[Spoilers for the fist half of Shameless season 10]
Over the course of 10 years, the Gallagher family at the center of Showtime’s Shameless has been through it. This family can best be summed up by one phrase: Bad Decisions TM. This trend continues in season 10, the first without eldest sister/de facto matriarch Fiona (Emmy Rossum).
The season starts with each Gallagher in a transitional period. Debbie (Emma Kenney) has assumed the role of caretaker, managing the the $50,000 Fiona left the family in the season 9 finale. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is about to become a father with Tami (Kate Miner). Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is graduating military school, and Liam (Christian Isaiah) is exploring his African-American heritage. Frank (William H. Macy) is, recovering from last season’s broken leg on the couch, and Ian (Cameron Monaghan) and Mickey (Noel Fisher) are figuring out their relationship in prison. Kev and Veronica (Steve Howie and Shanola Hampton) are still Kev and V.
Because of Bad Decisions TM, we quickly learn Debbie is buying expensive clothes and jewelry – keeping them in an obsessively organized storage unit – and then returning everything, just to experience the finer things in life. Frank finds the storage unit, and if you’ve ever watched the show, you can imagine what happens next. Debbie learns baby daddy Derek has died in the military, and begins battling Derek’s wife Pepa (Danube Hermosillo) for daughter Franny’s share of the death benefits. Pepa turns the tables and demands custody of Franny in exchange for the share.
A very pregnant Tami gives birth, but there are complications from an emergency C-section, and she is sidelined for a while; Lip is left to care for baby Fred by himself, and is thoroughly unprepared for caring for another human 24/7. He meets a woman named Sarah (Idara Victor), an infant swim coach, who offers to help him and invites him to a mommy support group. Lip improvises and figures out how to look after Fred with Sarah’s help. Tami recovers, but when she comes home she has a hard time bonding with Fred and dealing with Gallagher madness, while figuring out what she and Lip mean to each other.
Carl (barely) graduates military school, and returns home with girlfriend Kelly (Jess Gabor). He gets his old job back, working for Lori (Sarah Colonna) at the seafood fast food joint, and meets Anne (Chelsea Rendon) – a Mexican girl running a side hustle involving vape pens and tartar sauce. The two strike up a friendship; Carl even makes tamales with her family, poorly, and defends her when INS shows up on her doorstep. He offers the Gallagher house to Anne’s large family to hide out; all of this doesn’t sit well with Kelly, but it turns out Kelly has been sleeping with a classmate at her Annapolis Navy prep school (and may have given Carl an STD).
Liam is on a mission to discover his African American heritage, even dressing like Frederick Douglas and Malcolm X. Through Frank, he learns that he has distant Black relatives that live down the block (!). One relative is a man named MaVar (Anthony Alabi), who takes Liam under his wing; MaVar quickly learns Liam is a Gallagher in every way.
Ian and Mickey are in jail, and Ian learns he’s up for parole. Because of Bad Decisions TM he considers torpedoing the parole hearing to stay in jail with Mickey, but Mickey convinces him he needs to go. Ian returns home, and through the parole system gets a job as an EMT – his career before the whole gay icon/setting vans on fire incidents. Of course, his new gig isn’t ideal, as his new team is pulling insurance scams; he also has the parole officer from hell, Paula (Rachel Dratch). Due to his cooperation on a case, Mickey is released as well and returns to the Gallagher house.
Frank and partner in crime Mikey O’Shea (Luis Guzman) continue to try to scam everything and everyone: Mikey get dialysis from a veterinarian; Frank steals Oxycontin from an old lady. To replace his soiled couch, Frank and Mikey steal couch cushions from a hotel. Mikey eventually decides due to his failing health, he’ll go back to prison, and Frank is left to his own devices. Shortly after, however, Randy (Andy Buckley) shows up with Frank’s baby twins in tow*, saying Ingrid has left him, and Frank needs to take the babies back. Frank agrees to take one, and due to Bad Decisions TM chooses to sell the baby on the black market, with Liam’s help.
*Ingrid (Katey Sagal), Randy’s wife, had twins by artificial insemination. She thinks the babies are Frank’s, but (because this is Shameless), they are actually Carl’s children.
With Kev’s help, V gets a new friend to fill the void left by Fiona; Mimi (Lynn Chen) is a pharmaceutical sales rep who asks V to help her with Black doctors, as they don’t take her seriously because she’s Asian. V does, and finds she has a talent for selling the drugs – with phony sob stories. Meanwhile, Kev is insecure about getting older, and he goes back to stripping (for a night, anyway), in order to buy basketball shoes he thinks will help his game (spoiler alert – they don’t). Kev’s insecurities continue after he learns his childhood coach molested his teammates, but not him; he decides to get in on the lawsuit against the coach anyway.
So the Gallagher clan fumbles on; after 9 years, it’s noticeable that Fiona is gone, but the show’s ensemble is strong enough to keep it feeling like the same show it’s been since the beginning. They continue to make Bad Decisions TM and deal with the fallout, emotional and physical.
After the first half of the season, Tami and Lip seem like they’re figuring things out. Carl and Anne seem to be getting closer. V seems to be getting back to her roots. Debbie seems to have figured out how to scam/get back at Pepa. Ian and Mickey seem to bet getting back to normal life. And Frank seems to still be Frank – looking for the next scheme while failing at the current one. With one final season to go, I’m interested to see where the Gallaghers will ultimately land, and if any will finally be able to support themselves (and their kids!) to break the Gallagher-cycle that’s been going on for more than a decade. M