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‘Shameless’ Season 8 Review: TV’s Craziest Family Might be Starting to Run Out of Ideas

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CREDIT: Brian Bowen Smith/SHOWTIME

Network: Showtime

Showrunner: John Wells

Main Cast: William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White, Ethan Cutkosky, Shanola Hampton, Steve Howey, Emma Kenney, Cameron Monaghan, Isidora Goreshter

Guest Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Richard Flood

Episode Length: 55 Minutes

The following review contains some spoilers

There’s really no show on television that’s like Shameless. Accurately named, the Showtime dramedy has always been relatively light on plot, mostly focusing on black humor, no matter the character. That’s rung true more than ever for the past few seasons, as it’s now becoming clear that not only is the show running out of new ideas, but many of them tend to be mishandled as well.

At the end of last season, Monica’s death served as something of a soft reset for the Gallaghers, most of whom found themselves starting off this season in new positions. But as the season went on, it didn’t seem like many characters’ stories had a seeable goal, and I got the sense that the show’s writers really weren’t sure of what to do with them. The biggest example of this is Kevin(Steve Howey). Throughout the entire season, he: had a breast cancer scare, tracked down his Kentucky roots, tried seeing whether or not he could be gay, and went overboard on being an asshole to Svetlana and V. It all led back to the “thrupple” situation, which kinda never really got cleared up. (Side note: Isidora Goreshter, who portrays Svetlana, just announced she won’t be returning for the next season of the show, and they didn’t really give much of an indication of her being written off in the finale.)

Lip (Jeremy Allen White) arguably had the most compelling storyline of the season, mostly going back and forth between his sobriety with Professor Youens and Brad, as well as his complicated relationship with Sierra. I wasn’t a big fan of the Sierra stuff, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot better than last season, in which Lip was absolutely at his lowest point. Seeing whether or not he could stay sober as his friends came crashing down was always something to keep in mind while watching, even if his stuff with Sierra should’ve been left in the past.

Among one of the better storylines this season was Fiona’s (Emmy Rossum), even though most of the side characters in hers were missed opportunities. Fiona’s tennants, Nessa and Mel, really didn’t have that much of a story this season, and more or less served as therapists for Fiona whenever she was dealing with something. The show even gave her another love interest in the form of Ford, who is arguably the safest guy that Fiona has interacted with so far. But to be honest, Ford was kind of boring and it was never really clear whether or not the two of them were, or would wind up, together. Apart from these characters, seeing Fiona getting into crazy shit with her tenants was always something to look forward to.

In a surprising move, Frank’s (William H. Macy) storyline was one of the most sane ones this season. He had a legitimate job for about half the season, and it was hilarious to see him play against type from the previous Frank Gallagher we knew. Hell, he even went by Francis at one point! But by the halfway point, the story declined a bit, as Frank went back to the same seedy things he always did, this time including doing drug runs across the Canadian border. It was much more entertaining than his story in previous seasons, including the times when he ran the homeless shelter and couldn’t get over Bianca’s death.

The rest of the Gallaghers didn’t fare so well. Among the final four, (Debby, Ian, Carl, and Liam) Debby’s (Emma Kenney) storyline was arguably the most stable, finally getting a job to support Franny. But the show dropped the ball when it came to her love interests, as Neil was quickly written off, and we never really got any closure on her hooking up with Duran. It really seemed like her and Duran would wind up together, but after they hook up, we never really see the two of them together, even before Debby injured her foot. Again, missed opportunities, but seeing Debby have a full-time job and supporting Franny is something that was missing from the show.

Carl’s (Ethan Cutkosky) story didn’t really take off until the latter half of the season, in which he gets married to Kassidi. Sammi Hanratty did a hell of a job portraying Kassidi as the craziest girl alive, something which Carl was mostly oblivious to. It started getting a little redundant as the season came to a close, and even though Carl left her to go back to military school, they’re still technically married, and I doubt that Kassidi would let Carl go away. I felt like this was something that should’ve happened earlier in the season, but we’ll have to wait until the next one to find out.

Ian’s (Cameron Monaghan) storyline was by far the most unfocused out of all of the Gallaghers. In the first half of the season, Ian keeps attempting to win back Trevor after his time with Mickey, and the show never really addressed whether or not they had gotten back together, or were going to get back together. And then, in the latter half of the season, Ian turned into Gay Jesus. His feuds with Trevor over his growing fame were predictable, and it just got to the point where it wasn’t very interesting to watch.

I think the main reason why I didn’t enjoy this season of Shameless that much was due to the lack of cohesion for most characters’ storylines. But another reason is due to the low level of interactivity that the Gallaghers had with each other this season. The show is at its best when the Gallaghers are butting heads, and aside from Ian and Fiona’s church ordeal, not many of the Gallaghers’ storylines intertwined with each other this season. We were left with mostly separate stories that were all unfocused in their own way, and at times, the Gallagher family didn’t really feel like a family.

How Does it Compare to Previous Seasons?: As a big Shameless fan, it pains me to say that this might be the worst season of the show so far.

Best Episodes: “Icarus Fell and Rusty Ate Him,” “Fuck Paying it Forward,” “A Gallagher Pedicure”

Shameless is Recommended if You Like: Dark comedies, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Californication

Where to Watch: All episodes are available on Showtime’s website with a valid cable login.

Grade: 2.5 Out of 5 Drunk Gallaghers

For more of our full season TV reviews, click here!

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