‘Shameless’ season 10: are politically charged shenanigans getting old?

February 28, 2020

Somehow, even after 10 seasons, “Shameless” has been able to keep surprising us and also not surprising us. The show follows the Gallaghers, a family living in poverty in the south side of Chicago. With everyone back to their usual shenanigans (I use the term ironically because the show is about the unlikely ways a family like theirs survives), the show’s devoted audience (ahem, me) has grown attached to the characters that we have watched grow up for the last decade. This season seemed to invoke lower stakes at hand than the issues the Gallaghers usually deal with, which I would say only still works because after nine seasons I am fully invested in the lives of each Gallagher sibling. The show seems to be at a point where we know the Gallaghers can survive anything, and knowing that does limit some of the suspense, however, the show delivered on its acting and writing even in this milder state.  Being a dramedy, I’d say this season was more comedy than drama. While it does lack an element of suspense, I think the emphasized comedy does lend itself to a higher degree of social commentary, which feels necessary in America’s heightened political milieu.

Things are never straight forward with the Gallaghers. Frank (William H. Macy) is back to his schemes as their professional resident-drunk-con-artist father. Frank is a modern pantomime and a more menacing version of Charlie Chaplin—the scammer version, as he embodies so much physical humor as well as Chaplin’s clever, resourceful nature. 

He’s not the only one with problems: Debby (Emma Kenney) is in money trouble, and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is in jail. Even with a gaping Fiona-shaped-hole now that star Emmy Rossum left the series, in the wake of her departure the rest of the Gallaghers show us that they don’t need Fiona’s parenting. The timelessly great thing about “Shameless is that it follows a family that causes a bunch of ruckus—and can keep causing a ruckus for 10 seasons straight. Who needs Fiona when you have other reckless behavior to cover? 

Season 10 continually delivers on the central theme that has kept the show’s ironic moral integrity intact: shining a light into the underbelly of the American dream. “Shameless” is more relevant to today’s political climate, featuring a number of key issues in modern American society. Through various characters, the show encompasses middle-class America through humor and distills an underlying message that we cannot escape who we are. Ian and Mickey represent the LGBTQ community, and are two characters that you don’t expect to love because of their violent nature. Lip is now a dad! Yay, the DILF of our dreams and college-dropout-genius becomes a dad—another nod to the idea that you can’t change where you come from. Lip and Tammy’s new caregiver aunt is racist and an outwardly Trump supporter character who wears a particularly explicit shirt—the irony is too much to handle.

Meanwhile, Debby just wants to feel worth expensive things and accidentally becomes a sex worker when her union goes on strike to survive. Liam (Christian Isaiah), the youngest and only black brother in the Gallagher family, just wants to know how to be a black man in America and in this pursuit he finds a black relative to teach him. He teaches Liam poignant defenses against racism and about what to do when pulled over by a cop—“no reaching, no sudden movements.” Liam’s client takes the knee and blows up on Instagram, clearly an acknowledgement of Colin Kaepernick. Kev and V (Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton) fold in plot threads involving illegal abortions and V’s Obamacare saving underage girls who can’t get an abortion.

The show has this ability to make these situations heart-wrenching and hilarious simultaneously—a mark of a true dramedy and a high-quality show. I do wonder, though, if “Shameless” and the ideas it represents could ever become stale, or if they are able to adapt to the new societal buzzwords and engage with the current state of the nation. It seems that the poor often bear the brunt of these law changes and developments—an overarching idea made apparent through each one of the characters. 
“Shameless” allows us to make light of the oppressive nature of our society on minorities and those in a lower socio-economic range. I doubt the show would be as successful without its social commentary. While some of the critique of the show is that it gets repetitive, I don’t find the crazy occurrences of the Gallaghers dulled over the seasons. I’m still enthralled to see what each character I’ve grown to love does next, and what it means for the family and what it means for America. Surely, there is no dearth of television shows to watch, but “Shameless” is not all for kicks and giggles—it makes undeniably relevant comments on our society, which is worth a watch (especially when Showtime comes free with the Spotify student deal).

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