This article contains spoilers.
“Shameless” has always been about the messiness in life, so I was probably foolish to expect the series to end a tad more neatly than it did. The 11-season tragicomedy ended on Sunday night with almost no closure, even as the episodes prior to the finale led viewers to believe everything would more or less wrap up. It was just more Gallagher-fueled chaos, topped with one more Frank back-from-the-dead revival before he was pronounced not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.
Going into the last hour, it seemed as though the family would either split apart after finally selling the house, or, in a twist, decide to stay together on the South Side. But the “Shameless” writers ultimately backed away from letting the characters enter into their next chapter. In fact, as the finale unfolded, they just kept adding more loose threads and question marks — are they indeed going to sell the house for next to nothing, will Lip and Tami have another child, are Ian and Mickey going to try to get a kid (even though, lest we forget, Mickey already has one with Svetlana), is Debbie losing her mind? And what about Carl, who, it seemed just an episode or two ago, just might be the father of his ex-girlfriend’s forthcoming baby? As a loyal viewer all these years, I wanted a somewhat more definitive statement at the end, instead of just “more of same.”
And what of Fiona, who was the central character on the show for nine seasons? Yes, Frank referred to her in his delirium, and we saw her in his flashbacks. But it seemed, especially amid all the house-sale talk, as though everyone was pretending that she never existed. When Ian tells Lip he was close to a father figure, in a slightly forced emotional moment, my first thought was of Fiona, who was truly the parental surrogate in the Gallagher family. Lip was always too screwed up to play that role, wasn’t he? If Emmy Rossum couldn’t be there, the writers should have let her be there more prominently in spirit and honored the viewers’ awareness of her.
Frank is essentially the only character who starts a new journey, up into the heavens. Fortunately, the writers did not go soft on the old boy, and he remained the source of humor (his hospital records! his exploding corpse!) and an object of contempt by his children. As they sat around him at the beginning of the episode, wondering matter-of-factly if he was still alive, there were no last-minute — and out-of-character — flares of emotion. Only Liam seemed to feel some grief; the rest of the Gallaghers were chill. As Frank, with his beer and barstool, finally rose over Chicago, he, too, had some typically cool last words for his family.
I loved watching this series, which premiered in 2011. The good news is that Sunday’s sloppy, mostly unsatisfying finale can’t and won’t change that.