‘Shameless’ Season 8 Ends With the Gallaghers at Crossroads

Season eight of the hit Showtime series “Shameless” saw the members of the Gallagher family each seeking a better life, with some being more successful than others. The underprivileged family from the South Side of Chicago initially saw major changes in patriarch Frank  (William H. Macy), who declared himself reborn following the death of his children’s mother at the end of season seven. For a time, he seemed serious, even becoming gainfully employed for a whopping six weeks, before forces outside his control led him back to the employment line. By season’s end he reaches peak shameless, attempting to rob the house of one of son Liam’s (Brenden and Brandon Sims) wealthy classmates, even cajoling the impressionable little boy into getting his buddy’s security code. What Frank doesn’t count on his is Liam’s ability to think for himself, as the youngest Gallagher, whose scholarship at a top-notch private school promises him opportunities denied to his siblings, has potential to be the first of his family to avoid the shameless lifestyle.

Following her purchase of an apartment building in an up-and-coming neighborhood, things appeared to be looking up for oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum). However, she quickly learns that no matter how ethical she behaves and does right by others, she can’t expect them to do likewise, as multiple renters refuse to be inconvenienced by things such as paying rent on time. She does, however, find an ally in tenenet Nessa (Jessica Szohr), an equally tough woman who serves as her sounding board throughout the season. With Nessa being a lesbian, there was some speculation that their relationship may turn sexual, but as Rossum herself said during a panel at the Paley Center this past fall, Fiona is “strictly dickly.” Instead, she embarks on a relationship with wordly archichitect Ford (Richard Flood), who, on paper, comes across as one of her most interesting suitors, but their romance feels flat and, at times, forced. Ford does, however, prove to be useful when Fiona is faced with her most shameless foes yet, a family suing her for millions following the father’s (Michael Gambino) injury on her property. Her initial attempts to help them by letting them crash in her own apartment prove to be futile, as they are only after money, forcing her to resort to drastic measures with the help of Ford and a gentleman known as Pyro Pauly.

An emotional high point of the season came when Fiona comes face to face again with Sean (Dermot Mulroney), the ex-junkie who left her at the altar at the end of season six and who is perhaps the love of her life. Things get heated when she discovers that he is only interested in making amends with her as part of a 12-step program, and that he has moved on and married another. Understandably, Fiona gets fired up, but, sadly, there is missed opportunity here for him to really feel her full wrath.

Younger sister Debbie (Emma Kenney), who makes a valiant effort to get on the straight and narrow this season for the sake of her baby daughter, deals with some ghost of her own. Little Frannie’s father Derek (Damien Diaz) resurfaces and asks to share custody of their daughter. Now a military man engaged to a seemingly respectable woman, his family sees him as a hero, but Debbie can’t forget his abandoning her during her pregnancy. She could, however, use the financial support, having injured herself doing scab welding work, and the season ends with her at a crossroad.

The season’s most bizarre storyline featured Ian (Cameron Monaghan), the bipolar middle brother who has done relatively well for himself the last few years, despite a few lapses in judgement. The paramedic becomes involved with the local center for LGBT youth, something that he initially did to win back his activist boyfriend, Trevor (Elliot Fletcher), but gets sucked into something bigger than himself after religious bigots threaten the kids. He bravely challenges them, and eventually becomes a gay messiah of sorts, drawing big crowds as he preaches of a tolerant, accepting God. Fiona and others begin to suspect that his calling is the result of his going off his meds more than anything else, and it’s no big shocker when the season ends with his being hauled away in handcuff, albeit with a big grin on his face.

Teen Carl Gallagher (Ethan Cutkosky), who, out of all of his siblings has the most entrepreneurial spirit, even if his ventures are mostly on the wrong side of the law, did a drastic 180 when he entered military school in season seven. However, a curveball is thrown at him in season eight when he loses his scholarship due to no fault of his own, forcing him to once again get creative. After he kidnaps a trespassing junkie and holds him captive for many days, with the end result being the man getting sober, he sets up a makeshift rehab in his basement for mostly spoiled rich kids. He meets his match in Kassidi (Sammi Hanratty), an extremely wealthy 15-year-old who convinces him to get the rest of the money needed for his tuition by holding her for ransom. What he doesn’t count on his falling for the unstable young woman, who finds freedom in the Gallagher lifestyle. Despite her role in making it possible, Kassidi doesn’t want Carl to return to school, and even his marrying her doesn’t pacify the girl who brings new meaning to the phrase “stage 5 clinger.” While Kassidi is enthralled with the “ghetto” life, Carl knows that he’s had enough, making the wise choice in the last minutes of the finale.

The ménage à trois of Veronica (Shanola Hampton), Kevin (Steve Howey) and Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) provided most of this season’s comic relief, as the threesome navigated life at home, as well as at work. Svetlana, a former prostitute who was smuggled into the States from Russia, reaches a breaking point towards the end of the season upon discovering that one of her former fellow “hand whores,” Freelania (Tina Ivlev) has become engaged to a rich old man. After he own attempts to snag a sugar daddy fail, Svetlana kidnapps Freelania and plans to marry her senile fiance herself with help from Kev and V. This plan seems risky even for Svetlana, a tough cookie who may or may not have murdered her ex-husband, but proves to be surprisingly easy, as the nupituals go off without a hitch. However, before the ceremony Kevin learns some information about a prenup that may put a damper on his friend’s impending widowhood.

Perhaps the person who has changed the most by the end of season eight is none other than oldest brother Lip (Jeremy Allen White). Once a gifted scholar, he made a decision at the end of season seven not to let the alcoholism that destroyed his academic career ruin his life, and season eight sees his continued commitment to his sobriety, despite setback after setback, including his sponsor (Scott Michael Campbell) tumbling off the wagon, and, even more devastating, the relapse, imprisonment and eventual death of his mentor, Professor Yuens (Alan Rosenberg). In the middle of the season, a potential new sponsor (a terrific Lea DeLaria) warns him of becoming too involved in the lives of others, but this doesn’t prevent him from becoming even more entangled in the life of Sierra (Ruby Modine), the perpetual damsel in distress that he harbors feelings for. Lip not only finds himself helping Sierra, but also Charlie (Chet Hanks), her son’s father, a fellow recovering addict. By the finale, it appears as though he has finally won over Sierra, but he ends up deciding to step back and finally focus on the most important person in his life – himself.

The season eight finale of “Shameless” aired Jan. 28 on Showtime.