two of the #ThreeLoveMusketeers, by her sister Sammi and her brother Lip’s sometimes-fling and brother Ian’s always-friend Mandy. Debbie doesn’t know what she’s in for, and how could she? She’s only 12. (Not 10.)

Mickey Milkovich (played by Noel Fisher) also has a battle to fight, and it’s quite a formidable one. As this season has progressed, it’s become more and more obvious to him just what it is he has to lose. The problem being that this comes just as he brings into this world a nice little child, he of seven pounds and six ounces and who definitely needs him. Not to mention the child’s mother, his wife, that comes with him. He knows that he needs to choose—better yet, he knows what he needs to choose, but he knows that doing so ends any chance he might have with the other. If Mickey hasn’t run away with Ian yet, it’s because Svetlana (played by Isidora Goreshter) has threatened to bring his dad into this. She has outmaneuvered him once already and you get the feeling that if the worst hasn’t happened yet, it’s only because she’s torn and genuinely wants a family.

Which side will Mickey choose? For now, he’s really just making the decision to not decide anything. To have Ian all to himself, he pimps him out. And to unwind, he takes it out on the aforementioned big black guy who’s also his sister Mandy’s boyfriend—and this only ends up hurting her, the second person he loves most.

(About Mickey… His ”How the fuck should I know?” is eerily to Jimmy McNulty’s ”What the fuck did I do?” from The Wire. Both are momentous events every time they are uttered, serving to instantly shift blame and responsibility by pitting both McNulty and Mickey as undeserving victims. They’re both, truly, works of art.)

Carl Gallagher (played by Ethan Cutkosky) also has a lot to fight for. He’s serving the detention he received in ‘Hope Springs Paternal‘ for bullying, and he quickly realizes that he’s far from the biggest bully on the block.

If he said that maybe he wanted to be the one curing cancer, it turns out that he’ll just as well settle for going out with the girl whose idea to have fun is to slip acid in the coffee of the prof who’s just doing her job. While I’m absolutely thrilled to see Carl fall in love, seeing as it will round out some of his edges, it’s scary to think that it’s with a girl who lies to him about her “fake” gun. There aren’t many possible outcomes, and almost all of them are negative. But at least Carl knows that one kiss usually is already plenty!

The biggest battle for Fiona Gallagher (played by Emmy Rossum) is within herself. She wants to pretend so, so hard like it’s nothing, like life still goes on and that this new day is the same as the old one.

But nothing was the same, and she’s still just as lost in the world. (Enough with the raps!) Once more this week, a member of the Pratt family, the sister this time, undresses her, and the undressing is far worse—it’s figurative. As a result, she ends up at the only place where she’s still understood. At Robbie’s.

This leaves only Sammi Gallagher (played by Emily Bergi) to battle with Frank (played by William H. Macy). The elderly Gallagher is a formidable foe that will not go anywhere he doesn’t want to go no matter who you may get down on your knees for, and who will not budge. Not now, not ever.

The key, Sammi soon learns, is to stop the war. If he won’t go to the hospital, then you don’t try to send him there. And if he wants to go to the Alibi but can’t, then you bring the Alibi to him.

Frank, of course, is himself fighting his own battle. It’s against an abused liver and, though Showtime has a history of not killing his characters until it’s too late, and despite the show having been renewed for a fifth season, part of me wonders if this is it for Frank Gallagher. And it’s all because of that one scene.

That scene. THAT SCENE! It was unbelievable. There might not be any other show that nails those touching moments more than Shameless. As the typical Alibi banter unfolds around him, Frank is smiling. He can’t talk, because he can’t, and it’s just as well because he doesn’t need to. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be and there’s nowhere else he’ll go. So he smiles.

Meanwhile, you’re crying.