Funny that the same news cycle would contain both the Dec. 11 episode of “Shameless,” all about settling for what you’ve got, and the encouraging news that Emmy Rossum has finally stepped up for her own value: As the show’s undisputed star, she’s requesting not only pay equal to that of William H. Macy, but back pay for the several intervening inequitable seasons.
Screener offers hearty congratulations and full support to Rossum, Robin Wright, Jennifer Lawrence and every other woman using her public platform to raise the boats on behalf of us all.
While those who don’t get it may think that “overpaid” movie and TV stars should just shut their mouths and be happy with what they’ve got, the rest of us know that’s shortsighted: The more public these injustices, the more likely we are all to see how truly ludicrous and unfair the wage gap really is. It’s easy to blame underpaid women — apparently — in other industries, but much stickier in situations where there is no gray area:
This isn’t just random women who “chose poorly” or “didn’t advocate” for themselves — it’s specific women, with undeniable claims, who’ve been mistreated for no reason except inertia.
To then discount that because they’re “celebrities” is to move the goalposts — and create a no-win situation for women everywhere. If that’s your design, at least be honest about it: The rest of us are good just celebrating justice in any form it takes.
“Happily ever after” explicitly states: The “happy” comes after. After you’ve achieved something, after you’ve suffered, after you’ve conquered, you are rewarded with happiness, forever after. In the penultimate episode of “Shameless’s” seventh season, our characters test the ever after, trying to write their own narratives by declaring fresh starts. They have triumphed, they have suffered: They’ve earned a forever after…
Except, of course, that life is not a storybook with a tidy ending: Happiness is something you work and create for yourself many different times, ways, and forms. The benefit of a long-running series like “Shameless” is that it reflects how life is so much less linear than we think — or wish for it be. We are not always moving forward toward happily ever after — perhaps we are only ever circling it.
Debbie (Emma Kenney) is trying to create a happy ever after for her daughter by committing to herself and her family. She barges in on Lip (Jeremy Allen White), her only real father figure, after hearing about him being drunk on the El. She’s hurt and furious, and it’s one of the best and most honest Debbie scenes in awhile. After Lip assure her he’s going to AA, Debbie floats her plan to start junior college to become a welder. Her sudden career path may seem out of left field, but after a season of floundering, Debbie has become methodical in her approach to life: She needed a family for Franny, she found one, she needs a job, she’s learning a trade. She was forced to grow up fast, so she did.
Lip is also forced to grow up and accept that staying sober is a life-long, often tedious process. He is currently not very happy about what his ever after looks like, but he’s trying.
Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is incredulous but cautious about what her hard work has brought her. A young professionals meeting and a quick lay land another business opportunity in her lap. Buoyed by her recent success she considers the offer, confiding in Lip expecting him to tell her off. But Lip has been taking stock of his life and is able to be honest about underestimating her. Fiona is fiercely independent, but her weakness has always been wanting the people she loves to be proud of her. It’s touching when Lip supports her and it serves as the apology he owes her. Fiona has been through enough to know there is no ‘ever after’ — only doing your best and moving forward.
Frank (William H. Macy) and Monica (Chloe Webb) believe in the dream. They have done so much damage and have been so selfish the only way they can accept themselves is if they believe in fresh starts. They believe saying ‘happily ever after’ ends the struggle and leaves the past behind them. They decide to renew their vows in a grand gesture of love. Only Debbie agrees to attend, because she is still part little girl who believes in happy endings for her family, and because she has a little girl she doesn’t want to grow up cynical.
Frank and Monica remarry with a verbal fight, a physical fight, and some make up sex. Monica wears the same dress she wore on their first wedding day and Frank recites the same vows. “I vow to love who you are, and who you become. I vow to build a family and to create a loving home with you filled with laughter and joy. I vow to be by your side no matter what comes our way. Frank and Monica, always.” A tender testament to broken promises and dreams that never came to fruition.
Fiona and Lip get home and cajoled into making a toast, but the champagne is spiked with molly. The kids roll, and roll with it, using the drugs as an excuse to enjoy a night with their dysfunctional family. It takes a lot of energy to be mad at people even if they deserve it, even if staying mad at them is what’s best for your survival. It’s nice to see the kids lay down their burdens and to be happy even if they know this isn’t how it ends.
Meanwhile, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) are going for one last ride. They cross the country in a whirlwind of sex and crime. Ian is subdued for most the trip, taking Mickey in, savoring their last moments together. Ian knew he would never go all the way to Mexico with Mickey, he just wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
As they lay in the moonlight together, you’re reminded of who Mickey is: A boy who was never built to love himself. Never believe in happy. Raised immersed in toxic masculinity, in an environment of sexual intimidation. His dad raped his sister and orchestrated Mickey’s rape. The only love he’s ever known is Ian.
In the morning when Ian tells Mickey he can’t go with him it breaks Mickey’s heart. Ian loves him, he gives him every cent he has, but he can’t give him himself. Ian’s worked hard to become the man he is, he can’t throw it all away. His happily ever after isn’t living life as a fugitive even if it is with Mickey. Mickey is wrecked, but Mickey Milkovich has always loved Ian Gallager more than he loves himself, so he lets him go.
They kiss for the last time and Mickey says his version of “I love you.” Ian stays until he sees Mickey make it safely across the border. It isn’t happy, but it is forever.
Back in the South Side Frank wakes to embrace his fresh start with Monica. Except Monica won’t wake up. The Gallaghers watch in horror as Frank can’t revive their mother. Maybe this was the only way Monica could get her happily ever after — if there was no ‘after’ to speak of. But for the family, there’s only more work to be done: Coping with losing her — and what to do with her drug stash.
Season 7’s finale airs Sunday, Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.