Shameless Season 7 Finale Recap: One Gallagher Down

Photo: Ali Goldstein/SHOWTIME
This season of Shameless was arguably one of the slowest moving. I would forget to watch episodes after they aired and struggled to find substance for my recaps. But the finale packed a punch that I'm sure no one saw coming. It may have set Shameless on a new path when it returns next year.

At the end of episode 11 last week, Frank awoke and found his beloved Monica, the mother of the Gallagher brood, unresponsive next to him. They had just renewed their vows and laced everyone’s drinks with molly during a celebration the night before. Episode 11 was set to be a happy ending (in a Gallagher way) until Monica’s medical emergency left an air of doom. It was a shocking twist, especially given that Monica had only recently re-entered her family’s life.

The finale, episode 12, opens with Lip, Fiona, Debbie, Liam, Kev, and V in the hospital. A doctor breaks the news that Monica is dead. But This Is certainly not Us and it isn’t the emotional, heart-wrenching moment that you’d expect from the loss of such an important family figure. The Gallagher kids mainly brace themselves for the memorial preparations that must be made. Luckily Monica's father shows up and pays for the entire thing after beating Frank up for not being good enough. Nothing new there. And the Gallagher kids know that not much is going to change in their day-to-day lives. It's hard for them to be deeply affected by the death of someone who has been even less present and reliable than Frank.

One of the highlights of the episode for me was Carl’s return. The morning after Monica’s death, Carl arrives at the Gallagher home with groceries and makes breakfast for the family. It’s clear that the sense of responsibility he felt when he was a big time drug dealer is only getting stronger while he’s at military school. But he’s still curious about oddities like how much he can make if he let’s another guy “jerk him off.” I missed him.

I was also relieved to see Ian back with the family. In episode 11 Ian had traveled across the country with his escaped convict ex-boyfriend Mickey, leaving his current boyfriend, Trevor, clueless. It was a horrible decision that could have completely derailed Ian’s progress. But at the border he decided that a life of crime and hiding were no longer in the cards for him after working so hard to turn his around. He arrives back in Chicago just in time to be with his family after Monica’s death.

Even under such trying times, Lip is still trying his hand at sobriety. He goes to visit an AA fellow to talk about his urges. He let’s Sierra support him, and even though he thinks that he ruined his own life, he seems serious about giving up booze.

Frank is spiraling. Obviously, he’s had the most intimate connection with Monica. He is typically the only one who is happy to see her when she pops up after months of absence and he insists that she was the love of his life. Her death leaves him heartbroken. He does what he always does in times of both tragedy and elation: he goes on a bender, returns home drunk, passes out on the floor, and vomits on himself. The following day, when Frank learns that his children have discovered a key to Monica’s storage unit, he enlists the help of his youngest three, Liam, Carl, and Debbie to retrieve the valuables he believes to be inside. For once, Frank is onto something. Monica has been holding on to seven pounds of meth in the unit. Worth around $70,000, Frank evenly divvies up the pounds to each kid and himself as an inheritance.

Fiona is the only one who protests. She is still really into wearing the white hat after becoming a business owner. After selling the laundromat for double what she paid for it and putting the former owner Etta in an assisted living facility, Fiona is now considering purchasing a commercial property. She wants to flush the drugs down the toilet but her siblings and father outvote her. Debbie and Liam change their minds after Frank causes a scene, and has the last laugh when she hides three pounds of the meth in Monica’s casket before the funeral.

Monica’s funeral is the scene where I came the closest to actually crying. Okay… I cried. Monica is laid to rest wearing her wedding dress in an all white casket. Some of her children tell funny stories about their mother during the small ceremony that only a handful of people outside of their family attend. It looks like the service is going to end abruptly until Frank gets up to speak. During his eulogy, Frank reminds his kids that though they may hate their mother, she is a part of them and that it’s something to be proud of. We also learn how Frank and Monica met: she was running from a rapist and Frank helped her escape. Because Shameless is known for it’s unpredictable ridiculousness, I half expected Monica to pop up out of the casket and announce that this was all a scam. But the moment never came. We are permanently one Gallagher down.

The episode closes with the shots of the family trying to move on with their lives. Debbie starts a welding class (and clearly has the hots for her teacher). Ian goes back to work as an EMT and Lip keeps going to AA meetings. Fiona purchases the income property. Carl spray paints a graffiti tribute to Monica with Frank. It was the first Shameless finale that suggested better times for each of the Gallaghers.
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