Sadly, the fourth season of Shameless has come to an end. After a slow start over the first few episodes, the season began to pick up the pace and improve significantly, tearing the Gallaghers apart before eventually putting them mostly back together for the end.
Fiona hit a lot of new lows this season, but this time it seems she has learned her lesson. Another inmate offers Fiona a pill, and she considers taking it. Thankfully, she makes the right decision and turns it down on the same day her parole officer shows up and makes her do a urine test, leading to her being let out early due to overcrowding. Fiona’s parole officer even sets her up with a serving job to help her get back on her feet.
The next morning, Debbie and Carl’s reactions to seeing Fiona back tell the whole story. Yes, Debbie and Carl both have relationship problems of their own now (Debbie kisses her picture of Matty in her room as she looks forward to being 16, Bonnie rejects Carl’s advances and then disappears with her family without saying anything), but that’s not what they want Fiona for right now. They need her because something truly terrible has happened.
Ian, like Monica, is bipolar. After his recent cheerful streak following Mickey’s big moment at The Alibi, Ian has plummeted into a state of severe depression, refusing to leave Mickey’s bed or speak to anyone past a “go away” or “leave me alone.” Mickey’s attitude in this is admirable, as he says Ian is family and they’re not sending him to a psych ward. Whether or not Mickey knows what’s best is often debatable, but his loyalty and determination can never be questioned. I also really liked Mickey’s moment at The Alibi this week, as he got to see the people around him accept him for being gay. He still doesn’t look entirely comfortable around other people he doesn’t know well, but he’s getting there.
As Frank comes to his senses and starts remembering who people are, tension builds between Sheila and Sammi. This creates a perfect opening for Carl, who bonded more closely with Frank than any other non-Sammi Gallagher all season, to swoop in and get Frank out of the hospital. With Bonnie out of the picture now, Carl has more time to hang out with his dad. Maybe—in fact, probably—that sip of alcohol Frank gives him outside near the end won’t be the first. This season has made many links between the Gallagher parents and their children, from Ian/Monica to Frank/Carl to Frank/Fiona, and “Lazarus” continued with that.
Frank is back, and looks to have ignored his doctor’s warning about drinking again. How long can he go back to doing this for? Will his new lease on life make Carl look up to his drunken ways even more? Many of the questions that arise here have long-term answers. We might not know the full repercussions of Frank’s actions for quite some time. Ian, however, will be a big focus right off the bat next season, as Mickey and his family try to help set his mind straight.
Lip has seemed unsure about Amanda since it started, but has kept rolling with it, maybe because he’s too focused on school, taking care of Liam, and worrying about the rest of his family. When he’s out with Amanda and her sorority friends and he sees Mandy, we get a glimpse of Lip’s possible destroyed future once more. It’s hard to blame Mandy for caring about Lip as much as she does, but she also is bad news for Lip right now, considering their respective stages in life. Was Lip looking at Mandy thinking about what he gave up? Will he stay in college? Either way, he has a great moment with Fiona outside their house, as Fiona admits to him that she messed up and can no longer blame Frank and Monica for her problems.
Overall, the season finale didn’t pack the same punch as some of the other episodes this season, but that was to be expected after so many intense outings. “Lazarus” focuses on the return of Frank Gallagher to a healthy, functioning body (for now), which will see him back to his rambling ways of the first few seasons after a more subdued fourth one here. We also saw the return of Fiona to the Gallagher household, which was being watched outside by…
Jack! Aka Steve/Jimmy, who I predicted at the beginning of the season would be back at some point before the season was over. As the finale approached, I have to admit I forgot about him, and it wasn’t until I actually saw him after the final credits that I thought of him again. I always felt like he was too central of a character to remove completely, and I think it was a great decision for the writers to take him out of the picture for a season to develop the rest of the characters more, especially Fiona. Now, when he comes back next season, Fiona will be a different person, and the Gallagher household in general will be in a different stage as they try to get their brother Ian back to normal.
When season four began, my expectations were lower than previous seasons. The way certain plotlines were headed, I didn’t think I’d enjoy this season as much, but I was proven wrong. Credit to all those involved in the show, as this season of Shameless ends on a high note. I can’t believe shows like this are allowed to make you wait more than half a year between seasons.
Carlo Sobral is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Paste.