'Shameless' Season 9 Finale: Fiona's long goodbye and the silence of Frank's eyes
This season was supposed to exude Pathos, and end with a moment of Southside glam...all flashbacks and memories.
So, it's goodbye then Fiona Gallagher, long may the wreck you left behind churn out splinters. We've known this was Fiona's last season on 'Shameless' ever since Emmy Rossum announced her departure, and we've braced for what was expected to be a heart-wrenching montage to love, heartbreak, tragedy and emotional catastrophe.
The season finale had none of that, except for one fleeting moment when we found it hard to breathe, choking on a nugget of emotion that the series often slams into your chest. And it was all down to Frank Gallagher.
This was supposed to be Fiona's season, a swan song stretched into 14 weeks of Gallagher chicanery, amorality and decadence. An ode to the dysfunctioning matriarch of a family hell-bent on pulverizing the humanity from your soul, while at the same time nurturing shoots of empathy and sympathy deep within.
This season was supposed to exude Pathos, and end with a moment of Southside glam...all flashbacks and memories. Unfortunately, this was also the season 'Shameless' grew up and started taking itself seriously, which may seem pretty normal for another show, but for this one, it smacked of patronizing BS. Even Frank's Loco Hobo shenanigans seemed hopelessly contrived. But it didn't matter, because this was supposed to be Fiona's season.
Only, it wasn't.
In the end, this was all Frank, but not like you'd expect. There was no blathering drunkenness (although there was a lot of that all season), no windswept philosophizing (his 'why sobriety is a fool's game' treatise, however, was epic), no sick on the lip, snarling rant...oh no...nothing so crass for Frank's best moment in nine seasons. This was Frank finally realizing that the daughter who propped him up when all about him were scarpering -- the one who was always standing at the end of the tunnel with a flashlight -- was leaving for good.
And while Frank couldn't bring himself to say goodbye, he did what he does best, he denied her credit for all she had done for the Gallaghers, and insulted her. So far, so Frank, right! No, this was Frank Gallagher battling the ocean of emotion within him, seen through shimmering brine as he looked into an alternate reality where he wasn't such an asshole, a past where he could tell his eldest daughter she had done a great fucking job, a reality where he could say thank you to the most stable woman in his life (and that speaks volumes of Frank's taste in women).
In that one fleeting moment, Frank went from sanctimonious drunken prick to a father who had screwed up and knew it. In that one fleeting moment, Frank made the finale all about him. Sure we wish Fiona all the best on her travels and new life, we hope Lip turns out to be a great dad, we yearn for Debbie to find true love, for Carl to be the military man he so yearns to be, for Ian to get out of prison, and for Liam to grow up a proud, happy man. We wish for all that. But most of all, we wish for Frank to find peace, to dilute the bile, swallow the scorn, and to allow himself to admit that even when he was at his absolute worst, he was surrounded by love.
A mad love, a random love, a Warren Zevon love, but love nevertheless. But he probably never will, after all, he's utterly Shameless.