Smoke bombs! Gay Jesus! Frank fully immersed in a porta potty! What else could you ask for from the Shameless season 8 finale?
And that’s just some of the craziness that takes place in “Sleepwalking.” Quick update on the lives of the Gallaghers: Ian’s (Cameron Monaghan) religious rebellion ends with him arrested; Lip (Jeremy Allen White) breaks up with Sierra (Ruby Modine) and takes in Eddie’s (Levy Tran) abandoned niece Xan (Scarlet Spencer); Fiona (Emmy Rossum) wins the standoff with her squatters and seems to have real feelings for Ford (Richard Flood); Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) breaks free from Kassidi’s (Sammi Hanratty) clutches and heads back to military school; Kev (Steve Howey) and V (Shanola Hampton) help Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) trick a rich, old, senile man into marrying her; and Frank (William H. Macy) returns to a life of crime, only escaping the same fate as Ian by hiding deep in a porta potty.
To discuss all the surprising, fun, and sh—ty developments, EW chatted with executive producer Nancy Pimental about Fiona’s future, the demise of good Frank, and if there’s any end in sight for the show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You decided against a big cliffhanger, instead opting for many little developments that we can assume will lead into season 9. Why was that the route you chose?
NANCY PIMENTAL: I don’t know if we consciously did that, to be honest with you. I can’t remember, but I’m not sure we had finalized the deal for season 9 yet. So again, I don’t think we were necessarily like, “Oh, let’s not do a big giant thing.” The way we did it just sort of all felt organic.
Did you think this could potentially be the end?
No, we were confident. We have such a great fan base, especially now that we’re on Netflix. Our fans are so amazing and so loyal and just keep growing bigger and bigger, so we had confidence that we would do it. But you just never know.
When the cops show up to arrest Ian and even after they do put him in handcuffs, he comes off as very cocky and full of pride, but when he’s loaded into the police car, that goes away, replaced by what appears to be sadness. Should that last look worry us?
I think you hit it. The thing to remember with Ian is that at the end of the day he has bipolar disorder. That should always be in people’s minds. So is this just his personality and him expressing himself and trying to figure out who he is and stumbling through life or is this the bipolar, mania, and depression surfacing? That’s something we’re always wanting to keep alive and make sure people remember. Like, who’s running the show?
After spending the whole season chasing and pining after Sierra, Lip finally gets her back, only to then quickly end their relationship, referencing that he’s sober for the first time in his adult life and he doesn’t know what he wants. Why did you feel like that was the natural conclusion for him to come to?
It’s similar to how Fiona has been in the past, where she’s realized that she’s a chaos junkie and because of her upbringing and her parents, that when she’s in a chaotic situation, it just feels normal and she’s had to consciously try not to gravitate towards that. I think that’s one layer of Lip’s realization and why he chose not to go back to Sierra, because it kind of represents the old Lip in a way, the chaotic Lip. And he’s just working on his sobriety and wanting to make different choices. He does want to have a family and settle down and he would like to do it with somebody where… we all have baggage, but where the baggage isn’t such a moving target all the time.
You mention Lip wanting a family and that groundwork was laid throughout the year and it ends with him taking in Xan.
I think part of what these kids — and they’re not kids anymore — they can look back and see how their childhood affected how they are now, so if they can intervene with somebody to help change that kid’s course of direction and trajectory. And each of them are in a different place with that.
Fiona had her fun being single, but she’s clearly developed serious feelings for Ford, who seems to be into her as well, even if he does like to answer questions with a question. What intrigued you about that pair? And do you see them as a long-term possibility?
Hopefully, yeah. What intrigued us was, it gave Fiona somebody who she had to fight for. She’s so used to having it kind of easy. And somebody who’s a little bit more mysterious, more grounded, a little bit more in their center, isn’t in their chaos, and doesn’t bring out her codependency.
Now that she’s got the apartment building under control and squatter free, do you see her continuing with further ventures and becoming a Margo-type?
I don’t know, that’s a good question, we haven’t really talked further about it. I don’t think she’ll ever be as big as Margo (Sharon Lawrence). Margo is shrewder and scrappier. Fiona has had to really learn on her feet about business and she’s made so many mistakes. But I could see some other small opportunity presenting itself.
Carl and Kassidi. Why can’t she just let our sweet, not-so-innocent Carl go make something out of himself?
I know. [Laughs]
But what was it about that dynamic that excited you?
Again, when you are raised by this kind of family — I was just talking to somebody yesterday and this is totally a different topic, but I’ll string it together — I have a friend who was a male supermodel and he’s really smart and played football for Princeton. And in his early 20s, he got involved in a cult. He’s long since out of the cult and talks and helps people. It’s so shocking, because if you look at him, he’s so perfect and beautiful, why would somebody like him get in a cult? And he said, “Because I was raised by such a narcissistic mother that when somebody comes in with the same behavior, it just feels familiar and normal.” And in some ways, I think it’s the same with the Gallaghers. The way Monica and Frank were, and their relationship was so passionate and so volatile and so bipolar in a way that that’s Carl’s role model of love. It doesn’t seem different or unusual — like, that’s just what love’s supposed to be. You’re with a crazy girl who loves you one second and then is going off the next — she’s Monica.
I loved good Frank, it was such a nice change-up. Why was this the right time to flip Frank? And then, why did you decide late in the season to flip him back? Even though, I would say he’s not fully the same old Frank — despite the grand larceny.
That’s one of the things that we talk about in the writers’ room and with Bill [Macy], because at the end of the day, somebody who is an addict, somebody who is narcissistic, somebody who has a little bit of sociopathic behavior, they don’t change. It’s who they are. And so yeah, do they have moments? Yes, because they’re charismatic and they have the knowledge, but ultimately, there’s always an end goal and an end game that brings them back to their old ways. I don’t think you will ever see Frank changing all the way; it wouldn’t be true to these types of people.
The most consistently hilarious material this year involved Kev, V, and Svetlana. Things go next level in the finale with what I can only assume is the first kidnap-a-bride-and-try-to-take-her-place-without-anyone-noticing plot on television. The marriage is successful, but the son of the groom has a foreboding look on his face when Svetlana takes off the veil. First, why is everything that comes out of Kev’s mouth absolutely perfect? And second, should I even be rooting for their plan to work? Because I feel like I need them to stay a throuple.
[Laughs] That’s too funny. Well, first off, Steve Howey is the funniest guy on the planet, so he can make literally any line funny. For me, Kevin is my favorite character to write for, because I can just hear his voice, rhythm, and cadence. I feel like I can write funny things for him and then he just makes them even funnier. Secondly, we just love V and Kevin together. Yes, the Svetlana part has been great, but ultimately, they’re the good role model couple that can survive anything and I think we always want to go back to them as that.
Shameless has made it eight seasons and you mentioned the rabid fan base, so obviously, there’s a lot of things going right. But do you ever get frustrated or disappointed in the lack of awards talk or recognition for anyone not named William H. Macy? Because I know I do! Emmy has been a huge snub since day one, and now in recent years, Jeremy repeatedly leaves me floored by what he’s doing.
He’s so amazing, it’s kind of crazy. I do get asked that all the time. It’s not frustrating, but it’s odd. Until we were on Netflix, we were always flying right under the radar; had great fans, had great support from Showtime. Airing on Netflix has definitely blown us up more and it’s been amazing. I don’t know, it’s weird; I don’t who votes, I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been this slow and steady explosion that we’re past the point, since new shows are often the ones getting nominated. I just don’t know. It’s hard to say.
Season 8 is over and season 9 is already ordered, so at this point, are you taking it year by year or is there an end game in sight?
I don’t know if we have an end game as far as, “Okay, we’re only going to do this amount of episodes or this amount of seasons.” We have end game ideas, like a couple little things, for once we know it’s the official end. We’re a bit more fly by the seat of our pants in letting the stories and characters kind of inform us of where they want to go. But we have a thought or two of where we want to go and who we feel like will have some sense of success and some sense of who will stay where they are.
So you feel like the show still has a few years left in it?
Definitely. If Showtime is still as happy as they seem to continue to be, then yeah, I’m happy to keep going.
Read our full recap of the season finale here.