Shameless Season 11 Episode 9: The only thing that is permanent is impermanence. Change is the only constant… “
Change is not easy. This entire farewell season of Shameless has functioned as a test of change from many different angles, but the characters have reached a point where they have to stop running and face these developments now that there are only 3 episodes left in the series.
“Survivors” is a busy episode that takes each character out of their comfort zone and takes center stage in transformations of varying severity.
Kevin taking over parenting duties for a day or Carl’s transfer to another police department are hardly as drastic as Vee’s mother moving out of Chicago or the ultimate fate of the Gallagher house, but they light a fire among everyone else in the same way. The Gallaghers are a resilient family of adorable cockroaches, but “Survivors” insists on the concept that if you don’t go through with all the changes, the changes are sure to move you.
The last few episodes of Shameless have been largely taken up with all of Terry Milkovich’s sad decline, which has also functioned as a powerful counterpoint to the Gallaghers’ particular scenario with Frank’s health. Terry is gone, but his soul lingers in “Survivors” and it puts forward some of the most rewarding substance of the incident. Mickey casually reiterated the feeling, “family is family,” a few episodes ago, and Terry’s departure has prompted Mickey to stick with these words. It leads to some growth that surprises Mickey about everyone and he is constantly at odds with the confusing and raw feelings that bombard his episode.
Mickey is generally one of the broader characters of the Shameless, and this season has thrown him into a variety of caricatural circumstances that take advantage of his ‘no filter mindset’. Sincerity isn’t generally the character’s forte, but Mickey’s free-floating grief over his dad is compelling, new land to him. He and Ian are concerned with having a serious and sweet story that will make Terry human in a sense and almost act as an ‘origin story’ for his despicable racism.
Part of Noel Fisher’s greatest work of the entire series is in this case as he fondly reminisces about terrible childhood moments. It gets a little repetitive, but Ian’s deadpan responses to Mickey’s “precious moments” are all bottom, and it’s a refreshing change of pace to make Ian act like this grounded foil. Mickey’s turn since the lovable in this adventure is also the right approach. The characterization of Mickey and Ian was a bit questionable at the start of this season, but it’s reassuring to see these last few episodes hit the right spot of the connection.
Frank embarks on an important chapter in his past, as Ian and Mickey learn about Terry’s younger years. Frank’s plan is much more melodic than Terry’s lament of unrequited love. The concept of Lip selling the house stays so on Frank’s mind that he devises a strategy to get the essential money to just buy the house himself. Frank was involved in many ridiculous shenanigans over the course of Shameless, but none are misguided as a strategy to rob the Art Institute of Chicago. This could be a near-impossible task for an accomplished burglar, so a severely disabled Frank doesn’t look like he has the best chance of making this plan a reality.
“Survivors” has some fun when Frank tries to get the (literally) old gang back together, but this crazy pipe dream turns into a sick fact-check for Frank. He’s surrounded with signs of decay, and he’s unexpectedly forced to come to terms with no matter how he gets on the end of his rope. Frank is caught asking if he will still have an effective helmsman for his art heist, when he should enjoy still having people in his corner taking care of him. Frank’s family is infinitely more precious than a treasure.
One of the most intriguing moments from this season of Shameless concerns Frank’s vulnerability and the way everyone treats him after becoming aware of his identification. It gives each of its interactions a small side effect and pathos. “Survivors” flares off in yet another interesting way at the idea of Frank’s legacy, but in the long run, does it feel like he was able to commit this artwork heist all by himself?
Speaking of crime, Lip completely disagreed with Brad from the previous episode and was ready to take items to a seriously dark land, but now they’re brought closer together than ever before. Their volatile situation becomes much more flammable once they understand that their former employer has deep ties to the Mafia as it looks like 90% of Chicago is corrupt in keeping with Shameless’s season. The awkward Godfather-Esque music cue used when Lip and Brad meet up with the crime family also doesn’t change the scenario in the way the episode thinks it does. It is an unusual way to solve the serious danger that is followed for a quarter of the year.
On the other side of the law, Carl’s reckless act of altruism with the squad unites him with his former deportation squad partner. It’s great to have Joshua Malina back in this nebulous character and it seemed odd to have him showing up for a single episode earlier. His fresh Zen attitude to destiny raises some unnecessary questions for Carl, but the character doesn’t feel that different from before and this material is not much. Carl’s job for the authorities has made for profitable character development, but his constant rotation during the Chicago Police Department is starting to feel repetitive and aimless.
Between Carl’s job on the evacuation unit and the possibility of the Gallagher house becoming available, there is a lot of focus on whether the lack of a home usually means the lack of a household. Vee finds herself in a situation that strangely parallels the Gallaghers’ current insecurity when her mother leaves Chicago and tries to establish new roots in Louisville. Vee is especially critical that her mother’s actions are impulsive and will not survive. She’s worried about losing a relationship with her mother, and it’s going to be another situation where everyone is so preoccupied with what they can lose that they lose the supply of what they have. Veronica’s maturity with her mother alternates with Kevin’s absolute decline and failure to age less than 24 hours. It is not going well and it is somewhat misguided that this parental disaster ends as a punch line and not a cautionary tale.
Vee’s mom has a chic new home in Louisville, but Liam continues to worry if he will have a home at all when the Gallagher home hits the market. On ideal Liam fashion, he tries to resolve his paranoia in the future in a style more professional than any other Gallagher. There is an inherent comic character during Liam’s attempts to be placed in foster care or adopted so that he can live somewhere after his house is sold.
It’s been an exaggerated minutes, but Liam’s concerns are very real and it remains impressive to see how self-sufficient he has become. He always thinks rationally about the future while his sisters fend off the crowd, arguing that they don’t have sexually transmitted diseases. Honestly, put Liam in charge of the family and they will thrive in six months.
All the chaos in “Survivors” begins and ends because of Lip’s stubborn attitude towards selling the house. Lip’s push to get his family to move because his life implodes is still super troubled, but luckily everyone is finally just talking to each other and their fears and doubts are public. The last moments of “Survivors” are fun and it’s been a long time since Lip communicates and listens to the people he cares about.
It’s kind of sweet that Lip Liam promises to be a part of his home and that the sense of community is unlikely to change, even if their living arrangements do. However, this is also something that must have happened at exactly the same time as Lip’s first proposal to sell the house, as opposed to the renegade sledgehammer that went through the wall. It has spawned a few episodes of drama that weren’t necessary, but the Gallaghers are now on the front line as the series moves into its final three episodes.