When Emmy Rossum announced she’d be leaving Shameless after working on it for 10 years, back in August, it was shocking to many. She wasn’t announcing the end of the show, but she was saying that one of the most important and involved characters on the show will be no more (at last not on screen). But now that we're halfway through Fiona's final Shameless episodes, what do the writers have planned for her final exit? Obviously, no one's been kind (or cruel) enough to spill true spoilers, but from the hints and clues that have been released, Fiona's be a lovely send off that will, hopefully, fulfill even the most diehard fans’ wishes. And don’t get weepy yet: it looks like Fiona's last Shameless episode isn't coming until the season 9 finale on March 10.
Fiona Gallagher has truly been the heart of the family since the first episode. Her hard-working manner has shown through time and again. She dropped out of high school at the age of 14 to basically become a full-time parent to her five siblings, when her drunk father and absent mother wouldn’t. She’s been a source of income, a shoulder to cry on, and the leader of her household for nine straight seasons. But the kids are all adults now for the most part, other than Liam, so it would only make sense that Emmy Rossum came to the conclusion that her time as Fiona was through — it makes sense for the character too. The Gallagher kids have learned their lessons on the show and won’t need her in the same capacity as they have in the past.
However, there are only about five episodes until the end of season 9, and her current storyline makes it a little hard to believe she’s saying goodbye so soon. She’s in a downward spiral at the moment, after falling from grace from property owner to aimless homebody; she's seemingly at rock bottom.
But despite appearances, Rossum’s exit reportedly didn’t force the writers into creating an abrupt change; this is all planned. In an October 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Shameless showrunner John Wells elaborated: “So, no, the idea was always that it’s very difficult to break out of your social economic class in this country, even if we love to say that anybody can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, it’s much harder than that. And we felt that there was a certain amount of hubris with the character and that Fiona was beginning to fly a little too close to the sun and so we wanted to show how people get knocked back down. We’re very excited in the second half of the season to explore that before Fiona actually leaves the show.”
That certainly should make fans feel a bit better about the state of Fiona. In the same interview, Wells mentions that of course Fiona is going to feel very down about having to come back home, but as always, family will be the key. On SiriusXM's The Michelle Collins Show, William H. Macy, who plays drunk, deadbeat dad Frank, said, “...We all wanted a boo-hoo fest saying goodbye to Ms. Rossum. And John [Wells] saw it coming because he's been around for a long time, so he gently said 'Let me take care of it.' And boy, he threw a curveball to my character. I had to read the script a bunch of times before I realized the genius of what he had done, and it's really a great ending.”
But while we don’t know how Rossum’s character will leave, between all the sobbing and the “curveball” for Frank, we do know it’s going to do Fiona justice. Honestly, that twist could be anything; will Frank show a deeply tender moment in her last moments on the show? Does he give her something when she goes? Does he give up something? All clues point to whatever the twist is being something wild, possibly random, and shocking. Fans will have to wait and see what that is; Fiona's last episode is listed as the final one of the season on IMDB, and though it's not always the most reliable, based on what we've seen this season, the finale makes sense.
There are some theories here and there about how Fiona will go. Some include Jimmy/Steve (although maybe they shouldn’t), or one of her other exes. Some theories include jobs or travels that take her away from The Back of The Yards. Other people think she’ll even be thrown in jail. None of these sound like Fiona, and they don’t really sound like a good enough ending, at least not with the promises being made by the showrunner.
A more probably option is that we'll see Fiona pursue some opportunity outside of Chicago — knowing her desire to climb upward, it'd be the only way for her to to start fresh. And if she truly succeeds elsewhere, she could always send money back home Lip, Debbie, and the rest — if they should need it — allowing her to keep a piece of her caretaker role from afar. Plus, as Rossum said in her January 2019 cover story for Shape, there’s always room for Fiona to return to Shameless. “I made 110 episodes playing the character of Fiona, and it’s been an incredible journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person and as an actor. I want to leave the show while I still love it, and I know the door is open to come back if that feels right,” she said.
The show will forever be changed in just a few episodes, but Rossum's mark will always remain.