‘Shameless’: The Gallaghers Navigate Life’s Transitions Without Fiona in Season 10

Shameless” is back for a staggering tenth season, and as showrunner John Wells proved with his previous series “E.R.,” a strong ensemble cast is the key to longevity. The departure of big sister Fiona (Emmy Rossum) at the end of last season has allowed for the other Gallaghers, particularly second daughter, Debbie (Emma Kenney), to step into more prominent roles. 

Debbie, once a promising honor student, has had a tough go of it since becoming a single teen mother in season six. Against the odds, she managed to further her education and carve out a career as a wielder. Before she skipped town, Fiona left her a fifty thousand-dollar check, and Debs goes on to make a big show in front of her family about using the money responsibly, despite the fact that she’s using a chunk of it to purchase designer clothes and other luxury items that she plans to return. This is the Gallagher version of self-care, but it’s not enough to cure whatever is eating at her, and she comes to realize that she and the rest of the family would be better off if she ran the household more democratically. Despite leaving high school early, Debbie has maintained her sharp intellect, and this season we get to see her use her wit to motivate herself and others, particularly a self-loathing shoe salesmen in one memorable scene. After she relinquishes some of the power at home, she channels her energy into organizing a union at work, only to have it backfire on her.

As to be expected, Debbie finds herself in a power struggle this season with Frank (William H. Macy). The Gallagher patriarch has a new sidekick, fellow loser Mikey (consummate second banana Luis Guzmán), who early on helps him steal an old lady’s pain medicine, and later works with him to attempt to scam some Lyft drivers. Mikey also becomes an antagonist to Debbie, as he encourages Frank to “reclaim his patriarchy” by putting his daughter in her place. Frank has a few moments where we see glimpses of a real human being, such as when he encourages new dad Lip (Jeremy Allen White), but any positive feelings the viewer has for him go out the window after double crosses Debbie and breaks into her ‘she shed.”

As for Lip, he finds himself navigating life as the sole caregiver to a newborn after his girlfriend Tami (Kate Miner) nearly dies giving birth to their son. As she has to stay in the hospital to recover, Lip is left alone to take care of the baby whom he named Freddie, after his late professor, a reminder that he was once a college student with a promising future. All in all, Lip proves to be a loving dad, although he struggles to quit smoking and his extreme exhaustion leads to at least one close call. As for Tami, she seems to be recovering physically, but mentally it’s a different situation, as by the end of episode three when we check in with her, she’s showing signs of postpartum depression.

Carl (Ethan Cutkosky), meanwhile, finds himself in a transitional period as he graduates from military school. Feeling chewed up and spit out by the system, he decides to forgo serving in the military. Kelly (Jess Gabor), his type-A girlfriend who’s on the track to becoming a Naval office, can’t sway him otherwise, and it’s back to Captain Bob’s for the young lad. There, he begins an underwhelming storyline that involves him selling vape pens to minors with a coworker, Anne (Chelsea Rendon).

The precocious youngest Gallagher, Liam (the funny and delightful Christian Isaiah) is featured more prominently this season as he comes to terms with being the only black person living in a what he calls a “cracker barrel.” Early in the series, it was confirmed that Liam is the biological son of Frank and Monica, and that his skin color is the result of someone in the family a generation or two back having an affair with an African-American. This season, we get to meet this branch of the family, and Liam finds a mentor in Levar (Anthony Alabi), his black cousin who’s a pillar of the community. Intellectually curious and determined to better himself, Liam shows signs of becoming the first Gallagher to lead a straight and narrow life, so it will be interesting to see how his storyline progressives. 

Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) might be locked up, but he’s the only one of his siblings to be in an enduring romantic relationship. Last season, his true love Mickey (Noel Fisher), surprised him in prison, revealing that he worked as an informant in exchange for choosing his bunkmate. Now, months later, they’re having issues, As it turns out living together in a tiny prison cell with a shared toilet isn’t that conducive to romance. Things get even more complicated for the pair when it looks like Ian maybe getting paroled. It’s amusing to watch as prison here is a world that’s something out of a romantic comedy, and the boys are schooled by other inmates on “prison gay” 101. Fisher’s returns is especially welcomed, as he brings a lot of humor into his role as a bad boy who’s always trying to suppress his soft side.

As for Kevin (Steve Howey) and Veronica (Shanola Hampton), the couple mainly provide comic relief during the first three episodes. Kev, struggles with getting older, but finds a new purpose dancing at the gay club on “Daddy Night.” V, meanwhile, is struggling to fill the void left behind by the departure of her best gal pal Fiona, and Kev comes up with a creative way to find her a new BFF. But the most shameless storyline of all involves an Amazon delivery man, autoerotic asphyxiation, and a truck full of unattended goods parked outside of The Alibi.

Shameless” season 10 premieres Nov. 10 and airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.