Shameless, ‘Rites of Passage’ review: There’s no trailer

"It’s not who you bring to the dance. It’s who you leave with.” 

Fiona’s face said it all.

When she greeted that “big tipper” at the end of ‘Rites of Passage’ only to figure who was with her, her jaw just about dropped—only for Showtime to cut to black. Tune in next week, gents. Plenty more to see.

But if Fiona is anything like us viewers, then we know how she reacted. She probably smiled. 

In ‘Rites of Passage,’ showrunner John Wells navigates the Shameless universe and reminds everyone that disappointment would be found at every turn.

The one thing that has been a constant for this show, even at its most difficult or inconsistent, is that characters are never judged for their actions.

No matter how awful Frank Gallagher (played by William H. Macy) and the gang get, Wells doesn’t judge his characters on their morality. Each is allowed to just be and not be judged for his or her morality. Each lives with the consequences of his or her actions—because the actions are so clearly and perfectly theirs.

We (including us viewers) understand the motivations, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be disappointed. Take the example of Sammi Gallagher (played by Emily Bergl), who can’t understand for the life of her how her father could let her down—for the umpteenth time though, if we’re totally honest—and not buy her a new trailer as he  fooled her into believing.

There’s just about nobody left with whom Frank hasn’t burned a bridge except for maybe, maybe Carl Gallagher (played by Ethan Cutkosky)—though maybe overlook last year’s great ‘Iron City‘ episode.

Speaking of bridges, Gus Pfender (played by Steve Kazee) and Fiona Gallagher/Pfender (played by Emmy Rossum) seem disappointed that there are so many things, including where each wants to live and which side of the bed they sleep on, that the two newlyweds don’t know about each other. (Now, just imagine Gus’s disappointment when he learns about the return of Jimmy/Steve/Jack and who he is to his wife in two or three episodes, because Showtime will surely have Fiona delay the inevitable. Poor Gus. He doesn’t stand a chance and he doesn’t even know it.)

Kevin Ball (played by Steve Howey) is another poor soul who’s disappointed in ‘Rites of Passage.’ In fact, his disappointment is two-fold in the sense that it comes from 1) learning that his beloved wife Veronica Fisher (played by Shanola Hampton) rode some poor guy’s lap to an orgasm at whatever club and 2) V being disappointed with him that he took her dare and rolled with it. The pair’s relationship is slowly turning into something very dangerous, where there’s a tit for every tat. A hurt for every hurt. Kev’ and V, listen here—it hurts, and that’s the point. It’s not “like putting a bandaid on a stab wound,” it’s like asking your husband to cheat on you. And that’s what you did, V.

There’s plenty of disappointment for Mickey Milkovich (played by Noel Fisher) too. He’s sad to see his boyfriend Ian Gallagher (played by Cameron Monaghan) leave with his baby, though that’s really more a hurt that he didn’t listen to Fiona or Lip and referred Ian to someone who could help him. Mickey is also plenty disappointed in Lip Gallagher (played by Jeremy Allen White) for not being “South Side” at all but for us viewers, it’s a blessing. We would have been absolutely heartbroken had Lip foolishly left his bright future behind—or has he? Let’s hope no one ever finds that gun he puts his hands on—and we’re happy when he decides that sometimes, you just have to cut your summer short because there are too many temptations.

Finally, some may be disappointed with the return of he who shall not be named. But not me. In fact, I think the showrunner deserves some credit—we all knew this character would be brought back. Yet, the reveal still worked. Wow.

Season five was starting to run out of ways to set the table, but now it feels like Wells and the writing team finally invited us to sit down and eat.