Shameless Season 6 Review

Samantha White

Reviewed by:
On January 10, 2016
Last modified:January 10, 2016


With the premiere of its sixth season, Shameless proves that it still has some fire under its feet and can take its characters in new and interesting directions. However, the show's consistent turn towards flashy moments that don’t pay off weighs down an otherwise engaging hour of television.

Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.

With the premiere episodes of its sixth season kicking off tonight on Showtime, Shameless returns true to form, as the Gallaghers behave badly enough to live up to the show’s title without crossing a line that would make them completely unworthy of our love. Written by creator John Wells, “I Only Miss Her When I’m Breathing” picks up shortly after where the fifth season left off. It’s a busy start to the season, with each of the characters operating in their own world for most of the episode, and not much time spent at the Gallagher home.

Shameless has always soared in its ability to portray issues related to class (as well as race and gender, to a lesser but still notable extent) in a way that is entertaining and thought provoking without being preachy – and season 6 proves no different. Unfortunately, the show’s consistent turn towards flashy moments that don’t have much pay-off weighs down an otherwise engaging hour of television.

Spread the thinnest throughout the first two installments of season 6 is Fiona, whose focus has turned off her love life and back to her younger siblings. She spends much of the premiere taking Debbie to various appointments and running after Ian to ensure he’s taken his medication, all while mulling over the role of Assistant Manager at Patsy’s Pies, which Sean has offered to her. Emmy Rossum as Fiona is strong throughout in her interactions with Debbie and Ian, as well as Dermot Mulroney’s Sean – who came out the winner of last season’s love triangle. The two have an easy chemistry, and Mulroney’s charm is a consistent bright spot in the episode.


However, the most interesting moments of the premiere come from the younger members of the Gallagher family. After Debbie confirms her pregnancy with a trip to the clinic and lies about the result to Fiona, she struggles to understand the reality that her boyfriend is not ready to be a father. Equal parts stubborn and vulnerable, as teenagers are wont to be, Debbie feels she can handle being a mother, despite Fiona’s desperate attempts to convince her to abort the child once she finds out the truth.

This storyline is explored further throughout the second episode of the season, as Fiona enlists the help of Ian and Lip in her attempts to get Debbie to end her pregnancy. The show toys with the audience’s emotions here in a complicated and intelligent way. While it’s easy to side with Fiona – Debbie, as a fifteen year old, is in no way equipped to raise a child – her attempts to force Debbie to choose abortion are uncomfortable to watch, infringing on a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body in the same way that arguments made by Pro-Lifers do. It’s enough to make even the most liberal of audiences squirm, and the storyline proves to be a welcome addition to the dialogue surrounding women’s rights and Planned Parenthood happening in America right now.

Meanwhile, Carl returns home after being released from lockup, with the requisite cornrows. To everyone’s surprise – and in a reveal that works on every level – Carl brings with him a new friend from prison named Nick: a large, young black man, whose quiet presence dwarfs even the loudest of the Gallaghers.

Nick, played by newcomer Victor Onuigbo, has been released at eighteen after spending most of his life in prison and has nowhere else to go. The show plays with the audience’s discomfort in regards to this new arrival, once again through Fiona, who crosses the line of tolerance just quickly enough to ask how long Nick plans to stay before scampering back to the other side.

Nick is framed as a victim of a system that the Gallagher’s have found themselves on the wrong side of multiple times, yet their lives seem utterly charmed in comparison. Nick’s storyline, and his friendship with Carl, is approached without an ounce of sentimentality – and that’s exactly why it works.

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