Shameless season 8 premiere recap: The new and slightly improved Gallaghers


Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME, acquired from Showtime Press Site

Shameless turns over a new leaf in Season 8 with Frank out to make amends. But have the Gallaghers become too squeaky clean for their own good?

More from Showtime

You know Shameless has desensitized you to the usually shocking and self-destructive behaviors of the Gallaghers when you’re patting them on the back for only selling seven pounds of meth in rations. We’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel for congratulations here, but for this born and bred South Side crew, a day without a run-in with the law is a win. And, boy, are the Gallaghers winning.

The Season 8 premiere of Shameless presents the Gallaghers as we haven’t seen them before: Relatively stable. For much of the sixth and seventh seasons, the Gallaghers had been plodding along and fighting the uphill battle to reclaiming their lives. Now, with personal demons (mostly) slayed and vices (mostly) buried, Fiona and her siblings have room to breathe — a luxury they had never been afforded thanks to Frank. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working their fingers to the bone to earn every cent of their pride. Well, Monica’s meth inheritance doesn’t hurt, though it’s certainly the dark cloud hovering over Season 8 waiting to downpour.

Still, the Gallaghers are as squeaky clean as they have ever been, but have they become… boring? As Shameless has aged, it has shed its breakneck pacing and hyper-vulgarity. If you’re a new viewer who tuned into the Season 8 premiere without having seen a single second of the previous 80-odd episodes, then you didn’t receive the best inclination at what this show can do and who these characters can be. The episode was rather tame, which for most shows of its kind could be a death sentence, but Shameless pulls off its well-earned glory days.

Watch your favorite shows on fuboTVWatch over 67 live sports and entertainment channels with a 7-day FREE trial!

Following last season’s series finale-esque ending, Shameless picks up where it left off, with the Gallagher kids settling into their responsibilities and living off of Monica’s inheritance. Of course, Carl takes care of selling the meth, as a reformed drug dealer living on military time. Fiona swears off casual dating (sure, Jan) while hustling at Patsy’s and bustling as the owner of an apartment building. Lip commits to his sobriety, Ian fights for love, Debbie embraces working single-motherhood, and Liam gets his first ever speaking role.

Oh, and Frank? He spent a couple months meditating and smoking half a pound of meth to exorcise the last of Monica from his system. Dramatic? Always, but we wouldn’t want Frank Gallagher any other way, would we? He returns home in an orange toga, scratching his body and pulling out teeth, and makes his umpteenth vow to make amends with his children. You see, it was Monica’s fault he had been a low life. He was under her spell. Way to deflect blame. To his credit, he genuinely wants to try to be a functioning adult (LOL) and starts by running around on an apology tour.

Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME, acquired from Showtime Press Site

While Frank spends his time reckoning with his past, his children keep chipping away at their future. What’s most striking with these characters is how live-in they are. It doesn’t matter if the Gallaghers have lost their edge (who would have thought we’d long for the days of Fiona wading through human feces?) because free of the bells and whistles of depravity, we care about them. Especially Ian, who’s saving lives, handing out condoms, and not giving up on getting Trevor back. After everything Mickey put him through, Ian deserves a true love.

Meanwhile, sober Lip sticks his nose in every direction, searching for a distraction from the drink. At work in the motorcycle garage, he attempts to flirt with the stoic Eddie, which won’t end well just based on his track record. He’s also leaning into his feelings for Sierra as he pays back her past-due bills and babysits her kid. Again, he strikes out: She’s getting back together with her son’s father. But thanks to his fidget spinner and the high of repaying Professor Youens, Lip doesn’t pick up a drink.

Fiona, too, surrenders her bad habits when she realizes casual hookups aren’t serving her desires. She wants connection and conversation, and who should she find that with other than Nessa (guest star Jessica Szohr), a tenant in the building she owns. Nessa’s the V-level spitfire Fiona has needed to balance her out. Even though, you know, she’s not gay. She didn’t know she could rent a crumby apartment for 1K until she did. Who knows what surprises await her personal life? But that question has nothing on the cliffhanger of the episode: Does Kev have breast cancer?

Next: 8 reasons season 8 of Shameless should be its last

Odds & Ends:

  • Debs, a welding student and parking enforcer, puts Franny in a pet carrier while working. Did this girl learn nothing from her multiple scuffles with DCFS? For the most part, though, Debs has her stuff together… for now.
  • Liam’s school plucks him from class in order to use him as the face of diversity for tours. Shameless has something to say, and we need to listen.
  • Also on the political front, V figures out a way to hit back at Svetlana for stealing the Alibi, and it involves calling immigration on her newly revamped Russian bar (“Putin’s Paradise”). Svetlana may be down, but she’s far from out.
  • Anyone else fully on board with whatever might happen between Fiona and Nessa? Emmy Rossum and Jessica Szohr — a magnetic presence anywhere she goes — have insane, immediate chemistry. In one episode, Nessa’s more intriguing and palatable than any man Fiona has wasted her time with. #Finessa
  • What do we make of Carl’s America comments in the credits tag?

Shameless airs Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.

What did you think of the season premiere? Sound off in the comments!