Shameless season 6 premiere recap: I Only Miss Her When I'm Breathing
Debs' pregnancy dreams — and lies — unravel
This is what you missed last season on Shameless: Debs is pregnant, Carl’s in juvie, and Fiona’s officially with Derbel McDillet Dylan McDermott Dermot Mulroney Sean after her quickie marriage went exactly as everyone, ever, thought it would, and Kevin and V are back on solid ground. Mickey and Ian are less so: The pair broke up, and Mickey is in prison for the attempted murder of Sammi. Frank lost the love of his life in Bianca, who killed herself in Costa Rica before the cancer could claim her, and Lip is still sleeping with his open-married professor. Where have you been?
Season 6 of Shameless opens in a graveyard: Frank’s grieving process involves sleepovers with Bianca, who hopefully doesn’t mind that her once-lover has toothpaste taking up real estate next to dead flowers at the base of her headstone. He gets chased out of the cemetery by a long-suffering groundskeeper who tells Frank he needs to get on with his life, but the Gallagher patriarch kisses Bianca’s headstone and promises to see her that night on his way out.
Over at the Gallagher house, Fiona is roused by the most obnoxious phone alarm on the planet, because it’s time to head to Planned Parenthood with Debbie. Though Debs’ pregnancy test was positive, Fiona wants a doctor to confirm so that they can figure out next steps. For Debs, next steps involve an instant family with her middle-school boyfriend; for Fiona, it’s avoiding taking on the responsibility of yet another Gallagher child.
While the Gallaghers (sans Lip and Carl) scramble through the usual choreographed early-morning routine, Frank is “weeping again,” telling his children that he loves them — something they’ve been getting pretty sick of hearing since Bianca’s death. (“I love you.” “Shut up, Frank.”)
Last season, Ian told Mickey that he couldn’t be fixed because he’s “not broken.” In the Shameless premiere, he’s still sullenly, reluctantly, taking his medication. “Yes, Mom,” he answers when Fiona asks after his daily dose. It’s hard to tell whether it’s the lithium or his dissatisfaction with taking medication at all that has given him such a flat affect.
Now that the bulk of the Gallagher clan has started the day, we visit Lip in his dorm, who is staring at Helene while she sleeps. In his horizontal position at the foot of the bed, he snaps a photo of her in the nude, her body wrapped in the sheets, with Amanda’s naked-lady mural in frame. (Miss you, Amanda.) It’s a nice, soft moment — if a little creepy — that speaks to his infatuation with her. When she wakes, his hand finds her underneath the sheets while they discuss Theodoro Adorno, a German philosopher who did not seem nearly as sexy in my Cultural Studies 101 class. These intellectual weirdos deserve each other. She shoves him off because she’s going to be late, but they briefly discuss Youens, the disaster prof he TAs for. Though a drunk, he’s one set to win some fancy academic award and, as Helene points out, he “literally wrote the textbook he teaches from.” (I had quite a few professors who did the same. It’s not all that rare, really, and a brilliant scam. At least those texts were always cheaper.)
Back in the neighborhood, we catch up with Kevin and V, who are once again sleeping in the same bed — at least until they’re woken up by incessant knocking and ringing at their door. It’s their new neighbors, asking him to sign a petition. They’re collecting signatures in an effort to force the police into doing something about the noise coming from Yanis’ yard. If somebody rang my bell that aggressively for the sake of a petition, I’d infest their new, kitschy home in termites, but Kevin is more than anybody deserves: He offers to go talk to Yanis. Yanis does not take it well, but they’ve — maybe — reached a détente.
Finally, we find out how Carl’s been doing in juvie: super well. He’s sporting some ill-advised cornrows and has been dubbed “White Boy Carl” by his fellow inmates, who chant the moniker as he saunters his way out for early release. Chuckie — along with his new Charles Manson-esque swastika tattoo and his skinhead friends — is still in lockup. Poor kid.
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Meanwhile, Debbie is looking at a life sentence. At Planned Parenthood, she’s told that she is indeed pregnant, but she’s thrilled because she learned how to get in her own way from the best. To her teacher in the noble art of self-sabotage, Deb says that she isn’t pregnant, and as Fiona later tells Dean, it was all she could do to keep herself from doing the Nae Nae in the middle of the waiting room. In their middle-school cafeteria, Deb chatters away at Derek about baby names and Lamaze, not picking up on his vibe of casual terror.
Over at the Alibi, the hipster takeover continues. Kevin is pouring water into empty, name-brand bottles, and Svetlana is treating one bearded man’s request of an appletini with all the derision he deserves. (“No p—- drinks. Vodka only.”) He loves it, secretly filming it on his iPhone and telling himself he can’t wait to put it up on YouTube. It’s unclear what the consequences to that will be. Will the Alibi become even more of a hipster destination? It’s good for their coffers, anyway, given Svetlana charges $10 for ice, but when does anything go right for anybody, ever, on this show? For now, though, the Alibi’s new “urban pioneers” are happy. “They think it’s authentic or some crap,” Kev tells a regular. But if there’s anything we know about hipsters in 2016, it’s that a backlash will come if you wait long enough.
NEXT: Professor Lip, my broken Gallavich trash heart, and Debs’ dreams — and lies — unravel
When Youens doesn’t show up on time for lecture, Lip takes over the lesson in his stead, babbling about a bunch of math that I would have to assume is true and correct. Following the lecture — which Youens eventually arrived to take over — an unhappy student approaches Lip about the D he got on his most recent paper. He’s the most brazen idiot ever, however, because as Lip points out, he plagiarized the paper. Caught out, the kid can no longer meet Lip’s eyes but is told that if he submits the paper in his own words the following day, Lip will only knock him down one letter grade. Youens doesn’t appear thrilled by Lip’s executive decision, but when Lip doesn’t back down (“Kid seemed like he needed a break”), Youens tells him he should consider being a teacher.
Again, as one Gallagher seems on the up and up, we visit with Debs at Planned Parenthood. She was ghosted on by Derek, obviously. When she later demands answers at Derek’s home, she’s told by his mother that he’s gone to Florida to live with his grandparents. “I’m carrying your grandchild!” she yells at their closed door. As soon as her dream of an insta-family materialized, it was dashed.
When Carl arrives home, it’s a total surprise to Fiona, who had no idea he was getting out early. She’s thrilled, but it’s obvious that he’s changed. Later, he unceremoniously ditches his own welcome-home party, much to Fiona’s dismay. Nick, a friend from juvie, has come to pick him up. Nick had to be released because he turned 18, and he’ll be sleeping on the Gallaghers’ floor for the next little while. (Nick was in solitary for so long that he can’t sleep comfortably on a soft surface. Also, he was locked up at 9 years old for lighting his father on fire.)
Time to visit Mickey in prison. Time for me to cry blood. “He will scream at me if you don’t come,” Svetlana told Ian earlier in the episode — he had to be paid $50 to make an appearance. Svetlana can afford it — with Mickey in prison, they’re making their best living yet. To stab one of his fellow inmates in the eye, Mickey will receive the 50-50 split of $25,000. (“Dead or blind?” “Doesn’t matter. Either way.”) That bit of business over with, Ian reluctantly agrees to chat with his ex, who got a tattoo of someone’s name in his honor: Mickey’s left pec now reads “Ian Galagher.” When Ian points out that “Gallagher” has two L’s, he can’t help but laugh a little, and Mickey looks so warmed by Ian’s good humor that he doesn’t seem bothered by the painstakingly self-engraved typo. It’s the first bit of happiness we’ve seen from Ian all episode, but it’s over quickly. “Been thinking about you,” Mickey tells him. “You ever think of me? Gonna wait for me?” Silence from Ian. Mickey begs him to lie — “Eight years is a long time” — and Ian finally, quietly says that he’ll wait. It’s unclear whether he’s lying, or whether it took him that long to tell the truth. Either way, everything hurts and I’m dying.
Back at the university, Lip’s roommate tells him that Helene might be sleeping with someone new. Because he is obsessed with her, he stakes out her house. When he sees a young man exit, he beats the crap out of him, eventually leading to the reveal we all knew was coming: the college-aged young man is Helene’s son. Lip completes the cycle by sleeping with one of his own students — one who was mouthing “F— me” at him during lecture — and Helene tears him a new one the next day for beating up her son, but not for sleeping with poor, dim-witted-but-sweet Tiffany Thomas. Still, they don’t break things off. What if theirs is the healthiest love story? Lord save the Gallaghers.
Finally, Debs might be on her way to mastering the Gallagher art of self-sabotage, but she’s not yet the machinating manipulator she sees in her older siblings — the pregnancy jig is up when Derek’s family shows up at the Gallager home, asking to speak to Fiona about the baby.
Stray thoughts, plots, and nitpicks:
- Who had “two minutes into the episode” as their guess for our first topless scene in Shameless season 6?
- Frank spent the entire episode trying to get someone to listen to him about Bianca, but even I’m bored of listening. It’s interesting that Frank seems to have finally developed some sense of love and empathy, sure, but who really cares anymore? I’m curious to know whether any readers have any sympathy left for Frank. He doesn’t appear to have properly dealt with any of the drug and alcohol-related issues that are the root cause of every ruined relationship that came before his brief fling with Bianca, so it’s difficult to cheer for him when another interpersonal disaster is sure to follow this mourning period. Perhaps he’s mourning not Bianca herself, but on a larger scale, the only good relationship he ever had — after all, she died before he could turn it to s—.
- The diner’s previous assistant manager, Otis, got busted for cooking meth. Though Fiona was not thrilled at the idea of losing her tips, she eventually agreed to take the promotion from Sean.
- Speaking of Sean, that relationship is another one in which I can’t fully invest. I love Fiona, I really do, but her luck with men is truly dire. With this relationship and her new job, I can only hope that she’ll finally, finally enjoy some stability, but didn’t we all think that about the cups thing?
- Lastly, season 5 of Shameless was, to be kind, a little uneven. The season 6 premiere, however, was a funny, depressing, heartrending, typically-Gallagher return to form. Do you agree? I’d love to read your thoughts below.