Shameless season 8, episode 4 recap: One step forward, two steps back


Photo Credit: Shameless/Showtime, Paul Sarkis Image Acquired from Showtime Press Express

The past comes back to haunt Shameless as Kev meets his family in Kentucky and Fiona reunites with her ex-fiancé. Have the Gallaghers lost their focus on the future?

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As with every episode of Shameless, there’s good news and bad news. Which do you want first, the good or bad? Let’s go with the good. Franny took her first steps! It’s an incredible accomplishment, but one the rest of the Gallagher can’t claim this week. While the youngest of the bunch walked a few steps forward, the rest fell a few steps back. Namely Fiona, who allows an ex to wreck her mind and lose her cool.

The ex in question is Sean, the recovering addict who lied to Fiona about being clean until the second before they swapped vows. To say Shameless doesn’t make relationships a walk in the park for Fiona would be generous. Meanwhile, Ian creates a mess with Trevor, Debs misses her proudest mother moment, Lip can’t satiate his latest craving, and Kev travels back in time to his could-have-been childhood in Kentucky. For the Gallaghers and company, the road to betterment is paved with ill temptations, and they will never turn down a brief look at the dangerous side streets. In the aggressively titled “F— Paying It Forward,” guest director Regina King energizes Season 8’s pivot toward chaos — and a brighter future.

From the beginning of Season 8, Fiona’s been fueled by some therapeutic bliss that derived from making something of herself and letting go of the chase. As it turns out, that was mostly a charade. All it takes to dismantle Fiona’s resolve from the ground up is a run-in with Sean (guest star Dermot Mulroney), the man who basically left her at the altar. Nessa advises her to stand him up for his proposed dinner, but Fiona can never let a sleeping dog lie.

Of course, Sean has been clean for one year and wants to make amends with Fiona. He even repays her for the cost of the wedding — what a guy! Fiona misreads his intentions and tells him they can’t just go back to being in a relationship. Plot twist! He’s married. It’s when he shows off his wedding band that she realizes she was a step in his rehab and plots her revenge. Again with the sleeping dogs. She confronts the wrong woman, which happens to be the neon sign from the universe slapping some sense into Fiona.

Photo Credit: Shameless/Showtime,Michael Desmond Image Acquired from Showtime Press Express

While Fiona slays demon from her past, Lip contemplates taking another step forward with his sobriety. Along with alcohol, he’s given up sex, and the lack of intimacy weighs heavily on his mind (and tempts him in his dreams). Lip tries using a dating app, but a kissing a girl with rum breath isn’t the high he’s looking for. Instead, Robbie, the female mechanic exhausted of hearing him complaining about his sexual frustration, pity-sleeps with him. After last week’s reckoning with Professor Youens, this Lip story falls rather flat.

Meanwhile, Saint Francis remains one of the only Gallaghers fully committed to keeping his new leaf completely turned over. He’s offering advice to his children, reminiscing about their first steps, and seeking out ways to be a more active presence in Liam’s life. Whether his motivations are to spend time with Liam or prove himself to the wealthier parents at his school doesn’t matter. Frank Gallagher wanting to join the PTA and run a fundraising car wash is already a win. Also, it’s refreshing to know that the old Frank still lives with his eye-roll worthy monologue on “lost masculinity” that somehow helps a PTA mom hit on him.

Photo Credit: Shameless/Showtime,Michael Desmond Image Acquired from Showtime Press Express

Sure, Frank charges into his second act with an unwavering determination, but Kev’s pilgrimage to discovering his inbred, backwoods Kentucky roots doesn’t paint the same rosy picture. Kev and V arrive at Kev’s family home with the culture shock of a lifetime — and that’s saying something coming from the South Side. As he quickly learns, his father has passed, his mother fled, and his many siblings are scattered about. His aunt and uncle take them in, and Kev eats up every memory with a spoon. But V’s got her skepticism locked and loaded.

Shameless makes a few pointed jabs at white supremacy with Kev’s grandfather being a slave owner and the kids running around in KKK hoods (for Halloween!), but the disparity between Kev’s lifestyle with his family’s fleshes out Kev like we haven’t seen before. He’s a big guy, but he’s insecure. I mean, he never knew who he was. But when it slips that his father left him at the gas station on purpose, his siblings ease his years of worries. He owns a bar. He got out. He “won.” Just like the Gallaghers before him, Kev isn’t where he came from.

Next: Shameless recap: Stability looks good on the Gallaghers

Odds & Ends:

  • Carl takes it upon himself to catch the neighborhood thief. As a proud cadet, he takes his role mighty seriously. But he’s using intimidation tactics he most likely didn’t learn in military school. Hey, the South Side education always wins.
  • Debs starts to feel the pangs of single motherhood after missing Franny’s first steps. Although she takes pride in being a strong, independent woman, there are certain luxuries she must sacrifice. Something tells me she won’t be making this sacrifice much longer.
  • Anyone else notice Nessa casually joining Fiona for Gallagher family dinner? Listen, I’m not trying to push anything on anyone. All I’m saying is she’s the best character Shameless has ever paired with Fiona. #Finessa4ever
  • Ian waking up with a woman in his bed was… different. Especially since it’s a troubled resident from Trevor’s youth center. He extended an inch of his kindness and she took a mile, which Trevor was none too pleased about. But it looks like Ian’s finally wearing him down?

What did you think of the latest episode? Sound off in the comments!

Shameless airs Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.