Can Polyamorous Relationships Actually Look “Normal” On TV?

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime.
There was a lot going on in last night's season finale of Shameless, everyone's favorite comedy (side-eye directed at HFPA ) about a loving family that continuously ekes out just a little happiness for themselves before circumstances kick them in the face. And with all the (spoiler alert) expulsion, death threats, actual ordered hits, and drug addiction exposed last night, you might have missed a new, very unconventional relationship fading into near-normalcy. Kevin and V, longtime couple and parents to twin girls, are now in a polyamorous relationship with their star bartender, Svetlana. And while their relationship is definitely played for (desperately needed) comic relief throughout the bleak episode, the show seems to be setting it up to become just a normal set piece in this family drama.
Kev (Steve Howey) and V (Shanola Hampton) were introduced in the show's first season as the Gallaghers' kind, and incredibly sex-positive, neighbors. In fact, in the pilot's rundown of all the main characters, the Gallagher patriarch, Frank (William H. Macy), explains there's nothing the couple won't do "for each other or to each other." Their very, very active sex life is often used as comic relief, but is also always shown as an extension of their loving relationship (never better than when V learns Kevin struggles with reading and uses a few strategically placed Post-it notes to have a phonics and anatomy lesson). The audience is meant to nervously giggle at their Kama Sutra adventures, but the writers are never kink-shaming them. So it makes sense that what started out as a green-card marriage and evolved into a sex-based three-way, could further evolve into an everyday marriage — among three people.
V originally married Svetlana (Isidora Goreshter) so she wouldn't be deported, partially out of necessity (she's the best employee at the bar V and Kevin run), and partly out of guilt (Kev was the one who outed her to an undercover INS agent). Kev is jealous over the marriage, mostly because it's something he and V couldn't have (due to a previous marriage he never got legally nullified), but he gives V and Svetlana time to "bond," which ends up involving a lot of NSFW activities on a pool table. When V confesses she and Svetlana aren't platonic gal-pals, her husband (in spirit, if not by law) is upset. But it makes sense when he quickly jumps on board with an arrangement that allows him to date his wife and his wife's wife.
The first snapshot we get of the new threesome in the finale is both extremely sexual and very domestic. The three wake up in bed together, gradually peeling a collection of condoms and dildos from the sheets. The next Kev-V-Svetlana scene seems even more like a wholesome family cereal ad, with brief kisses exchanged and the newspaper read. Even Fiona (Emmy Rossum), V's best friend, who's never afraid to ask loaded questions, simply gives the whole situation a vaguely incredulous look.
Shameless is a drama at heart, and the current domestic bliss enjoyed by the show's resident polyamorous couple could just be setting the stage for even more drama to explode — when V and Svetlana decide their legal marriage doesn't need a third wheel, when V becomes jealous of her husband sleeping with her wife, when Kevin and V start to miss the way things were before their relationship got more crowded. But it seems just as likely that these three characters — who respect each other, who enjoy each other's company, who have leaned on each other to balance their child-care needs, and who have never cared what society thinks of their sex habits, could have finally found a long-term relationship that suits them perfectly.

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